I’m a big fan of metal (as you already know) and I’m a fan of beer as well so I thought this would be a fun post to put together. First off I’d like to say, if you’re under 21 then this post isn’t for you. If you’ve got issues with alcoholism and are trying to stay sober, this post is also not for you. There’s no shame in avoiding things that aren’t working for you in your life. And of course this post isn’t meant to encourage drunk driving of any kind, be safe out there if you’re drinking. Now those of you still here get comfortable, crack open a cold one and get ready to learn about beer and how it relates to metal in more ways than you may think.
I know a lot of you like metal bands that aren’t huge. I know this because I see you at metal shows around the area at smaller clubs, in Ethiopian restaurants, at house shows and other places that aren’t exactly the size of the Verizon Center or Jiffy Lube Live. I guess my point is, I know that you metal heads understand that good or even great music doesn’t have to come from a giant band on a corporate record label with millions of dollars to spend on marketing. And judging by the fact you’re even reading this site, you have probably realized that great music, while it can, it doesn’t usually come from the biggest corporate bands at all. With this post I’d like to show you that the same is true for beer. Right now we’re in the middle of the “craft beer revolution,” a giant explosion of independent beer makers popping up all over the country that are making all kinds of great new beers and experimenting with new ingredient combinations and flavors. The beer snob in me is at metal shows, often with some really great underground bands playing, sees many if not most of you drinking the same old corporate swill and I’d like to take this time to help edjumakate you all on some of the awesome beers that are actually out there right now by using the similarities between the beer world and the metal world that you are (hopefully) already familiar with.
The current beer industry and music, metal in particular, are actually pretty similar in a lot of ways. In both cases you have a market that is dominated by giant corporations that have huge advertising budgets and the general public seems to buy whatever is advertised the most in the mainstream media. The mega brands like Budweiser, MGD, Coors, Heinekin and Corona are, in my world of beer/music comparisons, like the Katy Perrys, Justin Biebers, and Rihannas of the music world. And those “off brands” like PBR aren’t much different than Taylor Swift is to Katy Perry. In the case of both music and beer, these major names are all just mass produced light fluff with no real depth that often resort to using sexuality to sell a product which shouldn’t need to if it was actually good in the first place. And when scantily clad women aren’t enough the marketing teams for both will often resort to lame gimmicks to drum up sales. Examples of lame gimmicks in the beer world are things like the label on the can turning blue when its cold, a “vortex bottle” and using the term “frost brewed,” a term that means nothing since boiling is a part of the process of making any kind of beer. This lame crap is part of why the so called craft beer revolution has been going on the past few years now, gaining more steam with each passing year. Some would say this sudden growth in micro breweries was kicked off by Sam Adams, which is sort of the gateway beer to all the other craft beers. I think of them as being sort of like Metallica, they aren’t underground by any means, you can find Sam Adams in virtually any store that sells beer, but they also don’t dominate sales like the really big names I mentioned earlier. However, Metallica is the metal band that many a metal head heard first that then gets them into more metal. Sam Adams is like that for many beer drinkers as well due to their many style varieties and seasonal brews which are available in most grocery stores. People often start trying new kinds of Sam Adams beers which can lead to trying other smaller brands as well. If you’re reading this blog then it’s pretty likely that at some point you started looking more into metal bands and before long you realized there’s a ton of independent record labels out there with all kinds of different sub genres of not just metal but other styles of music as well. This is what the craft beer revolution is like, people waking up and realizing that there are tons of small breweries out there experimenting and putting out all kinds of new beers, things the major companies wouldn’t dare to try. You don’t have to listen to just the major label music any more, and you don’t have to just drink the mega corporate beer brands either!
Like the dozens of splintering sub-genres of metal, there’s all kinds of new types of beer coming out. India Pale Ales, also known as IPAs, are all the rage right now in the craft brew world. The beers are light (they are pale ales after all) and bitter to differing degrees. This is because originally the beer that was being shipped by boat to British soldiers stationed in India were given loads of preservatives which left the beer tasting bitter. The soldiers grew accustomed to this bitter taste and when they came back home they wanted more of this beer, and so the Brits started brewing it at home too. Personally, I think IPAs are fine but the market seems to be getting saturated with them. It’s hard to find a brewery that doesn’t make one and I’m starting to get the sense that they all feel obliged to even if that isn’t what they want to specialize in just because IPAs are so popular right now. For my money though, I prefer my beer to be like my metal, dark and heavy! That’s why you’ll often see me drinking malty beers like stouts and porters. However, there are dozens of different styles of beer to choose from these days: fruity and crisp, bitter, chocolatey, smoked, oak and bourbon barrel aged variations, barley wines, ambers, and many more. Sometimes you’ll see “seasonal” beers being sold, which usually means they’re only made at certain times. An example of this is a pumpkin beer released in the autumn. There’s also “limited release” beers which are often just a one time batch and once they’re gone they’re gone for good never to be brewed again.
A trip to the beer aisle at one of the bigger Total Wine stores in the area is reminiscent of heading to Tower Records in the old days. The selection is almost overwhelming and the variety can’t be beat. You can find underground stuff, local brews and even a variety of exotic imports from not just Europe but the entire world. You can make your own six packs at Total Wine to sample whatever catches your eye. Like concert tickets, a higher price doesn’t always mean a better product and I often enjoy finding out which beers are the best tasting for the lowest price. Another great place to start trying new beer is the World Of Beer bar in Arlington, Virginia. They have 50 beers on tap, most of which rotate out regularly, and if that’s not enough for you they also have literally hundreds of different beers from all over the world kept cold in bottles. I was there once and some popped-collar, sandal wearing bro next to me asked the bartender for a Bud Light. The bartender just laughed at him and told him they don’t carry that. Now that’s my kind of bar! So if Total Wine is the Tower Records of beer, then what would be the Metal Archives? That would be Beer Advocate, a site that indexes and reviews almost every beer, plenty of which you’ve never even heard of. They also have user reviews and a very active user community. And if you’re looking for some beers with a more “metal” image then check out the beers by Stone, such as Arrogant Bastard, which features a demon on the bottles (and some hilarious text on the back as well). Then there is Avery Brewing which offers a whole line of expensive but very delicious beers named after demons such as Samael and Mephistopheles. There’s also Skull Splitter Ale by Orkney Brewery which has a viking on the label and would definitely be more appropriate to drink than a shitty Natty Boh while blasting some Amon Amarth.
Of course there’s plenty of local breweries you can visit, take a tour and sample the beer fresh from the source. They often have “flights” of beers, which are really just small glasses for sampling several beers together. This can be very helpful in finding out which styles of beer you like best and they’re usually pretty cheap, similar to how a promotional playlist can let you check out several bands. If you find a beer you like you can buy a big 64oz jug called a growler usually for under $10. You can fill up a growler with beer at the brewery (for an additional cost) and bring the jug home, though you usually want to drink their contents in a day or two. Wash the growler and bring it back, or to another brewery, and fill it up again. Since they hold about a six pack’s worth of beer they’re also good for bringing to parties. For those of you who want to take things further and not just drink other people’s beer you can hit up places like the Local Home Brew Store (LHBS for short) in Falls Church, Virginia, where they sell equipment and supplies to brew your own beer at home. They’re pretty friendly there and will not only help you get started, but they’ll talk some metal with you too as they’ve got some metal heads running the place. I think of home brewing as the beer equivalent of starting your own garage band.
Something to look out for as you sample new micro brews are the faux craft beers, or crafty beers as they are sometimes called. These are brands like Shock Top, Blue Moon and Goose Island that are marketed and packaged to look like craft beers, but they are in fact owned by major corporations Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors. The major brands have definitely noticed this trend toward craft beer and are trying to cash in on it as well by tricking the ignorant public into thinking that their strategically marketed beers with micro-brew styled packaging are actual micro brews. Check out the ridiculous Blue Moon commercial below that aims to make you think it is some small craft beer, when in fact they are mass produced in huge facilities by Miller! This would be like if Metallica put out a crappy album with some underground legend like Lou Reed in an attempt to prove their underground credibility. Oh wait…
Now I’d like to focus a bit on the local beer scene, where beer and metal are as closely intertwined as anywhere else I can think of. If you’re looking for the beer drinker’s equivalent of DCHeavyMetal.com then you should really check out DCBeer.com as they cover the area’s local beer scene like no one else. This week the 30th annual Craft Brewers Conference is in DC (they pick a different city every year) and because of that there are tons of events going on all over the area right now where you can try rare and exotic craft brews. DCBeer.com has made a great list of these special events here.
We’re pretty damn lucky in this area because we’ve got not one but two local breweries in the DC area that have metal heads working there, that I know of at least. DC Brau is based in North East Washington, DC and they often put out beers with names that sound like they could be metal song titles, such as On The Wings Of Armageddon and Embers Of The Deceased. DC Brau is the first beer brewery inside the District since 1956. Port City Brewery in Alexandria, Virginia doesn’t really have many metal sounding beer names but they do brew a lot of their beer while listening to metal bands. Port City’s assistant brewer Will often writes on the big fermenting tanks what he was listening to when brewing the beer and I’ve seen bands like Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation and Nile on them in the past. On Sunday, April 7th, Port City will be holding a third metal night at the brewery, and I’ll be there co-hosting the event and giving away tickets to upcoming metal shows in the area like Anthrax, Death and Ghost. If you’re beer drinking age then come down and sample some of their craft brews, hang out with fellow metal heads and listen to some heavy metal all night. More details on that event are posted here. I kind of think of DC Brau and Port City as the area’s local “metal” breweries, however there are plenty of other breweries around the area including Chocolate City Beer and Three Stars Brewing in DC, Devils Backbone, Star Hill and Blue Mountain Brewery in Virginia, Flying Dog, Union Craft Brewing and Heavy Seas in Maryland, and even Dogfish Head in Delaware. There’s also several brewpubs popping up in the area like Lost Rhino and Mad Fox, both in Northern Virginia, Brewer’s Art in Baltimore and Blue Jacket which will be opening up in DC this summer.
You’ve all probably seen photos floating around on the net of various metal bands with their own branded beers. Iron Maiden has one, Motörhead has one, Amon Amarth has one, Ozzy Osbourne has one, hell even Queensrÿche guitarist Michael Wilton has brewed a beer with his nickname, Whip Ale. The local metal bands have gotten in on this trend as well. New Belgium, the makers of Fat Tire Ale, put out an official Clutch Dark Sour Ale in 2011. Port City will be putting out a beer for local stoner metal band Borracho soon, and I hear word that DC Brau is working on one for Darkest Hour. Indiana based 3 Floyds Brewery is making a Pig Destroyer beer called the Permanent Funeral Pale Ale and as part of the previously mentioned Craft Brewers Conference being in town they’re having a beer release party for it! Locals Pig Destroyer and Darkest Hour will both be playing the release party on the Black Cat’s main stage this Friday (details here) and they’ll have plenty of Permanent Funeral Pale Ale on hand to drink too! In fact, as a special reward to those of you who have read this entire article (I know it hasn’t been my shortest) I’d like to offer you the chance to win a free pair of tickets to the Permanent Funeral release show. Just leave a comment on this post letting me know of a beer you think I should try (I’m always looking for new beers to try out) and at 5pm EST Thursday, March 28th, 2013 I’ll pick one of you at random (using Random.org) to get a pair of tickets to this beer release show. Be sure you use an email you check regularly when you enter so I can contact you because I’ll need a quick response to make sure I have your name for the tickets. Please don’t enter if you cannot attend. Thanks for reading everyone and I hope I’ve convinced a few of you to try out some new and/or local beers. Stop drinking the corporate crap that is everywhere, I know you metal heads can do better!