Released: 2013, Lyons Press
This is one of the more unique Metal-something hybrid books I have ever seen. There are books about Metal and cooking, Metal and cats, Metal and photography and now we have Metal and beer. A perfect pairing if there ever was one. In fact THE BREWTAL TRUTH GUIDE TO EXTREME BEERS is actually more of a book about beer with a Metal framework.
I’ll state my background right up-front. I’m not a beer guy. I lost most of my sense of taste and smell when I was a baby from an illness, so I’m not an aficionado by any means. I drink Budweiser because I saw a commercial where a guy opened a Bud and some girls in bikini’s came out of nowhere and washed his car in a sexy manner. It hasn’t happened yet, but maybe you have to reach/drink the one million mark before the Bud girls come to your house. I’ll try trying and let you know how it goes. I don’t drink craft beers really because they are expensive and usually come in bottles. I like cans better because they are easier to crush on your head after you shotgun it. Doing that with bottles starts to hurt after a while. A friend of mine once said that beer in a bottle is better because a can ruin the taste. He is a bit of a pretentious beer-snob who often criticizes my personal taste in beer so I didn’t put much stock in his comments. So, no craft beer for me, stated upfront. If Bud is good enough for Alice Cooper, it is good enough for me!
In 2009, Tepedelen started writing a column for Decibel magazine about beer and this is essentially the expanded and collected works. I've never read the column because I don't read Decibel because it is a bit too commercial and trendy for my tastes and it makes sense that a mag like Decibel would have a column about craft beer. The book itself is very well designed and presented. Running over 200 pages it has many, many features. The core of the book is that he rates and describes 113 beers. There are six chapters each creatively and thematically organized. For example Chapter Six (with the clever title referencing the Wildside’s 1992 album, ‘Under The Influence’ featuring such alcohol themed song such as ‘Hair Of The Dog’ and ‘Drinkin’ Man’s Blues’) are beers that were named after or inspired by Metal bands, songs or genres. Each comes with a descriptions, rating, website, place of origin and a photo of the bottle or label.
For each beer Tepedelen includes a music pairing to go with each. Most of the recommendations are adequate but Tepedelen could have done a better job. The beer called Hell's Belle he picked the song 'Race with The Devil' by Girlschool instead of the more obvious and better fit, Hells Bells by AC/DC. He even talks about AC/DC in the profile, so I don't know how he dropped the ball on that one. Another bad miss was the beer Hades where he recommends you listen to Lawnmower Death. Why? Why not a song by the band Hades, there are several bands called Hades to choose from! For the beer Vlad The Impaler, he choose the band Impaled Nazarene. Why? For a vampire themed beer why not choose a vampire song or even a song about Vlad The Impaler. There are hundreds to choose from. The song pairing is so obvious it staring you right in the face but he missed it and there are many examples of this. There are many, many beer/alcohol/drinking related songs he could have easily tied in but for some reason, did not. In addition, there was not one song recommendation for Tankard, by far the #1 Metal band associated with beer on the entire planet. The song/beer pairing idea is very clever, but the execution really needed work.
Above and beyond the descriptions of the beer there are many creative and interesting bonus features. References, resources, indices, beer profiles..it is all included. Tepedelen has covered all the bases so you could go into the realm of craft beer as a novice (like myself) and have all the info you need to start your own journey of discovery. The Glossary and list of terms is especially useful because like any topic, once you get to a certain level of appreciation and expertise there is an advanced terminology to describe the subtle parts of the hobby; be it automobiles, collecting stamps or butterflies or… drinking beer! If you want to know what is a Lambic, Bock or wort, he has got you covered. Earlier I talked about beer snobbery, which Tepedelen very wisely avoids falling in that trap because very few people I’ve met enjoy reading the comments of an ‘expert’ about why their tastes in what they freely choose to purchase and drink (or read, or watch, or listen to, or eat, or drive) are inferior. He could have come across as pretentious but thankfully does not. The writing is accessible, entertaining and informative.
Another fine feature of BREWTAL TRUTH are twelve interviews; two per chapter, one interview with a micro-brew type guy and one with a Metal guy. A couple of the Metal guys he choose to interview are not really ‘brutal’ (Clutch and Mastodon? Brutal? Really?) but it was interesting to read all the interviews with members of Death, Municipal Waste, Brutal Truth and Pig Destroyer.
The only major flaw of BREWTAL TRUTH is the ‘Bands with Beer section’ Tepedelen listed over a dozen bands that have had their own beer, (Motorhead, AC/DC, Iron Maiden etc ) but he doesn’t profile them! His excuse is that they are ‘one-off releases’. He should have tracked them down, sampled them, and featured them and taken a photo etc. That was a really poor decision in a book about Metal and beer to leave out the Metal themed beer. Fans and collectors (of beer and Metal alike) want to know if these products are worth checking out and for completions sake he should have made that information available. It was a golden opportunity to support the bands and their beer, and it is now lost.
As I said earlier in this review, I’m not a beer guy. I’m a Metal guy, which is why I wanted to check this title out. I might suggest that, as cool, innovative and interesting as BREWTAL TRUTH is, if you are not a beer fan, there may not be enough ‘Metal’ content to keep it interesting to you. However, if you ARE a beer guy, this book is mandatory, even if you are NOT a Metal guy…if that makes sense. The crossover market potential is brilliant. I learned a lot and enjoyed much of it and would recommend this as THE coolest gift for you and your beer-drinking brothers. Cheers!