Place visited: The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company
Date visited: Saturday, March 15th 2013
It is no surprise that this website is dedicated to two things, Craft Beer and Metal music. This event was a perfect combination of both, and there was no way in Hell I was going to miss out of the unholy fun. Back in January, I had reported on a collaboration beer that would unite the unholy trinity of Three Floyds, Surly, and Texas’ very own, Real Ale. I am talking about Blakkr, an Imperial Black Ale or IPA.
As stated before on the site, these three breweries are avid Metal heads, and it sure as Hell shows a lot in their naming and labeling of their beers. Each of these breweries have some of the best, most Metal names and labels in the business. Blakkr is no exception. The label, dawning a three headed devil rising out of the flames of hell while bodies are burning and suffering is a nice way to say that this beer is not for everybody. I know not every craft beer drinker is a Metal head. In fact, a good chunk of them are “normal” people, even faithful Christians. One of the funniest things we saw this day was a group of normal looking pop music listening kind of people, who walked in, looked around, and quickly left, as if they realized they were in the wrong place.
Usually when we visit breweries, or even beer fests, we are usually met with disappointment at the music choice for entertainment, as we usually find it not very entertaining, but rather annoying. The Blakkr Release Show was made for people like me and my fiance. The doors to the brewpub opened at 11:30am, which is pretty early for a Metal show, but there are no rules in life saying that you can not jam to fuckin’ Metal before noon. We left San Antonio pretty early in the morning, so we could stop by the world famous Buc-ee’s for some breakfast and caffeine.
After arriving to our final destination, the Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company, or ABGB as we all know it as, we realize we were the first ones there. So, we sit in the car, jamming out to some Metal for a while before 11:30 came around. Once the doors open, we walk around to check the place out, and then we notice the long line at the bar already forming. We find out that the actual cans of Blakkr are being sold in an outside set up bar, so off we went. We were the very first customers to purchase the actual cans at this release show, so that was pretty cool to us. Without any cup or glassware, we drank straight out of the can. Wow!!! We were instantly blown away by this amazing beer. All the hype leading up to the very first intake of this blasphemous alcoholic beverage was surpassed by it’s actual greatness. Tons of citrus hops hit the taste buds first, followed by some grassy, piney, earthy notes, and a nice malty backbone. A proper review will be done soon on this beer, and posted once I am finished with that. For now I will say that this beer quickly took over a spot in my top 5 beers of all time. We were very lucky to be in attendance at this beer release/Metal show, as we were able to taste Blakkr three different ways. First, being out of the can, secondly, was from their draft wall, and lastly, they had the beer in a special cask, tapped just for this event. The cask version was phenomenal, as most beers are when served this way.
Other than the highlighted beer, Blakkr, the current line-up of beers were available on draft from the Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company. This was my first time trying anything from this brewery. I was not able to get a full pour of each beer, since the Blakkr 3-way was perverting my palate, and my mind! First up was Big Mama Red, a hoppy red ale, which stands tall at 7.9%. This beer was one malty mama, that’s for sure. Day Trip Pale Ale was next up to bat. This was a nice citrusy, grassy hoppy, light colored Pale Ale. Last up from the ABGB was their take on a Helles Lager that they named, Hell Yes. Of course, this isn’t everybody’s favorite style of beer, but I don’t care, and I enjoyed this beer. This made 3 out of 3 beers that I tried and liked from ABGB. I cannot wait to try the rest of their line-up.
Like I sad, this was also a Metal show, so let me comment on the bands. First up is Giant of the Mountain from Plano, TX. They play, what they call Blackened Progressive Sludge Death Metal. These guys (and gal) are a three piece band, sounding like a massive music killing machine. Their music was fast in parts, slow and mournful in others. The vocals were showcased as mostly Death Metal style grunts, but the occasional high pitch Black Metal, or Sludge style vocals will show up, as well as clean vocals in a depressing, mournful fashion. There was nice melodic sections to their music, adding some dynamic to their overall Death Metal style. Metal-Archives lists them as Technical Death Metal, but this description can be taken out of context, especially now a days where the typical Technical Death Metal band means garbage like Rings of Saturn or something similar. Please check out their music, and support the band by any means necessary. They deserve it!
Coming up next was Canyon of the Skull, a main reason for me not wanting to miss this event. Canyon of the Skull’s main man behind the song writing, and creator of the band is none other than Erik Ogershok, who most of you will know as the Head Brewmaster of Real Ale Brewing Company, who is 1/3 responsible for making the spotlighted beer, Blakkr. Erik’s musical vision with Canyon… began back in 2006, but for years the band laid dormant, while he spent that time at the brewery, and playing with various other underground metal acts. He gathered up a couple of musicians to round off the line-up, and this was the first show for Erik with Canyon of the Skull in several years. I was happy to see that the musicians Erik found were perfect for his vision. Alex Davis, and Adrian Voorhees, both of the Black Metal band, Humut Tabal, which played many shows for me back when I was a show promoter. There are no vocals performed, as Canyon… is an instrumental Doom/Sludge Metal band. The music was slow, depressing, mournful, and totally kick-ass! The music was a perfect backdrop while enjoying the unholy suds of Blakkr. I really hope this line-up sticks together and play around the country, record some albums, and all the awesomeness that comes with a hard working band. So far, since this event, Canyon… has played another Blakkr release event in the Dallas/Ft Worth area.
By the time the next band, Widower, hit the stage the affects of the beers I have had so far were hitting me like a ton of bricks. Not that this was a bad thing, but then again it was only 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Widower is from Austin, and plays Sludgy/Blackened Thrash Metal. My fists were pumping, my head was banging (and spinning), the crowd was getting larger, and also more intense. It was actually turning into a gathering of good beer drinking metal heads. Widower puts on a good performance as the musicians in the band play with a lot of intensity and passion. It was a real treat to finally see these guys live, as they have played on several shows that I would have loved to have been able to go to.
Hitting the stage next was Vulgaari from Minnesota. Sadly, this was the last band I was able to catch perform before having to return to San Antonio to go to work. Yes, I had to actually work after this event. More on that later. I am very glad I was able to catch their set though, as their guitarist happens to be Todd Haug, the Head Brewmaster of Surly Brewing, another evil mastermind behind brewing Blakkr. Todd is known in the Metal world for his role in the Power/Thrash Metal band, Powermad, who is still active since being formed in 1984. The music of Vulgaari is definitely a step in a different direction from that of Powermad, but that seems to be fitting for Mr. Haug, as he is a great guitarist, and perfect addition to this band. Vulgaari plays a Doom/Death Metal style with crushing Doom, Stoner, Psychedelic, Funeral riffs, slow pounding drums, and complimented with Death Metal style vocals. This band was created as a musical outlet for guitarist/vocalist, Zach Kinsey. It was not meant for the public to hear, according to their Facebook bio. After some encouragement from Brent Hedtke, who became the band’s second guitarist, Vulgaari became a real band, recording some music for their social media pages. Soon after, they were approached to record a full length album for the small independent record label, Culbo de Sangre from Hawaii. Other members were added to the band, making them a complete line-up, including Todd Haug as their 3rd guitarist, and they were ready to begin playing out live.
These guys were so fucking heavy! Some of their songs included some really fuzzy, slow, mournful Funeral Doom riffs, which you felt in your chest as the low-end shook your soul! I knew this was nearing the end of the event for myself, so I was letting the affects of the beer consumed wear off while I was headbanging away to Vulgaari. Before Vulgaari came off the stage, we had to leave. My “Blakkened” soul was crushed, as there were still two more bands to witness, and definitely more beers to be downed. I missed out on seeing Lions of Tsavo, a 3-piece Sludge/Doom/Death Metal band from Austin, who has also played a few shows for me back in my promoter days. They are a great band to see live, and I am sorry I missed them. The band that closed out the show was Krigsgrav, a Black Metal band from Fort Worth, TX. I had heard the music from them before, and was impressed by their Folk style influenced Black Metal. I hope to one day catch these guys live.
Part of my normal everyday life, my real job is also in the Craft Beer Industry, as I am a Lead Bartender/Management Team at Big Hops Gastropub. This day of the Blakkr Release event was also a major milestone for the company I work for, as we were celebrating the one year anniversary for the Big Hops business. Within the first year, Big Hops grew from one small growler station retail bar to having three locations in San Antonio, including two growler stations, and one gastropub. I started as a bartender, or Tap Master at the company’s second location back in December 2013, and since, I have been moved to the position I am in now at the third location, the gastropub, which we pride ourselves on having Craft Beer and Craft Food. I do plan on putting an article about my experience so far at Big Hops, so I will leave the rest of the story for that.
Let me just end this by saying this again… This day was a perfect day to celebrate my love for both Metal and Craft Beer.