On Monday, January 14th, on a small stage in Los Angeles, two guys from Metallica raised a toast with a bearded dude known to some as "the Beer Jesus." The occasion was a coming-out party for Enter Night, the first ever beer produced under the band's name, and drummer-mastermind Lars Ulrich was ready with a profane new slogan: "Enter Night, people. Goddamn."
His time onstage turned into an impromptu comedy routine with bassist Robert Trujillo and Stone Brewing CEO Greg Koch, whose Arrogant Consortia beer imprint collaborated with the band on the hoppy new pilsner. "This has been a thrill for us, and it's been a special thrill for Lars and Rob and the rest of Metallica," said Koch, turning to Ulrich. "I can't imagine how exciting this is for for you."
Ulrich smiled and responded: "This is actually an exclusive tonight: We're retiring. This is the pinnacle of all of it. Right now, on this great Monday night in Hollywood, thank you for being part of 37 years ... Don't tell James and Kirk yet."
The party unfolded at the No Name nightclub, decorated with large banners announcing the beer, with Enter Night on tap behind the bar and in ice buckets scattered around the room. The Metallica name only appears in smallish print on the back of each can, but there's no doubt about the band's involvement, with a black finish, horned devil's head image, red lightning bolts and the Enter Night name spelled in the same Metallica font designed by James Hetfield back in the Eighties.
"We had an under the radar/guerilla-style approach to this," Ulrich explained. "It's been available at some of the shows we've been playing in the Midwest. People have been drinking it, people have been talking about it ... The feedback is great. It's the official launch this week, coming to every grocery store and corner liquor store and rock & roll show in all 50 states."
As ever with Metallica, there have been occasional online naysayers, noted Koch with a grin, quoting one social media post: "One of your fans said: 'I tried your beer, it was awful. I took two sips and poured the rest out.'"
"It's the St. Anger of beers," Ulrich said to laughs and moans, comparing the beverage to the band's controversial 2003 release.
The beer is manufactured at the Stone Brewing facility in Escondido, California, one of the largest craft breweries in the U.S., and Ulrich noted with amusement that Koch is the subject of an upcoming documentary called The Beer Jesus. Earlier in the day, Trujillo and Koch visited the Stone Brewing distribution center in Downey, the same city where Metallica was birthed in 1981 amid a new sound and attitude called thrash.
"As you know, Metallica started in Downey in 1957, 1958, something like that, right?" Ulrich joked. "We were there: 1981, Downey, 13004 Curtis and King Road. And what is it now? It's the 105 Freeway."
Trujillo added: "It's a great freeway, though. I love that place."
Last year, Metallica released their own Blackened American Whiskey. The band is hands on for all of it. "This man Lars has been integral to the entire process from the very beginning," Koch said later. "The process that we've used is very collaborative and very inclusive. The energy is incredible."
After a final toast from the stage, the trio rejoined and party, and Trujillo spoke with Revolver about the creation of what he described as Metallica's "kick-ass lager," which will roll out across the globe as the band's stadium tour passes through Europe, Australia and elsewhere.
"What I really love about Metallica is taking chances and trying new things and having fun with the journey," Trujillo said. "It's always going to be different. Sometimes people are going to love it, sometimes people are going to hate it. That's what life is."
The band was directly involved in concocting the final recipe of Enter Night, as Koch traded ideas on ingredients. Along the way, Trujillo remembers sampling brews from the company that included habanero peppers, tangerine, and various combinations of unlikely flavors.
"Greg is also about experimenting," he said of Koch, adding of the final Metallica brew, "at the end of the day, we genuinely enjoy this beer. That's what its all about. It's like music; enjoy what you're creating.
"The most important thing is that there's passion behind it, you care about what's going out. We're always up for the challenges — make a record with Lou Reed? We love that. For us it was a learning experience."
His immediate future with Metallica includes a lot more time on the road behind their Hardwired .... to Self-Destruct album, but he said the band is already thinking about the next round of new music. The huge demand for live concerts around the world and other projects has sometimes meant an increased number of years between albums, but the bassist predicted a change in that work schedule.
"It does weigh on me and we don't want it to be that way anymore," Trujillo explained. "The time between St. Anger and Death Magnetic, I think we had five kids born. I had two, Kirk had two, Lars had one. We had domestic duties. Then the time between Death Magnetic and Hardwired, we made an album with Lou and we were involved in the 3D film. We weren't on vacation in the Bahamas for a year. We were working and very involved in our creativity as a band. All those things help you grow.
"I don't think there are going to be many more kids born into the band," he added with a laugh. "We have to focus in on the writing and recording and get it going. And we're hungry for it too." After the tour finally ends, he added, "Then we'll get into writing and some new ideas. That feels like it's going to be exciting."