Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Brewtal Truth Brew & A

Heavy Metal paired with extreme beers?  Yes. These are some of the things discussed by the author of Decibel Presents The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers, Adem Tepedelen.  He will be signing his book in Chicago the day before Three Floyd's Dark Lord Day and at Dark Lord Day itself.  Get to know the Brewtal Truth right here in this addition of Brew & A.

Better Beer Authority (BBA):  The Better Beer Authority linked up with you on Twitter.  For our fans nationwide, can you briefly describe what you do with Brewtal Truth and Decibel Magazine and how it came about? 

Adem Tepedelen (AT): About five years ago I was given the opportunity to write a regular beer column in Decibel magazine, which likes to bill itself as “America’s only monthly extreme music magazine.” I called this column “Brewtal Truth,” playing on the grindcore band Brutal Truth’s name. I had previously written about music for Decibel and I had written about craft beer in other magazines, but this was the first time I was able to combine the two. Since the idea of a beer column in an extreme music magazine seemed slightly absurd to me at the time, I really tried to take a fun-but-knowledgeable approach to the writing. So, I’d include a little metal when I wrote about beer. The editor-in-chief, Albert Mudrian, never gave me any input about topics for my column and he pretty much let me fly my freak flag, writing about whatever I wanted, however I wanted. I had – and continue to have – a lot of fun with it. It’s really grown in popularity and I have, for the last nine months or so, also been doing a weekly Brewtal Truth post, every Friday at noon Eastern time, on the Deciblog ( Those posts are usually beer recommendations, but sometimes I’ll do newsy pieces, as well.

BBA: You have a book for sale available on Amazon titled Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers.  What was the driving force behind writing this book?  How was the experience writing the book, and would you write another one?

AT: The book, Decibel Presents the Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers: An All-Excess Pass to Brewing’s Outer Limits, grew out of my column, as you probably can surmise from the title. Over the last few years there has been a growing trend in extreme beers in the craft beer world. These beers, to me, seemed to have a lot in common with extreme music. They were the beers you found later in your craft beer journey, after you’d worked your way through the gateway craft beers. I likened the journey to a young headbanger starting with something mainstream like, say, Iron Maiden and then moving on to thrash, death metal, black metal and maybe grindcore. And, admittedly, both beer and metal that are on the extreme end of the spectrum are a little ridiculous in their over-the-topness. Juxtaposing the two in my book by including an extreme music pairing and interviewing extreme beer-loving extreme metal musicians just seemed like a fun idea. I really wanted this book to reflect the goofy and fun (yet authoritative) voice of my column.

When I signed my deal to write it, the publisher asked that I finish it in four months, which was a hell of an undertaking! The beer-drinking part was fantastic, of course, but a lot of work went into sourcing the beers, getting images (bottles and labels) and getting permission to use the images. The writing was the fun and easy part (along with the drinking) and I had an amazing editor, Jon Sternfeld, helping me and encouraging me along the way. I would love to do a second Extreme Beer Guide using the same format, but that is dependent on how well this one sells.

BBA: One of the most extreme beers I have ever had was DogfishHead’s Hot Thoup; basically a carrot flavor beer soup that was served at 90 degrees with a carrot garnish (see link below).  It actually worked well.  What is the most extreme, oddball beer you have had?  What is an extreme beer that you made that sticks out?

AT: I had that beer, too! Yeah, I loved Hot Thoup. In fact, I had that at the Great American Beer Festival in October 2012 when I was trying to get my book deal. I was walking around with Todd Haug from Surly Brewing and he was introducing me to all the heavy hitters, like Sam Calagione, that he knew.

There are some very obviously insane beers that I sampled for the book, like Mikkeller 1000IBU and Twisted Pine Ghost Face Killer. Both of those are purposely pushing tolerance levels. I really tried to include beers that, while extreme, were also balanced and drinkable – even if you have just a few ounces as Twisted Pine suggested I do with Ghost Face Killer. I have to say that some of the beers from Dogfish Head, Avery and Mikkeller that pushed the ABV levels above 15% were pretty intense. I also really loved some of the out-there stuff that Jester King brews – mashing up all kinds of styles and approaches – and their labels are the coolest.

BBA: A lot of people in the brewing industry are into Heavy Metal.  Three Floyd’s is themed from Heavy Metal. Port City Brewing in Alexandria, VA has a monthly heavy metal night. There are a lot of collaboration beers with heavy metal themes such as Three Floyd’s Permanent Funeral with Pig Destroyer; why is there relationship between heavy metal and craft beer?

AT: I think this kind of goes back to my response to your second question. Both attract people who want a more intense experience, whether it’s what they drink or what they listen to. I understand that not everyone who drinks extreme beers wants to listen Napalm Death, but there is definitely a receptive audience to extreme beers with a good-sized (and growing) faction of the extreme music world. That market – metal fans – is very passionate and loyal, and people within it like to turn others onto the things they like, be it a cool band they heard or an amazing beer they drank. Honestly, if more breweries actively marketed to this crowd, they would find a very receptive audience. There’s something about a big, burly kick-ass brew that goes well with extreme music.

BBA: Most times when I (BBA producer Andrew) go to a music festival, a major beer company like Budweiser or Miller almost always sponsors it. Have you found the same situations and do you feel that there will be a chance at some point for the craft brewers to get into the festival circuits (excluding events thrown at breweries such as Dark Lord Day? 

AT: Absolutely. I wrote a column about this recently. I think these metal touring packages and festivals should actively seek out craft breweries to partner with whenever possible. The two crowds are made for each other. Unfortunately, the big brewing conglomerates have a lot of weight to throw around and I imagine that they will do what they can to prevent this. What needs to happen is that metal festivals need to actively solicit participation from local craft breweries anytime there is a “neutral” site that doesn’t, for instance, have a contract, or whatever, to only serve certain brands of macro beers.

BBA:  You will be signing your book at Dark Lord Day.  How can people find you there?

AT: Great question! We’re still ironing out the details as to what hours I’ll be selling and signing books since it is a 12-hour festival and I want to be able to enjoy it, as well! Also, this is my first time at Dark Lord Day, so I’m not sure about the logistics of it. That said, I’m expecting they’ll probably put me in a fairly obvious spot with a table and my stack of books. And I’m sure that this year’s MC, Richard Christy (Charred Walls of the Damned, Howard Stern Show), who is one of the featured musicians in my book, will let people know when and where to find me. Dark Lord Day will be the purest concentration of my book’s two demographic: people who are rabid extreme beer enthusiasts and total metal heads. Hopefully some of them will have money left over after buying their allotment of DLD!

BBA:  Beer Advocate hosts the Extreme Beer Fest every year, do you attend, and how does this beer festival rank in terms of others you may have been to?

AT: I live in the Pacific Northwest, so I haven’t ventured out to Boston for Beeradvocate’s Extreme Beer Festival yet. I would have loved to have been part of it this year and perhaps promote my book there – seems like a perfect match, no? – but the BA organizers are staunch about keeping the festival “about the beer.” Honestly, one need only go to something like the GABF to find tons of amazing extreme beers, like Hot Thoup, for instance.

My upcoming book-signing events:
• Friday, 4/25: Northdown Cafe & Taproom, 3244 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL, from 4–7 pm. I will be joined by some very special guests who will be there signing books with me. Map

• Saturday, 4/26: Dark Lord Day at Three Floyds Brewery, 9750 Indiana Pkwy, Munster, IN, from 10 am to 10 pm. You have to have a ticket for this event, which are long sold out. But if you DO have a ticket, come buy a book! Map

My blog:
Twitter: @brewtaltruth

Where to buy: Signed copies can be purchased directly through me. See my website for details. It is also available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Michigan Beer Film Brew & A

When I heard The Michigan Beer Film was being produced, I was excited.  I was hoping the film would take me back to the breweries I visited with The Better Beer Authority in April 2012.  I was also hoping the film should show the spirit of Michigan Beer which we saw on the trip.  It captured it beautifully.  After watching the film, I reached out to director/producer Kevin Romeo from Rhino Media Productions for this interview.  The film focuses on long standing breweries, up and coming breweries, breweries in the making, hop growers, beer festivals and mobile bottling/canning solutions. You don't have to be from Michigan to enjoy this movie.  I'm just a guy from Washington DC who flew to Grand Rapids one day to do a trip with my friends!
Follow this link to watch the official trailer.

courtesy of Rhino Media
Better Beer Authority (BBA): What is your background in terms of film making?  What is your background with craft beer? How did the idea to make The Michigan Beer film come about?

Kevin Romeo (KR):  This is actually my first film project, I have been creating art for my entire life and making videos with friends since I was 10. I founded a visual media production company 4 years ago and have made it part of who we are to create film projects that people can enjoy. 

My background with craft beer starts with a two hearted ale that my friends older brother offered me during college (which I didn't like). Like so many others, one of the first craft beers I ever really enjoyed was Bell's Oberon. 

I remember taking a brewery tour of Goose Island the weekend that I turned 21, so I guess I started right away. The idea for the film came about because someone suggested that we document the production house growth of Bell's, and I decided, why not just make a film about the entire industry in the state?

BBA: Greenbush, Paw Paw, and Dark Horse are prominently featured in the film, along with others with less amount of focus.  How did you decide which breweries to focus on?

KR: I had  a personal connection with Greenbush, my father in law knew the owner before GB started. He had been telling me to check them out for a while. From there, we just went where the path seem to naturally lead. 

BBA:  People often have pipe dreams, "wouldn't it be cool to make this film?!"  But you and Rhino made The Michigan Beer Film happen.  What was the driving force to finish the film?  What was the biggest obstacle?

KRThe driving force to finish it is a cultural value at Rhino Media. We finish what we start and take a lot of pride in the idea that if we talk about something, we're going to make it happen. 

A lot of artists have grand ideas, but believe that if you're not actually doing the labor, then the ideas are worthless. 

Kevin Romeo
BBA:  The film has been out for a little while now (what was the release date?), how has the reception been in Michigan?

KREveryone seems to love the film, it's a great centerpiece to hold a beer event around. We've sold over 2000 copies of the film via our website and at showings. 

BBA: What has been reaction to the film been beyond the borders of Michigan?

KR: A lot of DVDs that are purchased through the website go out of state, some in CA, TX, etc. We even had a request from a tiny military base on an island between Hawaii and Japan. Michigan beer gets a ton of love and respect around the country and world!

BBA: Be honest, how much beer was consumed on this trip? Any favorites?

KRA lot? Kuhnhenn's DRIPA was pretty mind-blowing. Right Brain's big head stout was notable. Greenbush's Brother Benjamin became a team favorite and 

BBA: Larry Bell is elusive with media requests, the BBA tried to contact him before our SW Michigan beer trip with no response, did you randomly run into him during the Eccentric celebration, or was that planned?

KRTotally random. I wasn't planning on shooting at Eccentric day, but we decided to last minute. Then Laura wanted to introduce me to Larry and I wasn't prepared… he just did what he does. 

BBA: Meeting Trevor from PawPaw Brewing and Wiggs from Dark Horse were the highlights of our trip.  Can you tell them the BBA says hi next time you see them?


Upcoming screening of The Michigan Beer Film:

April 29 Ore Dock Brewing Marquette, MI

June 12 National Homebrewer's Conference, Wealthy Theater.  Grand Rapids, MI

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Fat Head's Hop JuJu Imperial IPA (Gold Medal @ GABF!) | Crafty Beer Reviews: Ep. #224

It's been awhile since I posted here, but I review one epic beer from Fat Head's! Hop JuJu might just be one of the best DIPAs in the Ohio area.....and the US! Cheers and please comment, rate and subscribe on YouTube!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Schlafly Brew & A with co-founder and CEO Dan Kopman

courtesy of Schlafly Beer
Over the last few months, The Saint Louis Brewery, makers of Schlafly Beer have been doing a lot of beer events in The Better Beer Authority's home turf of Washington DC area.  I reached out to their sale's rep Mike Harbin for an opportunity to interview someone at Schlafly.  He introduced me to Tom Schlafly, co-founder & chairman of the board, at a recent event in Arlington, and co-founder and CEO Dan Kopman graciously took time to respond to our questions.
Below the interview is a list of where you can find Schalfly events in the Washington DC area in the week leading up to SAVOR.

Better Beer Authority (BBA): Schlafly is now very well established on the craft beer scene, was there any resistance from Anehiser Busch when you first opened in St. Louis?

Dan Kopman (DK): Where do I start!  In general AB did what they could to protect their long term significant market share in StL.  At the legislative level they placed restrictions on our ability to operate.  We wanted to sell beer at the Brewery – The Schlafly Tap Room.  In order to get them to agree to this we had to agree to a limit on production and a ban on distribution.  Over 15 years we were able to have these restrictions removed so that today a brewer in Missouri can brew without limit, sell on site and self-distribute without limit.

They also protected their 70%+ market share.  Much of this was well earned.  They were so good to so many accounts that there was no incentive for a bar or restaurant to sell Schlafly Beers.  However, sometimes they got a little heavy handed and blocked our access to the market.  There are many stories and today I just smile about the past.

BBA Richard with co founder Tom Schlafly
BBA: Schlafly Pumpkin Ale is one of the best pumpkin beers on the market; a personal favorite of the BBA, even people who are not fans of pumpkin ales enjoy it.  By August, the market is flooded with pumpkin beers from what seems like every brewery on earth.  Can Schalfly Pumpkin Ale still be successful with so many other choices available in that limited timeand shelf space?

DK: I think this is all about expectations.  We will continue to focus on making a great Pumpkin Ale; our approach to this style will continue to be about making Pumpkin Pie in a bottle.  We are confident that while there will be many new entrants into the market, consumers will continue to include ours in the mix of different beer that they buy from August to November.

BBA: You have started canning beer under “CanSessions”  IPA, American Brown, and Black Lager.  Are these beers and packaging designed to entice the tailgate crowd or non craft beer drinkers?  FYI, I bought a six pack of Black Lager for my Super Bowl party.

DK: Our first beers, Schlafly Pale Ale and Schlafly Hefeweizen are session beers (4.5% and 4.4% respectively).  So our motivation was to bring attention to session beers with new styles.  We also wanted to start to can our beers so we had a fit.  We are watching how this is going to develop.  We now have Pale Ale, Hefeweizen and Summer Lager in cans.  We will see.

courtesy of Schlafly Beer
BBA: Schlalfly brews about 50 styles of beer each year, how do you decide which ones are for your local market, and which ones get sent out of market? For example, here in Northern Virginia, we a ton of Koslch, and specialty beers, but to our knowledge we haven’t seen the Oatmeal Stout which is a year round offering? (editor's note: we do, in fact get Oatmeal Stout).

DK: We will brew 70+ unique recipes this year.  Many of these are one off beers for special events or trials for new hop varieties or new malt suppliers.  I will be doing a salon at SAVOR on Hop Trials.  My goal is to get distribution for all of the beers that we sell in bottle, can and keg in all markets and to make our one off beers available for special events.  Given the number of beers from all breweries available today this can be challenging so we sometimes have to make some choices.

BBA: Our local Schlafly rep, Mike Harbin, connected us to you.  He has indicated that you will be in the Washington DC area to brew with Blue Jacket Brewery, and have a dinner event at Lyon Hall in Arlington, VA the next night (March 3/4). Hopefully some of us at the BBA can make it. What is it like connecting with fans outside of your home turf?  Any funny stories from the road you would like to share?

DK: Connecting with customers in the DC and NY metro areas has been fantastic.  This includes ex-pats from our region who live in these areas and the many others who we have met and are discovering Schlafly Beer.  We are really focused on brewing great beers that are true to the style.  We believe we have a strong foundation in classic European beers styles, much like a classically trained chef.  This allows us to build on new styles but with that same commitment to quality.

I know it is past and I hope you were able to attend the dinner.  There are events going on in DC as I write and I will be in DC for events around SAVOR.  Mike can get you all the details.

Here’s a list of the events we currently have scheduled for week of Savor –

courtesy of Schlafly Beer
BBA: You are now Missouri’s biggest independent brewery after the recent acquisition of Boulevard brewery by Duvel Moortgat.  Is that important to the beer drinkers of Missouri?

BBA: Size is not a metric that I use to determine long term success.  When we first opened we could never imagine a day when AB would not be, well AB.  We were not going to be the largest brewer in StL.  So, despite the changes I am much more concerned about the sustainability of our Brewery and our ability to continue to create value for all of our stakeholders and great memories [to look back on]!

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