ORLANDO – Beer hunting on a theme park holiday

A first for the blog, a travel piece! Originally planned on doing this for my taproom visits and general beer-y adventures, then I never really got round to it… Oh how the turntables have turned!

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Spooky treats down Main Street, Magic Kingdom

Back in October 2019, my partner Lauren and I packed our bags for our first long haul trip together, two weeks theme park hopping in Orlando. Why October? Well, it’s spooky season, of course! It’s also prime time for pumpkin beers, but more on those later.

For a fortnight we called Kissimmee’s Royal Parc Suites our home, situated on the 192 it’s a prime spot for getting to the theme parks, shops and even seeking out some good beer. This was a trip we’d been planning for a long time, our main objectives were Disney, Universal, Halloween Horror Nights 29 and raiding Spirit Halloween (a treasure trove of spooky goodness).

As is always the way when I go on a trip somewhere, I was keen to seek out some good beers. Never really one for beer holidays but beer certainly plays a part when I’m on holiday. This trip felt a bit different though; I’ve been to the USA a few times before, but this was my first visit as an adult, and my first where beer was of interest. So sure, I wanted to seek out some of the amazing craft beers I knew would be waiting for me, but also making the most of the macro beers that crop up everywhere, because there’s a host of them we simply just don’t get in the UK. I still have a hankering for another cold, malty Yuengling Traditional Lager now that I think about it.

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Mid-flight Märzen, Samuel Adams – Octoberfest

Our flight to the US almost put a damper on things, leaving an hour or two late meaning our generous layover in Philadelphia turned into a frantic dash through security, making our connecting flight as the gate opened! Had planned on a swift pint at the Yards Brewing Co. taproom in Philly airport – heard they brew a cracking Mild – but alas a can of Samuel Adams – OctoberFest Märzen mid flight was the best I was gonna get. After finally arriving at the hotel after about 12 hours of traveling and loading up on supplies at Walmart, a few bottles of Bud Light Lime (blame Last Podcast On The Left) certainly hit the spot. There’s a time and a place for everything.

Now my plan for this isn’t to give you a be all and end all guide for places to grab a good beer whilst in Orlando. This is more of a reflection on some of the great beers and places I visited whilst we were there, that are handy pit stops if you’re doing the theme park trail. I have to say that Untappd proved to be a big help whilst planning this trip, thanks to their verified venues function and the best way we found to get around was definitely Lyft – easy to use, nice drivers, inexpensive fares. That’s it for apps, let’s talk beer!

“Can’t get enough of that wonderful Duff!”

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All hail the Dough-verlord

This trip was my first time visiting Universal, and I absolutely loved the place! My lasting impression is that it felt more like it was catered to adults in its offering than Disney,  which meant it was perfect for childless millennial couples such as ourselves. Having said that, it’s a miracle that I even managed to make it into the park each time, as we had to pass a Voodoo Doughnuts on the walk into the park each time. I did eventually pick up one of the elusive pink boxes of doughnuts, and we kept them in the fridge at the hotel for a few days as they were monstrous. Fun fact: if you wanted to buy every doughnut on the menu, you can! They even come in their own doughnut coffin, because who doesn’t want that?!

Anyway, back to Universal. I think one of the things that really struck me about the park was the theming, so much attention to detail for the properties that they own. For instance, I’m a huge fan of The Simpsons, so visiting Springfield was a must, and they had everything you could imagine, plus you can’t get enough of that wonderful Duff while you’re there. Florida Beer Company have breathed life into Duff (amber lager), Duff Lite (light lager) and Duff Dry (stout) – aspect ratio fans take note, they’re actually all different! – which can be found at both the Duff Brewery (complete with tanks and on site shop) and Moe’s Tavern.

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Dufftoberfest… “This reich will last a thousand beers”

As we were there in October, you could also bag yourself a Dufftoberfest (märzen) which I did for our first night in the Halloween Horror Nights holding pen (aka Stay & Scream) situated in Springfield. Essentially you can use your day time park ticket to wait it out in select areas of the park to get first dibs on the queues for the HHN houses. If you pop into Moe’s you can also pick up a Flaming Moe, which in this case is an orange soda with some dry ice to give it a flaming effect, tasted like a Berocca. The Duff Brewery is home to tonnes of Duff branded merchandise, which will definitely appeal to that sub-sect of beer & Simpsons fans. Fun fact: Florida Beer Company also brew a trio of beers for the Harry Potter areas of the park but I don’t really care for the wizard so we didn’t bother with those.

 

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The entrance to House Of 1000 Corpses… Captain Spaulding’s Museum Of Monsters And Madmen

I’ve been to a few Halloween mazes/haunted houses/events in the past, but none of them match what we experienced at Halloween Horror Nights – it’s just on another level! There are scare zones dotted around the park where scare actors mingle with the crowd and jump scare everyone on their way through – best one by far was Rob Zombie’s Hellbilly Deluxe, it was like Satan’s Hollow come to life. Even sat in the Dragula.
Then of course there’s the houses. There’s a few themed around Universal properties, House Of 1000 Corpses, Killer Klowns From Outer Space and Universal Monsters being the highlights, where you can walk through the film and relive it for yourself. Universal Monsters was our favourite of the lot by far.
Then there’s some HHN originals, which are designed to frighten the living daylights out of you, such as Depths Of Fear, Nightingales: Blood Pit, Yeti: Terror Of The Yukon and Graveyard Games. We managed to do both Yeti and Nightingales after a cast change and let me tell you, they were scary! There’s also a few duds too, Jordan Peele’s Us and Stranger Things just didn’t really translate well in that environment. Shame really. There’s also side shows, which are ideal for a nice sit-down and a Duff or two, and shouldn’t be overlooked. Academy Of Villains was one of the best bits of the event in our opinion; dance routines, aerial performances, contortionists, circus performances, heavy metal soundtrack, it had it all! Think we watched it about 4 or 5 times across our visits to HHN.

“If it ain’t blinkin’, I ain’t drinkin’!”

 

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Pumpkinhead in hand, headed for Rob Zombie’s Hellbilly Deluxe

If you’re seeking out good beers while at HHN, then your best bet is the pop up food tents/bars dotted around the park. A lot of the usual quick service places will be open touting their regular fare and odd specials, but the tents are where it’s at, especially the one where you can get Twisted Taters – spiraled potatoes, fried, seasoned and stretched out on a skewer. Amazing! Most of these tents have specific event only beers and cocktails available in flashing souvenir cups; in Lauren’s words, “if it ain’t blinkin’, I ain’t drinkin’!”. Managed to get my first pumpkin beer of the season whilst at HHN, the infamous Pumpkinhead from Shipyard whilst a can of Dogfish Head’s Flesh & Blood was perfect with some Twisted Taters on a pit stop between houses. Other beer offerings from the event only tents were Terrapin – Hopsecutioner, M.I.A. Beer Co – Miami Weiss, Motorworks – Pulp Friction, plus Samuel Adams and Goose Island seasonals – all of these were split between cans/draft and top the usual macro offering.

One of my favourite parts of Halloween Horror Nights was the park wide loop of ominous synth wave that kept you going while in queues for houses, soundtracked the scare zones and generally upped the atmosphere. Handily those folks over at HHN popped it in a Spotify playlist and I haven’t stopped listening to it since – check it out below.

“The most magical place on earth…”

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Magic Kingdom at night

Now onto Walt Disney World, the most magical place on earth. I found that there were so many facets to Disney, with their being so many different parks, so much to see and so much to do. Some days were very heavy on character meets, sweet treats and rides, other days brought opportunities for a few beers. On a general Disney note, I will say if you’re planning a trip there, the My Disney Experience App is vital to visiting the park. You can view wait times, get fast passes and make reservations on there, if you have the memory maker package and a Magic Band, all of your ride, park and character photos will make their way on there too, obviously Magic Bands need tapping where applicable. Really felt like an essential feature when visiting the parks. While we were there we visited all the parks bar Blizzard Beach, which was shut for a refurb.

Certain parks had certain quirks when it came to beers and there’s a few that I’ll pick out as we go here. The big one is Epcot, which has the tradition of drinking around the world. Each pavilion around the main lake has different beers from the countries it represents and as such, has become a real focal point for drinkers. Only thing is we made the mistake of visiting Epcot on a Saturday. There was an overwhelming amount of stags and hens drinking their way around the world, making it feel more like a city centre on a Friday night. It was a little bit grim. On the plus side, it was the Food & Wine Festival while we were there, so each pavilion had additional food/drink offerings, so there were some good beers on offer if you were willing to seek them out. Only one that stands out was Germany, which had Schofferhoffer Pomegranate on tap!

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A much needed Not Your Father’s Root Beer float

We’ll dive into Galaxy’s Edge as a separate entity in a second, but Hollywood Studios had a similar feel as Epcot, if you were willing to seek out a good beer, you’d find one. After conquering Tower Of Terror, we popped to a quick service ice cream parlor that were doing Small Town Brewery – Not Your Father’s Root Beer as a root beer float! Now on its own it’s an exceptional root beer, but the float was a game changer. Move over soft serve, boozy root beer floats are the one!

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Jaked on Green Beers in Pandora

Similar to Universal, it’s the theming that brings out the best beers, one of which can be found in Animal Kingdom. In Pandora – World Of Avatar, you can get jaked on green beers, thanks to Terrapin – Hawkes’ Grog Ale. I don’t remember much of the film Avatar, or if they even drank green beers in it, but whatever, it was an enjoyable grassy, wheat ale that went down a treat on what was the hottest day of our trip. They also offer some funky looking frozen non-alcoholic cocktail that Lauren got. Can’t remember exactly what it was, but it was enjoyable.

“You’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”

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Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is a different beast altogether. As soon as you walk into the park, from either Toy Story Land or past The Muppets area, you feel like you’re in a different world. The theming is impeccable, the ambient sound makes it feel otherworldly and there’s just so much to look at. On tap of that there’s the various vehicles, roaming characters (Chewbacca, Rey, stormtroopers and Kylo Ren) and off world food (blue milk anyone?), I could sit here and write an entire post about that part of the park alone, it’s incredible.

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Inside Oga’s Cantina

The main draw here though has to be Oga’s Cantina, the most entertaining watering hole in the galaxy. You have to book in advance to get in, so be sure to plan your trip and get that reservation in as soon as you can, it’s worth it. Once inside you’re taken to your table or area, for us we were situated at the end of the bar, and you’ve 2 hours once inside to take it all in, have a few drinks (2 max per person) and make your way out. There’s loads of choices when it comes to cocktails (both alcoholic and non) and some great beers to boot. The attention to detail in there is second to non, for me the stand out was the host of Star Wars themed tap handles that’d make even Emperor’s brewery jealous – think Tusken Raider staffs, lightsaber hilts, etc. You can even bag yourself a Rancor tooth beer flight, which is a work of genius. I nearly caved and got one but remembered I’d have to bring it back home to the UK. Never mind.

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The boozy half of the menu at Oga’s Cantina

Whilst we were in there, we got a plate of Batuu bits (salty de-hydrated veg snacks), and worked through the beers on offer. The stand out was easily the White Wampa Ale (cracking banana-y hefeweizen brewed by Ballast Point) but both the Gamorrean Ale (solid red ale from New Belgium) and Bad Motivator IPA (7% IPA from Sierra Nevada) were worthy of our time. Didn’t get around to trying the Gold Squadron Lager (Blue Point) but there’s always our next trip to a galaxy far, far away. On top of that you’ve the entertainment and intergalactic tunes from DJ Rex and of course some of the best bartenders this side of the outer rim which makes this immersive experience all the more enjoyable.

One other place on Disney property worthy of a mention is Savannah Bee Company at shopping/entertainment complex Disney Springs. The main draw here is it’s a shop that sells products made with honey but I did find out you can buy bottles of mead here from a host of different US meaderies, including B. Nektar Meadery. You can even sample everything on offer for free as well, so perfect excuse to explore a style that you might not be overly familiar with. Unfortunately, I missed out on going in because we’d just eaten lunch at Planet Hollywood (an experience in itself) and needed to roll back to the hotel for a lie down.

“When you see the white whale
Break your backs and crack your oars men”

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Total Wine & More offering up cans as far as the eye can see!

As I mentioned at the very beginning, this wasn’t a beer holiday and I’d no plans to go out of my way to check out breweries, taprooms and bottle shops whilst in Orlando. I did instead just look up what was nearby the places we were already planning on visiting, and low and behold, across the way from The Mall at Millenia, was Total Wine & More, Millenia Plaza. The best way I can describe this place is like Costco but for wine, beer and spirits. As you walk in, there are thousands of bottles and cans that stretch as far as the eye can see.

We made our way over the the beer aisle and it was immense! Split into sections you had local beers, regional beers, US-wide beers, international beers, ciders, there was so much to choose from. As I looked around though, everything was in multipacks, I figured perhaps I’d made a mistake here in terms of what i’d actually be able to pick up. We turned the corner and came down the next aisle to find all the same stock, but this time available by the bottle/can. Success! Turns out you can pretty much pick out any beer you want as everything is available as an individual item or in a multipack.

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White whale, holy grail…    Sierra Nevada – Narwhal (2019)

I won’t lie, I was a little spoilt for choice. There were beers from breweries I’d heard about ever since I got into craft beer (Bell’s Two Hearted Ale and Dogfish Head’s 60 and 90 Minute IPAs being the standouts), beers from local producers that you’d never see again outside of Florida (Orange Blossom Brewing Co and Tampa Bay Brewing Co amongst others) and of course a few whales (Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal!). To be honest it’s difficult to do it justice, it was a phenomenal selection of beers.

Their British section was also 10/10, stocked only with the essentials: Bass, Boddington’s and Newcastle Brown Ale. Yes mate!

 

I picked up a mix of beers that I’d always wanted to try, a few pumpkin beers because ’tis the season and when in Rome… a tin of White Claw Hard Seltzer (bobbins). Standouts were definitely Southern Tier – Pumking (pumpkin pie in a glass), Orange Blossom Brewing Co – Orange Blossom Pilsner (a honey pilsner that was incredibly refreshing in the Orlando heat), Unibroue – À Tout Le Monde (been a long time since I’d had anything from Unibroue and couldn’t resist a Megadeth collab) and the newly launched Bell’s – Double Two Hearted Ale (SO MUCH CENTENNIAL!).

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Mandatory Total Wine & More beer haul pic. (L to R; White Claw, Jai Alai, Floridan Hefeweizen, Orange Blossom Pilsner, Gourds Gone Wild, Pumking, Double Two Hearted Ale, Two Hearted Ale, 60 Minute IPA, Dragon’s Milk White, À Tout Le Monde, Narwhal (2019).

With us using Lyft to get around, I was limited to what I could carry, which amounted to two carefully packed 6 packs, one on top of the other in my rucksack. It did meant that I clinked my way around The Mall at Millenia for the rest of the afternoon.

The other place I was keen to check out that was on our travels was Yard House, situated at Orlando’s ICON Park. A sports bar chain that offers classic American food, boasts the largest selection of draft beer and is slap bang in the middle of Orlando near The Wheel, Madame Tussauds and 40 other restaurants. They really weren’t kidding about draft lines, the Orlando site has 130 beers on tap! I don’t envy those line cleans.

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Yard House beer flight

Beer wise, it’s all in the A4, multi-page menu with everything broken down into sections based on style, Florida beers, macro beers, etc. I managed to narrowed it down to a build-your-own-flight of 4 and of course one of my picks had kicked! As with my small pack picks, tried to go for a mixed bag: Crooked Can – Mr Tractor (smash-able kölsch), Orlando Brewing – I-4 IPA (dank, musty West Coast), Dogfish Head – SeaQuench Ale (a tart, punchy gose), and finished off with New Holland – Dragon’s Milk (delicious 11% imp stout laced with vanilla). Handily they even printed you off a receipt with your flight board beers numbered on it, pretty neat!

We were really blown away with our experience at Yard House and I can’t recommend it enough. They offer up amazing, friendly service, they had a smashing veggie/vegan offering (easily the best choice Lauren had on our trip), it’s great value for money and it was one of the best meals we had on our trip.

Price wise, on the whole you’re looking at around $8-9 for a beer in the theme parks, maybe around $10-15 in a restaurant. Anywhere that’s a bit of a novelty or offers take home glassware will be more still. If you have the luxury of a hotel fridge, stocking it from somewhere like Total Wine is certainly one of the better options.

We had such a blast in Orlando, once we’d acclimatised to the Florida heat, so much so we’re already looking to go back in 2021. Keen to seek out some beers from Cycle and 3 Daughters on my next visit. Until next time, here’s something from Orlando’s finest, Chuck Schuldiner.

Into The Pandemonium…

It sure has been a while…

When I started up this blog, I had the best of intentions to keep at it and post regularly, diving into topics I wanted to know more about. Then I got a new job, running a brewery taproom. And then I went to America on my jollies (post on that incoming). Then before you know it, an entire year has gone by and Headbrewers Ball is just sat here lying fallow.

But how quickly things can change. After the UK government called for all pubs to close on 20th March 2020 in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19, I’ve now got a fair bit of time on my hands. So it seemed like a good time to get back into waffling about metal and beers once again. You know, the good stuff!

It’s a particularly strange time that we’re living in at the moment, and to try and avoid the 24 hour rolling news on this pandemic, I’ve taken solace in a trio of records lately, all of which I believe are worthy of your attention. Let the waffling commence!

Video Nasties - Dominion
Video Nasties – Dominion (APF Records)

Horror soaked black n’roll from Merseyside is the best way to describe Video Nasties. ‘Dominion’ is the debut album from the five piece, stitched together from members of Iron Witch, SSS, The Bendal Interlude and Magpyes. Not for the squeamish, this is a bloody mix of John Carpenter, Hammer Horror, Dario Argento, Entombed, At The Gates, and Sepultura. And that barely scratches the surface, as ‘Dominion’ doesn’t follow your standard horror tropes. Video Nasties are carving their own left hand path, and you better watch your back. Hands down one of my favourite records of 2020 so far. Pick up a copy from APF Records.

The Night Flight Orchestra - Aeromantic
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic (Nuclear Blast Records)

This took a couple of listens to click. At first I just thought, “What even is this?!”. Now I’m hooked!
The Night Flight Orchestra is the brainchild of Soilwork’s Björn ‘Speed’ Strid and David Andersson, it’s pure hard rock/AOR – think Toto meets Abba – all themed around flying (I know, right?!). It sounds almost farcical when you spell it out like that, but it’s fantastic! Having spent years listening to Soilwork’s strain of melodic death metal, this was never something I’d have expected and considering this is their fifth album, something that’s clearly eluded me for a long while now! Genuinely cannot get enough of this album at the moment, it’s just so much fun. Get it now on Nuclear Blast Records.

Idle Hands - ManaIdle Hands – Mana (Eisenwald)

A late pass from May 2019, but vital nonetheless. Portland’s Idle Hands straddle goth, heavy metal and occult rock, conjuring up songs as morose as the Sisters Of Mercy, as anthemic as The Mission and laced with riffs reminiscent of Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith. As modern gothic/occult records go, this really picks up the torch left by the like of In Solitude’s ‘Sister’ and Beastmilk’s ‘Climax’. Idle Hands were due to head out on the road in the US with Mayhem, Abbath and Gatecreeper as part of this year’s Decibel Magazine tour, but alas that was cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Help them out and pick up some merch.

TEMPEL BRYGGHUS: Uppsala sour beer takes the Left Hand Path

PerditionThe first time Tempel Brygghus cropped up on my radar was when I somehow stumbled across their Entombed-esque logo online and just thought “this is the kind of brewery for me!” The more I read up on them, the better it got, based in Uppsala in Sweden (Uppsala Metal of Death!) and firmly focussed on sour beer, I’d made my mind up before I could even get my hands on a beer.

Flash forward to last years CAMRA festival in Manchester, I had a flick through the beer list and couldn’t believe my eyes to see one of their beers, this esoteric Swedish sour stout, tucked away in the bottle bar. Still can’t quite believe it the more I think about it.

Tempel produce beer on par with the likes of Somerset’s Wild Beer Co, who aptly they’ve done a collab with in The Enigmatic King Vasa, and Denver’s TRVE who specialise in small batch, mixed fermentation beer with an extreme metal image. I’ve been keen to know more about them for a while so I reached out to main man Arvid Landgren to find out about how they got into brewing sours, craft beer in Uppsala and of course, extreme metal!

“In the early days we made sour beers to a market that didn’t know what sour beer was”

Tempel & Wild

Out in the wild: Tempel Brygghus x Wild Beer Co

How did Tempel Brygghus get started?
Arvid: I started the brewery back in 2014 for several reasons, in short: the stars were aligned. I was working as a consultant (in grain farming, specialising in barley) and worked at a pretty boring place but liked my job, and had to switch employer. At the same time I got in contact with a startup brewery in my town and we came to the deal that since they only wanted to work weekends and nights I could take the “working” hours. So I quit my job and started brewing, and after a year or so I brewed the absolute majority of the beer in the brewery and felt I needed to build my own place.

In January 2017 we brewed the first batch in the new brew house with the freshly hired brewer Johan [Holmdahl], and since then things have been rolling forward. We are now 3 people working in the brewery and have widened our range of beers. We do a lot of one offs and collab brews, which is awesome. This summer we sold the bottling line and bought a canner instead. Ordained

Can you tell me a little about your setup? What kind of kit do you have and whereabouts do you brew?
Arvid: The new brew house is located 15 minutes outside of Uppsala, the fourth biggest town in Sweden. The kit is a direct fired electrical 10 HL system which is a bit cumbersome, but it works. 8×10 + 2×20 HL fermentors and we brew about 3 beers per week.

“Black Metal, Death, Goregrind, Crust and Drone has shaped a lot of the brewery mentality”

King VasaWhat first interested you in producing small batch speciality beers and sour beers in particular?
Arvid: Same as most – home brewing. Got into brewing and dived deep down and tried everything and read as much as possible, talked to a lot of home brewers and commercial brewers, visited all local breweries etc. I’m actually a pretty shitty home brewer in the aspects of brewing philosophy. Ever since the first batch I’ve always thought of how to go pro with this. After a bunch of batches I started fiddling with kettle sours. At that point, there was almost no info on the internet; A LOT of trial and error, e-mailing with home and commercial brewers and after a couple of batches the beer was acceptable. At that point almost no one in Europe was doing more than the occasional sour (outside of Belgium, of course) and I saw a business opportunity and here the story starts.

Tempel & Hammerheart

Under the sign of the black mark: Tempel Brygghus x HammerHeart Brewing 

Tempel Brygghus is laced in Swedish death metal imagery, any bands in particular that inspire you when it comes to brewing?
Arvid:
I have (mis)spent my youth and most of my adult life in the presence of (mainly) Black Metal, Death, Goregrind, Crust and Drone music and that has shaped a lot of the brewery mentality. In the early days we made sour beers to a market that didn’t know what sour beer was (our Untappd rating will never recover from those days, hehe). I have always liked the visuals of the metal scene and that was a short step to implement that on our labels and such. Our design guy has been with us since the start and plays in a few local bands, he’s great.

Today I listen a lot to Woven Hand, Sunn O))), Grift, Sleep, Mgla, Drudkh, Earth, Pallbearer, Ved Buens Ende, The Devil’s Blood and various metal acts without any clear connections.

“Uppsala has the same problem as a few similar cities, it’s a bit too close to major cities”

Black Spot GoseUppsala is well known for being home to the likes of Watain, In Solitude and Degial, but what’s the beer scene like there? Are there any other Uppsala breweries we should keep an eye out for?
Arvid: The beer scene in Uppsala has the same problem as a few similar cities, it’s a bit too close to major cities (Stockholm in Uppsala’s case) to have a good scene in itself. We have a couple of really good beer bars starting up the last year or two but before that is was nothing special at all. The Swedish laws concerning alcohol makes it hard to have tap rooms etc, and all bars must have a restaurant kitchen which drives the prices up.

The more famous you probably already know about, Stigberget, Brewski, Brekeriet, O/O, Dugges etc. One brewery to keep your eyes on that’s not big yet is Apex Brewing Co, they make super solid IPAs.

IsotonicWhat’s in the pipeline for Tempel Brygghus in 2019?
Arvid:
At the moment we are growing pretty fast. So this year will probably be a stabilising year, finding the export costumers that we want to work with etc. We are doing more and more non sour beers so one or two new core beers will probably come.

Where can people reading this go to buy your beers?
Arvid:
We have no exports to the US as of now, although we are open to suggestions. Beers can be found in Scandinavia, the Baltic countries, Belgium, a couple of online bottle shops and hopefully a few more countries later this year.

For more info on Temple Bryyghus, check out their website. You can also find them on Facebook and on Instagram.

LEVIATHAN: nano-brewing in the birthplace of Heavy Metal

If you were to draw up a Venn diagram where one circle represents Heavy Metal and the other represents Brewing, you’d find me and Headbrewers Ball slap bang in the middle. I’m always on the look out for beers, breweries and bands that’ll join me in those two overlapping circles. When I first heard about Leviathan Brewing, my interest was well and truly piqued, I mean if you’re naming a beer after Napalm Death’s ‘Multinational Corporations’ then you’ve already got my vote whatever scale you’re brewing on. For those of you that follow the blog, you might recognise the name already, Leviathan featured in my 2018 round up as a brewery to watch in 2019.

Leviathan Brewing

To tie in with this years Tryanuary campaign, Leviathan seem to have been knocking beers out,  with session brews ‘You Can’t Quit Me Baby’ (a 3% table IPA) and ‘Smash A Single Digit’ (a 2.5% baby hopfenweisse) landing some rave reviews online. I needed to know more, so I reached out to owner/brewer Chris Hodgetts for the story behind the brewery and to find out where his love of heavy metal came from.

“As well as being a biblical sea beast, ‘Leviathan’ is an album by a band I love, Mastodon.”

chris leviathan

ARISE! Leviathan Brewing owner and brewer Chris Hodgetts

How did Leviathan Brewing get started?
Chris: In 2017 I was diagnosed with cancer.  I’d been self-employed for almost 20 years as a management consultant working on large IT / business improvement projects, often away from home, and thought “Do I really want to do this for the rest of my life?”.

I’d found the enjoyment had gone out of work and I decided to focus on doing something I’ve loved for over 15 years, something that would also enable me to be (mostly) home with the family each night, brewing.

I’d been given the all clear health wise but in June last year I had the news that my illness had returned.  I pushed on with the establishment of the brewery, finding premises and an all new – but tiny – half bbl kit, brewing when I felt up to it, slotted in around 5 months of treatment.  It’s been frustrating as it has delayed my plans, but I fully intend to push on in 2019, so stay tuned!

With regards to the name – I’m a huge music fan, particularly anything guitar based and the heavier the better.  As well as being a biblical sea beast, ‘Leviathan’ is an album by a band I love, Mastodon. It seemed an appropriate way to combine two things I love, and the branding and imagery works, well for me anyway!

“There’s magic in water that attracts all men, all men… Across hills and down streams”
– MASTODON

leviathan bottles

Where strides the beer-moth

Tell us a bit about the brewery set up – what sort of kit do you have? Whereabouts do you brew?
Chris:
I moved into a small industrial unit in Sutton Coldfield last September.  I’ve a half barrel SS Brewtech kit, with a couple of temperature controlled chronical FVs and a load of cheap plastic ones!

What came first, the love of heavy metal or beer?
Chris:
Definitely music.  I still remember vividly, as a 6 year old living in a tower block in the Newtown area, my father playing Deep Purple, early Fleetwood Mac and [Black] Sabbath on vinyl (he also played Hot Chocolate’s Greatest Hits but we’ll gloss over that one!). Then, on a school trip aged 15, I borrowed a mate’s copy of [Iron] Maiden’s ‘Piece Of Mind’ and listening to it over and over and was hooked. I love all sorts of music to be fair, but my preference is something heavy!

saions in the abyss

Saisons In The Abyss – Mango Kampot Saison 4.9%

Your beers so far have been laced with heavy metal imagery/song titles ranging from Slayer and Machine Head to Napalm Death and Queens Of The Stone Age. Can you tell me a little about how you decide what to brew and how the metal influences play into that?
Chris:
Most often I will have a style of beer in mind that I wish to brew first.  I’ll then be listening to various things on Spotify and get a flash of inspiration, usually something puntastic.  I then usually find that Weird Beard have already used it and go back to the drawing board. Occasionally I have the reverse, where I’ll hear a song and think it would make a great beer name.

If you could do a beer for any metal band who would it be and why?
Chris:
Sadly I think that boat has sailed, with Slayer calling it a day.  I am a huge Metallica fan, who interestingly have just released their first beer, a lager. Funnily enough, I have been asked to brew a Black IPA for a classic rock covers band from Wales called ‘Out Of Order’, which I have brewed recently!

Am I right in thinking you got a cease and desist from Iron Maiden? Can you talk about that at all?
Chris:
Ha ha! Yes, we did, via a firm they use to deal with trademark infringement.  I’d brewed an Imperial Porter – ‘Bring Your Porter To The Slaughter’.  It was a small batch that I gave away to various people and used some of their artwork on the label.  I was working on our website at the time and some draft pages were visible for a short period of time and seen by them.  So, we had a couple of letters asking to stop using the artwork, which I obviously agreed to, but also drop the name and any reference to Maiden, which I politely declined.

“Near the kraken sleepeth stirs coral and bone” – MASTODON

multinational corporations

Multinational Corporations – Hazelnut Coffee Oatmeal Porter 5.4%

What beers are you working on at the moment?
Chris:
Next up are a 3 very sessionable beers – DIPA, a Double Black IPA and a Rum n’ Raisin Imperial Stout 😊.

Birmingham is the home of heavy metal and so many great bands, but what’s the beer scene like?
Chris:
It’s certainly improving very rapidly, having lagged behind many parts of the country.  We’ve a lot of good craft bars – Kilder, Tilt, Clink, The Wolf, Pint Shop, shops like Cotteridge and Stirchley Wines, and so many more.  New places are springing up around the outskirts.  Plus we’ve quite a number of new and established breweries now producing some exceptional beers.

“At the moment, with the small kit, we aren’t easy to get hold of!”

What’s the plan for Leviathan Brewing in 2019?
Chris:
I’m looking over various equipment quotes as we speak, with the plan to install something around the 5 – 6 BBL mark at our unit, plus a small taproom onsite.  I’m also looking at options for a dedicated taproom / bottleshop elsewhere (the original plan was retail with a smaller 2.5 BBL kit back of house).

Where can people reading this go to buy your beers?
Chris:
At the moment, with the small kit, we aren’t easy to get hold of!  We sell online via hoptimism.co.uk and supply a couple of local bottle shops / taprooms such as Simply Local Burntwood and the Craft Inn, Sutton Coldfield.

leviathan range hoptimism

The Leviathan bottle range currently available from Hoptimism (Photo c/o @HoptimismBeers)

Any final things you would like to add?
Chris:
I’d just like to thank everyone who’d been out there supporting us and buying our beers.  You’ll be seeing a lot more of us!

For more info on Leviathan Brewing, find them on Facebook, give them a follow on Twitter or on Instagram. You can order their beers online from hoptimism.co.uk.

In the meantime, listen to Mastodon.

2018: A year in records, beers and breweries

It’s that time of year again and I love a good list! Here’s the records, beers and breweries that summed up my 2018. I’ve also included a few picks for 2019, scroll to the bottom for those hot takes.

RECORDS

2018 was a weird one for me, I spent a lot of time working on my first film which was all about politics within extreme metal, and as a result spent a lot of time listening to super political anarcho punk, crust, grindcore and death metal. So when it came to new releases, a lot of what I wanted to listen to was a world away from that. 2018 seemed to be the year for catchy, metal bangers. Here’s what shaped my year: 

Behemoth - ILYAYD10. Behemoth – I Loved You At Your Darkest (Nuclear Blast)
I’m the first to admit, I really didn’t get the hype around Behemoth’s last record, 2014’s ’The Satanist’. Don’t get me wrong, it was a solid record but I didn’t really click with the press hype around it. This time around however, totally different story. ‘I Loved You At Your Darkest’ feels a little leftfield for Behemoth. There’s elements of melody that have crept in and gives the music an even more sinister feel to it and the use of children’s choirs really juxtaposes what you’d expect from Behemoth.  

Mol - Jord9. MØL – Jord (Holy Roar)
Until 2018, it’s fair to say that when you thought of black metal from Denmark, the buck stopped with King Diamond and Mercyful Fate. Then MØL appeared with their impressive Holy Roar debut ‘Jord’, which is atmospheric, shoegazing black metal at its best. They take those gentle, ethereal and melodic elements of Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine and blend them effortlessly with blast beats, intense riffing and harsh black metal vocals. This is one of the standout records of the black metal/shoegaze style and MØL are certainly up there with the likes of Deafheaven, Alcest and Bosse-De-Nage. They even released an instrumental version of the record too which is equally fantastic!

Necrophobic - Mark Of The Necrogram8. Necrophobic – Mark Of The Necrogram (Century Media)
For a while it felt like Necrophobic wouldn’t quite get things back together again. 2013’s ‘Womb Of Lilith’ was a great record, but as soon as it was released they were blighted with lineup changes and things went quiet for a while. Now with Anders Strokirk back on vocals, and a lineup made up of past members, Necrophobic are back to their blackened best – ‘Mark Of The Necrogram’ is up there with ‘The Nocturnal Silence’ and ‘Darkside’ as one of their best records. Swedish blackened death metal at its best! 

Hank Von Hell - Egomania7. Hank Von Hell – Egomania (Headbangr)
When Hank Von Hell left Turbonegro, it was a pretty sad time for death punks everywhere. Sure, Tony Sylvester, The Duke Of Nothing, has done an amazing job ever since but there was always this feeling of, “I wonder what Hank’s up to these days”. After a few other projects over the years, he’s finally back and hellbent for Scandinavian leather. It’s everything you could possibly want from a Hank Von Hell record; it’s catchy (‘Bum To Bum’), it’s gauche (‘Pretty Decent Exposure’) and it’s one hell of a ride (‘Wild Boy Blues’). More please!

Powerwolf - The Scarament Of Sin6. Powerwolf – The Sacrament Of Sin (Napalm Records)
For me, Powerwolf represent all that is great about straight up heavy metal. They’re fun to listen to, they’re entertaining and they’re werewolves from deepest, darkest Romania, I love ‘em! ‘The Sacrament Of Sin’ is one of their strongest records to date and sets the bar for what a modern power metal band can achieve. Sure, they’re a bit gimmick-y but that’s the fun of it and the songs hold up. One of few bands I’ve seen this year that just put a massive smile on my face the entire way through their set, so much fun to watch!

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}5. Trappist – Ancient Brewing Tactics (Relapse Records)
“If you pass me a Pabst Blue Ribbon, I’ll kick your hipster ass!”
Members of Infest, Spazz, Crom and Despise You (to name but a few) flip macro swill the finger over the course of 21 d-beat, crust and powerviolence rippers. Of course this is one of my favourite albums of 2018! I could harp on about this record at length but I’ve already done that once already, you can check that out here.

Dimmu Borgir - Eonian4. Dimmu Borgir – Eonian (Nuclear Blast)
Hard to believe it’s been 8 years since Dimmu put out ‘ABRAHADABRA’, but it’s certainly been worth the wait. ‘Eonian’ is probably the grandest record Dimmu have made to date. It sounds huge! The amount of orchestration and choral parts integrated into their sound is stunning and some of the more black metal aspects of the album hark back to ‘Death Cult Armageddon’. This album is home to some of Dimmu’s most adventurous material yet, with ‘Interdimensional Summit’ and ‘Ætheric’ being two of the standout tracks. Keen to see how this record would work live.

Judas Priest - Firepower3. Judas Priest – Firepower (Epic)
Priest need no introduction, they’re the best heavy metal band of all time. Since their comeback in the early 2000’s they’ve been creating new material consistently and really seem keen not to rest on their past laurels. With ‘Firepower’, they’re firing on all cylinders, this is one hell of a heavy metal record and easily the best thing Priest have done since Rob Halford re-joined the band. It’s jam-packed with killer riffs, there really isn’t a dull moment and Halford’s voice sounds incredible. ‘Firepower’ is easily up there with ‘Screaming For Vengeance’ and ‘British Steel’.

Carpenter Brut - Leather Teeth2. Carpenter Brut – Leather Teeth (No Quarter)
Always been a big fan of industrial and heavy electronic music but hearing Carpenter Brut for the first time was a game changer and opened my eyes to the whole synthwave genre. The album is essentially the soundtrack to a fictional film, about a shy teenager who will do anything to win over the girl so becomes the singer of mid-80’s Judas Priest-esque glam-metallers Leather Patrol. Standout track of course has to be ‘Beware The Beast’, featuring Grave Pleasures/Hexvessel vocalist Mat McNerney. To be honest, if Mat fronted Carpenter Brut on a permanent basis that’d be incredible. Again, seeing this whole package replicated in a live setting with the visuals that tell this elaborate story of Leather Patrol was amazing and like no other gig I’ve ever been to. In short: synths, dystopian/slasher films and their scores, 80’s Satanic Panic and Rob Halford worship all rolled into one audio/visual feast

Ghost - Prequelle1. Ghost – Prequelle (Loma Vista Recordings)
Not really sure where to begin with this album. Ghost have been of my favourite bands for quite a few years now. I love the way the band and the songwriting evolves with each record, yet everything is still wrapped up in this occult mythos. ‘Prequelle’ takes things up to the next level, from the very first listen it was clear that this was an album chock full of hits, arena filling sing-alongs like ‘Rats’ and ‘Dance Macabre’ and let’s not forget THAT saxophone solo on ‘Miasma’ as well. Seeing the album come to life at London’s Royal Albert Hall was absolutely incredible as well, it was like a lavish occult rock opera. For me it was that show that really cemented this as my favourite album of 2018. A career defining record without a doubt.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

Vein - Errorzone
Vein – Errorzone (Closed Casket Activities)

This was a total curveball of a record when I first heard it. Sounds like Slipknot meets Deadguy meets The Bezerker. I’ve still not recovered from that first listen.

 

 

Monster Magnet - Mindf*cker
Monster Magnet – Mindfucker (Napalm Records)
Sometimes all you want in life is an inter-dimensional riff extravaganza. In Monster Magnet we trust. 

 

 

Venom - Storm The Gates
Venom – Storm The Gates (Spinefarm)
Trust Cronos to release a Venom album the week before Christmas! Nastiest sounding Venom album in a long time, ‘Dark Night (Of The Soul)’ is probably the best thing they’ve done in years!


Here’s a playlist with my favourite tracks from each release for your listening pleasure.

BEERS

I managed to work my way through over 500 different beers in 2018, so there was a lot to choose from! This list is in no particular order, these are just 10 beers that I loved over the course of 2018.

Donzoko - Northern Helles
Donzoko – Northern Helles (Unfilitered Helles Lager) 4.2%
I always love a good go to beer, something you can trust whenever you see it on tap. 2018 seemed to be the year of the lager and this crisp, smashable Helles has been my consistent go to beer since I first had it back in January 2018.

Wander Beyond - La Adelita
Wander Beyond – La Adelita (Mexican Cake Imperial Stout) 11%
Had this on cask at the start of the year and it was absolutely amazing! Surprisingly really quaffable given its strength and host of flavours. Oh and did I mention it was on CASK! Amazing stuff!

Founders - CBS
Founders – Canadian Breakfast Stout (2017) 11.7%
Given the hype around CBS, felt right to save this one for a special occasion. After handing in my Master’s degree dissertation this seemed like an appropriate beer to have. What a beer it was! Certainly lived up to the hype and was everything I wanted it to be and more.

Tempel - Perdition
Tempel Brygghus – Perdition (Sour Raspberry Stout) 8.3%
I found a bottle of this in the fridges of a CAMRA festival. The last place I’d expect to find a bottle from an esoteric Swedish brewery was at a CAMRA festival! The sourness from the Raspberries gave this a really refreshing sharp edge. More on Tempel later.

Tiny Rebel - Cheeky V

Tiny Rebel – Cheeky V (Vimto Sour) 4%
I bloody love Vimto, so when Tiny Rebel said they were doing a Vimmie sour, I just had to try it. Amazingly they managed to replicate the flavour as well, couldn’t believe it! Shlurple the purple.

Brew York - Vulgar Display Of Sour
Brew York / Magic Rock – Vulgar Display Of Sour (Sour IPA) 8%
I’m a sucker for a beer named after a Pantera song. This is the kind of sour that stings behind the eyes overtime you have a sip. To top it off, it was loaded with Simcoe, Centennial and Ekuanot cryo hops to give it a juicy hit as well. Super sharp.

Torrside - Mosaic
Torrside – Mosaic (US Single Hopped Pale) 4.8%
Sometimes the simple things are what sticks with you. This was the best, chewiest, mosaic pale I’ve had in a very long time! Also helps that it was the first beer after mashing in on a brew day at Torrside, hard work never tasted so good!

Little Earth Project
Little Earth Project – Whiskey Barrel Rhubarb Saision (BA Saison) 6.7%
I love everything that Little Earth Project are about, especially their commitments to sustainability and using home grown and foraged ingredients. This was a belter, a cracking farmhouse saison aged in whisky barrels with rhubarb added to the barrel. Sharp and refreshing.

Buxton - Visciously Viscous
Buxton / To Øl – Viciously Viscous (Brandy BA Barleywine) 10.4%
A long boiled barley wine aged in Brandy barrels. BEAST MODE. Had this up at the Buxton Tap House on my last visit. It’d spent a few years in the bottle and that did it wonders. You could smell the brandy a mile off as soon as you opened it. Stunning beer.

Northern Monk - Don't Mess WIth Manchester
Northern Monk / Cloudwater / Track / Marble / Blackjack / Runaway – Don’t Mess With Manchester (Pale Ale) 4.5%
If you’re going to open a bar in Manchester, might as well get all the best Manchester brewers round to knock up a classic. Brewed for Northern Monk’s Manchester bar opening this is a classic Manc pale with bucketloads of all my favourite hops. Belter!

BREWERIES

Again, no particular order here, but these are 10 breweries who best summed up my 2018. The main takeaway from 2018 for me was that good people tend to be the ones that make good beer.

DonzokoDonzoko
I’ve been in a lucky position where I’ve been able to champion Reece and his beers in my day job as a bar manager, as well as shouting about how good his beers are as a drinker. What started as an outlet for proper Germanic beers with a modern twist has evolved into some of the best modern beers in the UK. 2019 is going to be a big year for Donzoko.

Wander BeyondWander Beyond
Fresh from celebrating their first birthday, Wander Beyond have come a long way from the early, experimental days of Dan’s Brewery. For the last 12 months, Dan, Tina and Matt have been knocking out incredible and consistent beer packaged with top notch visuals. Also helps that they’re the nicest folks too. If you’ve somehow not had a Wander Beyond beer yet, you need to rectify that immediately.

Good Chemistry LogoGood Chemistry
2018 was the year I realised that breweries are all about the people. Sure, beer is ace and there’s plenty of breweries making great beer but the ones that you can really latch onto and get to know the folks behind it are the best. None are more ace than Kelly, Bob and Sam at Bristol’s Good Chemistry. They’re the nicest people to deal with from a business point of view, they’ve a lot of time for mad requests like doing elaborate interviews about collabing with Holy Roar and to top it off they knock out some tremendous modern beer. Their block coloured pump clips also give me life.

TempelTempel Brygghus
Uppsala in Sweden is well known for being home to the likes of Watain and In Solitude who carved their own paths in the metal world, and Tempel Brygghus are carving their own path in the brewing scene. These guys are up there with the likes of Wild Beer and TRVE as far as I’m concerned, making interesting, often esoteric, small batch beer. Hoping to try more of their beer in 2019. Uppsala metal of death!

BrashBrash
Hands down my favourite US brewery. These guys from Houston, Texas go from strength to strength every year. Their stouts are like Texas crude, so thick and boozey but so delicious. Thanks to my globe-trotting pal Texas Mike, I’m in the fortunate position of being able to get hold of the likes of Hammer Smashed Face, Firewalker, Milk The Venom and more without having to cross the pond. Hero!

BuxtonBuxton
What can I say about Buxton, as breweries go they are absolutely world class. There’s no one else I can think of that makes beer like they do. From the Buxton classics to the newer modern styles and of course their entire catalogue of beers with Omnipollo, they can do no wrong! To top it off their tap house is incredible and always worth the pilgrimage. I’ve never had a duff beer from them and long may that continue.

TorrsideTorrside
Across the way from the Swizzels sweet factory in New Mills you’ll find another trio of top folks, the UK lords of smoked beer, Torrside. I love a good smoked beer, nothing more satisfying than something that tastes like your drinking a beer through a straw made of smoked cheese. As if they weren’t doing enough to champion smoked beer by brewing some of the most interesting beers (or in their own words, unfashionable and unseasonal) in the North of England, they only went and held a fully fledged smoked beer fest at their brewery. They can also knock out a banging old school West Coast IPA when they want to as well.

FoundersFounders
I feel like over theist few years it’s been a bit difficult to get hold of Founders beers in the UK. Might just be me, but there was a while where they didn’t seem to be in bottle shops or on tap as often. Which was a shame as they were one of those OG American craft beers that turned me onto a lot of styles when I first really got into beer. Thankfully that dry spell seems to be over, and their higher ABV and barrel aged range has really dominated my beer shelf at home this year. I’m drinking their DKML as I type this in fact. Top notch stuff!

Het UiltjeHet Uiltje
I’ve reached that point now where if I see a Het Uiltje beer on tap, I’ll have it regardless. If I see bottles available, I’m buying them. There’s just something about that elusive Dutch owl. Their Apfelstrudel Doppelbock was one of the most interesting beers I tried this year. Still no idea how you pronounce Het Uiltje mind.


Track
Track
Manchester has RateBeer big dogs like Cloudwater and craft OGs like Marble, but there’s also a wealth of smaller breweries knocking it out of the park, without the same level of hype or recognition. Top of the pile is Track. These guys are making some absolutely world class beer at the moment and just keep getting better and better with every release. I’d expect them to make all your favourite beers in 2019.

HONOURABLE MENTION

Tynt MeadowMount Saint Bernard Abbey
I’d been looking forward to trying Tynt Meadow for quite a while and it didn’t disappoint. This is the first UK Trappist beer, brewed at Mount Sant Bernard Abbey. It tasted like a classic English strong ale, and certainly showed a lot of promise. If you’ve not managed to have a bottle yet, it’s well worth seeking out. I reckon as their practices and techniques improve and become more refined, this could be a renowned Trappist ale.

 

2019 HOT TAKES

Here’s a trio of tip offs for 2019.

BAND: Canyon Of The Crescent Moon
They’re still looking for a label but keep an eye out for Canyon Of The Crescent Moon, an Indiana Jones themed sludge band featuring members of Lumbar, Bible Black Tyrant, The Bearer, Ramprasad. Choose wisely!

Canyon Of The Crescent Moon


BEER: The Return Of Black IPAs

I love a good Black IPA and I pine for the halcyon days of 2015 when they seemed to be all over the place. Noticed a few brewers going in for the Black IPA once again at the back end of this year, so I’m holding out for their imminent comeback in 2019.

BREWERY: Leviathan Brewing Co
As far as I’m aware, Leviathan are a nano brewer based out of Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham making small batch, heavy metal beers. I’ve not managed to try any of their beers as yet but I’ve been keeping an eye on them on social media and am keen to hunt some down. I like their branding a lot, and their beer flavours sound pretty exciting but my interest was well and truly piqued when I saw they’d done a beer named after Napalm Death’s ‘Multinational Corporations’’. Definitely one to watch in 2019. Give them a follow on Twitter @LeviathanBrewCo.

Leviathan Brewing

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!

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}

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.

trappist_paul-lee-2017_3.jpg

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.

12 Insert [GD30V2]

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?
Manfred:
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?
Manfred:
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?
Rob:
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?
Rob:
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

HAPPYFACE-Sinister

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.

oliver-brew-co-integrity.jpg
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.