REVIEW: Trappist – Ancient Brewing Tactics (Relapse Records)

As sub-cultures go, beer and heavy music are fairly intertwined. You just need to look at the endless number of collab beers between bands and breweries to get a rough idea of how much they enjoy each others company. It’s not even a recent thing either, bands have been swilling beers for as long as the genre has been around, some have even dedicated songs, albums, heck even their whole careers to the suds. Take a look at Tankard, the self-styled Kings Of Beer have made a career out of beer drinking, whilst heavy metal pirates Alestorm just seem intent on drinking your beer and then of course there’s Municipal Waste, who, well… Municipal Waste just want to fuck you up!

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One pool of extreme music that’s always had a funny relationship with beer is the blurred trifecta of hardcore, crust and grind. Engrained in the ethos of all three sub-genres is the need to shun big corporations and encourage a DIY approach – yet mass produced white cider and yellow macro lager are the beverages of choice. In step Trappist, who are the antithesis to stitching a Carlsberg Special Brew bar towel to your battle jacket. Instead, Trappist stick two fingers up to macro swill and yell “NO CORPORATE BEER!”.

For those not engulfed by beer culture, Trappist monks are pretty much the crust punks of the brewing world. They’re self-sufficient individuals who utilise their surroundings and live by the work of their hands. Often these monks brew beers to provide an income for the monasteries they live in. In true DIY style, there a still a number of Trappist brewers who don’t even go in for distribution, instead you have one day a year to head to the abbey to buy a case of beer. Punk. As. Fuck. It also just so happens that Trappist beers are among the best in the world, take Westvleteren 12 for instance, it’s basically the Discharge – Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing of the beer world. 

Beneath the brown habits of crusty hardcore thrashers Trappist are a trio of lifers in the form of Chris Dodge (Spazz, ex-Infest, ex-Despise You, Slap-a-Ham Records and more), Phil Vera (Crom, Despise You, ex-(16)-) and Ryan Harkins (ex-Killed In Action and co-owner of heavy metal-themed burger joint Grill Em’ All). Following on from a few demo tracks posted up on their Bandcamp back in 2017, the LA three piece are now ready to transfer their debut full-length ‘Ancient Brewing Tactics’ from the fermenter and serve it up on Relapse Records.

As crusty hardcore efforts go, ‘Ancient Brewing Tactics’ is one of the best I’ve heard in a long while. The trio certainly aren’t resting on their past laurels, and don’t play up to crust punk cliches – so if you’re here for songs of war and nuclear annihilation, then you’re in the wrong place. Sure, there are obvious nods to the likes of Anti-Cimex on 750ml pilgrimage gone wrong ‘Victims Of A Bomber Raid’, Dystopia on ‘Garbage Human’ and call to arms ‘No Corporate Beer’ wouldn’t sound a miss in an Infest set, but it’s the dedication to craft beer that really sets this apart.


Musically the record encompasses a whole host of punk and hardcore sub-genres, opener ‘No Soldier Left Behind’ is a D-Beat ripper, whilst ‘Giving The Boot To Reinheitsgebot’ is a Poison Idea-esque look at the German Purity Laws and ‘Hymn To Ninkasi’ treads more into crossover territory, with a guest appearance from Municipal Waste/Iron Reagan vocalist Tony Foresta. ‘Ancient Brewing Tactics’ is rounded out by quest appearances from Steve Brooks of Torche on ’99 Problems (But A Beer Ain’t One)’ and Pig Destroyer’s Blake Harrison on ‘To The Pint’, before rumbling to a dirgy close with ‘Trappist-1: Final Gravity’.

If that wasn’t enough, the extra details in the packaging and marketing for this record are a beer nerds wet dream. The different colours for the vinyl release are graded on the SRM (Standard Reference Method) scale from super limited Belgian Golden Ale: SRM 3 to standard pressing Schwarzbier: SRM 80. To top it all off the band have also done a beer & song pairing for each track on the album (check it out below, it’s white whales galore) and are releasing a Stein beer named after the record in collaboration with Portland, Oregon’s Wayfinder Beer. For those who might not know, a steinbier, or stonebeer, is made by heating rocks over an open flame until it reaches extreme temperatures, then dropping it into the boiling wort. The wort is then flash-boiled and slightly caramelised from this process. As a result the beer has an intensely smooth and balanced malt profile but comes in at Bock strength.

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Ancient Brewing Tactics not enough for you? Check out Trappist’s podcast ‘Hour Of The Barbarian’ for more beery/music chatter. It’s worth it alone for Chris Dodge’s account of playing Obscene Extreme fest with Infest.

Trappist – Ancient Brewing Tactics is released on Friday August 17th on Relapse Records. Pick it up here if you’re in the UK/EU or here if you’re in the USA. For more on Trappist head to their Facebook page or listen on Bandcamp.

HappyFace Beers, the Dutch brewery uniting craft beer with death metal

Dutch cuckoo brewers HappyFace Beers first cropped up on my radar around the time I went to Tilburg for Netherlands Death Fest in 2017. They’d brewed a 6% stout especially for Dutch death metallers Sinister to mark the release of their album ‘Syncretism’ a few weeks prior. As Sinister were playing at NDF, I thought maybe there might be the chance to pick up a bottle or two from their merch stand but alas it was not meant to be. Ended up settling for a few Jupilers instead.

Since then, I’ve seen HappyFace Beers cropping up here and there at Metal Festivals, and members of Testament, Exodus, Obituary and Entombed A.D. even count themselves as fans.

I wanted to find out a bit more about HappyFace Beers so I reached out to Manfred Van Zadelhoff, who’s the man behind HappyFace Vinyl that ultimately lead to the creation of HappyFace Beers, and headbrewer Rob Zwaan, who also happens to be the tallest man in the Netherlands.

Can you tell me a little about the history of HappyFace Vinyl and what made you want to start that in the first place?
It started 18 years ago when I was asked occasionally to help a friend who already had a mail order company at big festivals and fairs. After two years, I decided to start my own company and started using my knowledge and network in the metal scene to get the best and most unique items for my customers. HappyFace Vinyl was born!

What made you want to start a brewery and how did HappyFace Beers come about?
Rob: Well, I’d been brewing as a hobby already for a couple of years, so Manfred asked me if I could make a batch of beer that he could give to his best customers. I made a Tripel and the reactions to that were very good, so this started us thinking about doing more with it.

Can you tell me a little about the other people you work with at HappyFace Beers? How did you all come together?
Rob: I was happy as a hobby brewer but wasn’t too keen on the rest of the work that comes along with a brewery, so we decided to split tasks. So I’m mainly busy with recipes and brewing, Ed [Zwaan] (my brother) is working on festivals and transport matters, Patrick [Karssen] is doing all the financial and legal matters and Manfred is working on getting the artwork done, social media and other business matters. Nowadays, things are not that separated anymore, if somebody doesn’t have the time for a job somebody else steps in. Me and Ed for instance now regularly do the festivals together. From a practical point of view this makes sense, we draw a lot of attention since I’m also the tallest man in The Netherlands at 2,23m (over 7’3”) and my brother Ed is 2,13m (7’)…

Besides us we also have a lot of people helping us out; Rutger de Vries (from death metal band The Heritance) who creates our artwork, Bob Bagchus (from Soulburn, Asphyx and other bands) for merchandise, Martin Roest (from Egghead) working on our website and people who help out on festivals such as Lara, Arjan and of course our own ladies.

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HappyFace Beers !!

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I saw that Bob Bagchus from Soulburn/Asphyx assists you guys with your merchandise. How do you know Bob and how did he come onboard?
I played in Lunatics Without Skateboards in the same period that Bob was playing in Asphyx and we did some shows together in the early days. We kept contact and since Bob already does a lot of merchandise for other bands (including Sinister), I asked him if he could print the merchandise for HappyFace Vinyl and later for HappyFace Beers. We think it works best with people that you know you can rely on blindfolded, so we feel blessed to know a lot of people that can help us out on many different matters, it keeps things rolling smoothly.

“Death Metal and amazing beers, what more could we ask for?”

Whereabouts is HappyFace Beers based and where do you brew?
Rob: Since we all have a normal daytime job we don’t have our own brewery but we use the overcapacity of several breweries. I develop the recipes at home in 50 litre batches and when we all approve we take the recipe to a brewery were we brew our beer. We are there when our beer is brewed and bottled, so we keep a constant eye on what’s happening, maintaining the quality and consistency is an important issue for us.
At the moment we work with De Noord Hollandse Bier Brouwerij, Delftse Stadsbrouwerij De Koperen Kat and InBier. Working with several breweries makes us less vulnerable and gives us more flexibility in planning and possibilities. Obviously we need a “home address” for mail, financial and legal matters so we’ve chosen for Heemskerk were Patrick and Manfred live.

I’ve read that your aim is to brew beer in the spirit of the classic styles, can you tell me a bit more about that?
Rob: Yeah, we sometimes use the slogan “Classic beers re-invented”. We all love the classic beer styles such as the Belgian Tripels, English Stouts and German Weizen beers. Although we also enjoy all the newer styles and barrel aged beers, we have chosen to first create a core-range of classic styled beers. It’s also based on the fact that, when we were visiting a beer festival we noticed that after a couple of “weird” beers we somehow started looking around for something like a Tripel or an Abbey beer to get our feet back on the ground. The funny thing is that we now see the same at the beer festivals where we promote our beers. People start with the “exotics” and after a while we see people coming back to our bar for a “normal” beer. So we’re not the only ones….

What beers are you working on at the moment?
Rob: At the moment we are working on the recipe for a Belgian Abbey beer, a dark and somewhat sweet beer of around 7%. We have finished the recipe of a Winterbeer that will be loaded with herbs and spices at around 10% and we’re working on a Weizen beer of approximately 6%. These all will see the light of day in 2018. In the meantime, we’ve also started thinking about the future and we will do some more experimental things, probably some barrel-ageing as well, but first things first.

Can you talk through some of the special beers HappyFace has done? For instance, how did the beer with Sinister come about?
Manfred has very close connections with Sinister, so when they were releasing their latest ‘Syncretism’ album, they asked if we could do a special brew for the album release party. We made a stout and released it as HappyFace Sinister Dark which immediately sold out on the release party. Toep [Duin, Sinister drummer] then asked us if we could make it again so they could take it along with their merchandise.

The Sinister Dark is the “special bottle” edition of our HappyFace Stout, so it is the same beer but with a special designed label. For the Belgian band Bark we did the same with our HappyFace Bock that was released with a special designed label as HappyFace Bark.
The HappyFace Heritance was a one off beer for the release party of The Heritance’s album ‘Routine To Decline’. Since we were quite pleased with it, we later used this recipe as the base for HappyFace Scapegoat, but with different hops and yeast. We’ve also had the HappyFace Martyr, for the celebration of the 35th anniversary of Martyr, and we released two Lemmy Memorial beers. These memorial beers were the HappyFace Overkill (packed with spices, herbs and lagered on soaked Jack Daniels wood chips) and the HappyFace Bomber (infused with Jack Daniels).

Any plans to collaborate with anymore bands in the future?
Rob: Oh yes, we are open for that, and we get a lot of requests for this. But it depends on the time that we have available, our brewing capacity and, last but not least, we have to like the band…

If you could do a beer for any metal band who would it be and why?
Well, I love Entombed A.D. so my answer on this question is simple. Patrick will definitely choose Kiss, Ed would probably choose any band involving Mike Patton and Manfred will stick with Slayer. These choices are just for the love of their music and not for any commercial purposes or anything like that.

“Seeing people enjoying good music and our beers gives us a great feeling”

The Netherlands is well known for having an amazing Death metal scene but what is the craft beer scene like over there?
Rob: Yes, with bands like Gorefest, Altar, God Dethroned, Hail Of Bullets, Asphyx, Thanatos and Sinister we can’t complain about the level of Death Metal in the past and present of The Netherlands. Besides these older, well known bands, we also have an immense amount of bands emerging like The Heritance, Bodyfarm, Soulburn, Dauthuz, Deathhammer and Neoceasar, so we enjoy ourselves over here in our little country.

Looking at the craft beer scene we don’t have to be shy as well. Big breweries such as Uiltje, Jopen, De Molen, Emelisse, Kompaan and Van Moll are operating worldwide nowadays, but there are over 530 breweries in The Netherlands now, including over 200 breweries who work in the same way as us. If you compare that to approximately 40 to 50 breweries just 10-15 years ago we can say that the craft beer brewing has exploded in The Netherlands.

Death Metal and amazing beers, what more could we ask for?

Are than any Dutch breweries you can recommend that we should check out? Other than HappyFace of course!
Rob: Good one, we love the beers of De Molen and Uiltje because these breweries always have something new to taste; but it is very hard to pick out a few breweries, because the quality of the majority of the beers from The Netherlands is very good. So as always, it is more a matter of personal taste. If you like Stouts, try Dutch Stouts and if you like IPA’s, lots of Dutch IPA’s to choose from. Just try ‘em, it won’t kill you!

Happyface Styles

One thing I noticed is that your beers are pouring at Dynamo, Stonehenge and Into The Grave Metal Fests this year. That’s awesome! What’s the response been like to your beers when they’ve been pouring at metal festivals?
Rob: Very good! The Metal audience loves a beer while listening to their favourite bands and the craft beer scene has also entered the festival area’s. More and more you see special beer gardens on these festivals and we are very grateful to the organisers of those festivals that we get the chance to pour our beers there as well. We all love Metal, so seeing people enjoying good music and our beers gives us a great feeling. And it is a great addition to the “normal” beer festivals where we promote our beers, so yeah…we’re happy!

Are there any metal festivals you’d like to see have HappyFace Beers on tap?
Rob: Definitely Graspop! And the 70,000 Tons Of Metal cruise sounds like a good plan, but actually any other Metal festival would make us proud as well. If we can combine our love for the music with our beers, well….need we say more?

Whats the plan for HappyFace Beers for the rest of 2018?
Rob: As I said before, we have 3 new beers coming out, and we’ll do an amazing amount of small and big festivals to promote our beers. We only started last year so we have a world to win there. Although our approach is serious and professional, we are planning to enjoy the hell out of it!!

HappyFace Badass Brewing

Where can people reading this go to buy your beers?
Rob: In The Netherlands we are rapidly increasing our distribution network, so ask at your local liquor store or check our website for addresses. But we also have a webshop online where people can order our beers and merchandise.

Any final things you would like to add?
Rob: We are very grateful for people that show interest in our beers, so in this case we would like to thank Headbrewers Ball for the opportunity to tell something more about us and our beers. Horns up, cheers!!

For more info on HappyFace Beers check out their website, like their Facebook page or follow them on Instagram.

10 Metal Band Beers You Probably Never Knew About

From Iron Maiden to Mastodon and Pig Destroyer to Tankard, every band seems to be partnering up with a brewery and releasing their own beer.

For some bands, it’s turned into a lucrative merchandising outlet and for others it’s just a chance to nerd out and do something with their favourite brewery.

As an introduction to Headbrewers Ball, here’s 10 metal band beers that you might have missed.

The Haunted x Hydra Beer Company

Hydra - TheHauntedMadeMeBrewIt

South Dakota’s Hydra Beer Company have a slew of beers named Immortal, Emperor and Baroness, so it should come as no surprise that they’re probably into metal. The Sioux Falls brewery paired up with Gothenburg’s The Haunted, for the brilliantly named ‘The Haunted Made Me Brew It’, a nod to their 2000 sophomore record. It’s a dank IPA, double dry hopped with Simcoe and Columbus, all wrapped up with a label akin to the band’s classic LP.

Thy Art Is Murder x Anspach & Hobday

Anspach & Thy Art Is Murder

Probably the most unlikely pairing on this list is the sleek London brewery Anspach & Hobday with Aussie deathcore crew Thy Art Is Murder. This 3.5% Black Citra Sour came about after Paul Anspach got chatting to the band after a gig. Simple as that!

Sinister x HappyFace Beers


A collab between Dutch death metal masters Sinister and self-styled badass brewery HappyFace Beers. This beer was made exclusively for Sinister’s ‘Syncretism’ album release party back in February 2017. Clocking in at 6%, this stout aptly named ‘Sinister Dark’ was a special edition bottle run for the event.

Fun HappyFace facts: Brewer Rob Zwaan is the tallest man in the Netherlands at 2.23 meters tall and ex-Asphyx / current Soulburn drummer Bob Bagchus sorts out all their merchandise. Bosh!

Venomous Maximus x Brash Brewing Company

Brash - Milk The Venom

Don’t mess with Texas when it comes to BIG stouts. Based in Houston, Brash are one of the best at strong, flavoursome stouts, with a viscosity like Texas Crude. The likes of Vulgar Display Of Power and Hammer Smashed Face really don’t muck around! ‘Milk The Venom’ is a collab with fellow Houstonians Venomous Maximus, and this milk stout packs a real punch, loaded up with coffee, toasted coconut, cinnamon, and chipotle. Bonus points for packaging a beast of a beer into stubbies! Ale Satan.

Entombed x Macken Brewery / Entombed A.D. x Warpigs

Entombed Sverige

Seen as there’s two versions of Entombed, makes sense that each one should have their very own beer.

Alex Hellid’s version of the band wanted to celebrate the Entombed legacy and teamed up with Macken Brewery for a Swedish style Helles; ‘Entombed Sverige’.

Meanwhile, LG Petrov and Entombed A.D. aligned themselves with Copenhagen’s Warpigs for ‘Freeman’. The Swedes went for an Imperial Stout that’s a cross between Mikkeller’s ‘Beer Geek Breakfast’ and 3 Floyds’ ‘Dark Lord’, an incredible combination if ever there was one! To top it off, the band made the most of their brew day and filmed a music video while they were there. LG’s ‘off down the pub with a wad of Kroner’ face is probably the best thing committed to video.

Godflesh x Five-Oh Brew Co

Five Oh Brew Co - New Dark Ages (c:o FOBC on Twitter)

A box fresh ‘New Dark Ages’ bottle. (Image c/o @Five_Oh_Brew_Co)

An off chance Twitter exchange with Justin K Broadrick is what lead to this beer by Prestwich pico-brewery Five-Oh Brew Co. Brewed especially for Godflesh’s Manchester show of the ‘A World Lit Only By Fire’ tour. ‘New Dark Ages’ is a 6.5% industrial black IPA filled with loads of US hops and a sprinkling of Sorachi Ace.

Chris Dodge x Thrash Zone

Thrash Zone - Chris Dodge's Ham Slappin' Aru Chu Ale

As far as names go, ‘Chris Dodge’s Ham Slappin’ Aru Chu Ale’ by Thrash Zone is by far the best beer to grace this list! The 13% barleywine was brewed for Spazz / Infest / Slap-a-Ham Record legend Chris Dodge by Thrash Zone in Yokohama, Japan. Be sure to check out Dodge’s latest project Trappist for more beer themed goodness.

Mutoid Man x Sixpoint Brewery

Sixpoint - Mutoid Ale

Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Brewery really went all out with this Mutoid Man collab. This blood red IPA (check out some pictures, it’s VERY red) was a homage to the bands album ‘Bleeder’. It was also bittered with Warrior and Magnum hops as a nod to then upcoming album ‘War Moans’. To top it off there’s also 14 pounds of the mutant hop Idaho #7 in there too. Bet it tastes delicious!

1349 x Surly Brewing Co x Lervig Aktiebryggeri

1349 collabs

This pair of collabs between Norwegian black metallers 1349, Minnesota’s Surly Brewing Company and Norwegian brewers Lervig Aktiebryggeri are pretty interesting.

One is a 13.49% (see what they did there?) black ale, chock full of freshly ground Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee. The other is intended to be a partner beer to this, clocking in at a devilish 6.66%, it’s a pale ale with Curacao orange peels and lemon peels added to the end of the boil for zesty, tropical citrus flavours.

Integrity x Oliver Brewing Co.

The hops and the yeast have finally fused as one. A relatively new addition to this list, and a beer that will perhaps elude anyone outside of the US for a long time. Oliver Brewing Co.’s collab with Integrity is a nod to frontman Dwid Hellion’s adopted home in Belgium. Named after most recent album ‘Howling, For the Nightmare Shall Consume’, the beer was brewed in Baltimore, especially for Decibel’s 2018 Metal & Beer Festival. The Belgian style blonde ale is fermented with Bastogne yeast and dry hopped with Styrian Goldings and Lemondrop.