Posted November 11, 2013 by whopperjaw in Eats & Drinks

The Brewtal Truth Will Set You Free

The Brutal Truth
The Brutal Truth

Author Adem Tepedelen came of age simultaneously surrounded by the Pacific Northwest craft brewing and hard rock cultures. Growing up playing in bands, writing, and drinking beer, one might say he was on a crash course toward publishing a book like The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers. This guide to edgy brews comes out on Tuesday, November 12, so Whopperjaw hopped to it and contacted Tepedelen to learn more.

You graduated from the University of Oregon. College is where many people discover a love of beer, but often it is the cheap, mass-produced variety. How did you  develop a more sophisticated palate?
The first step was that I had a band mate who worked in a deli that sold interesting beers from around the world. I can’t remember all the different ones he turned me onto, but Tooth’s Sheaf Stout from Australia was definitely one of them. Around this same time (1988) a brewpub called the High Street Café, that was part of the McMenamins’ empire, opened about a block from my apartment. They offered a whole array of styles that tasted way better than the 40 ouncers of PBR we used to chug. There was no turning back after that. And since the Pacific Northwest turned out to be a hotbed for the early craft beer scene, there was never a shortage of craft beer options available.

As a music journalist in Seattle in the ’90s, you witnessed the ascendancy of both Sub Pop (and grunge) and microbrew culture. What was that like?
Well, I was immersed in the music scene—as a fan, a musician, an indie label-owner—and even at the time I had a really good sense of how lucky I was to be witnessing everything first hand. It was a great way to spend my twenties! And, of course, if you’re at clubs seeing bands, you’re probably drinking beer. Redhook was the go-to craft beer at this time. It was ubiquitous, because it was brewed in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. I’m still a fan of Redhook ESB. That’s largely responsible for developing my taste for hoppy, bitter beers. There was also a lot of Widmer Hefeweizen around at the time. I associate both those beers with that period. Then Deschutes showed up in a big way with Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Black Butte Porter and Obsidian Stout. There were, of course, others around, but those are the ones I associate with my time in the Seattle music scene.

Tell us about how this book developed. When did the idea germinate?
It basically was an extension of my Brewtal Truth column in Decibel magazine. After writing the column for four years, I noticed a growing interest in this idea that there is kinship and crossover between the craft beer and metal worlds. Simultaneously, I noticed that there were more and more “extreme” beers being made. I felt like the two “interests” had so much in common—they both are about pushing boundaries and seeing how far you can go beyond the mainstream. They are both willfully fringe-dwellers. I figured that partnering with Decibel would be a wise move, since that’s where the column started and they were totally gung-ho about it. So, a little more than a year after I conceived the idea, the book was out. It was a very fast turnaround.

Extreme musicians are creating music knowing it’s not mainstream, but they love it and there is a passionate audience for it. Same with craft beer brewers. 

Rock ‘n’ roll and beer seem like a natural pairing, but how did you recognize that connection between “extreme” rockers and “extreme” beer?
I wouldn’t say I stumbled into it exactly, but there was some happenstance involved. I started witing my Brewtal Truth column more to talk about good craft beer, than to try to somehow connect it to extreme metal. But as I put together a column every month, I started discovering connections. Like someone told me that Municipal Waste drummer Dave Witte is really into craft beer. So I got in touch with him and that led me down a bunch of new avenues because Dave knows everyone in extreme music who loves craft beer, as well as practically every brewer who is into extreme music. He’s been quite accurately called the Johnny Appleseed of the metal/beer contingent. Anyway, it became easier to see that there was a lot of overlap and a lot of similarities—at least in mind set—about how both camps approach their art. Extreme musicians are creating music knowing it’s not mainstream, but they love it and there is a passionate audience for it. Same with craft beer brewers. And, not to blow my own horn, but having someone in a—within the scene—high profile forum sort of trumpet the connection between the two helped further crystallize it. I obviously didn’t create the craft beer/metal connection, but I do think I had some part in making it more tangible in a way.

What makes a beer “extreme” to you?
I guess you have to use a “regular” beer like, well, pick any mass-produced macrobrew, as your baseline for “normal.” These beers generally taste the same, they have little in the way of hops and are about 5% ABV. From there it’s sort of varying degrees of extremity, I suppose. Someone who’s an avid macrobrew drinker would likely be put off by anything with a discernible amount of hops or a higher ABV. So, the argument could be made that a 6.5% ABV IPA that a craft beer drinker might find normal, could be considered extreme. My guideline for deciding which beers to include was based more on the perception of the beers by the craft beer crowd. These are beers that even craft beer drinkers might find brutal, for one reason or another.

I actually asked this same question a lot in the book. Many of the brewers who make what I would call extreme beers, don’t like that term, because I think they don’t want their product marginalized. But realistically, even in the craft beer world, the market for a 17% ABV barley wine or an oak barrel-aged, brett-fermented white IPA is still pretty small!


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