2017 may have been an abysmal year in a great many respects, but it was a pretty friggin' righteous one indeed for metal — and for metal-inspired craft beers.
Collaborations between metal bands and breweries aren't exactly a new thing, of course — the folks at Indiana's influential 3 Floyds Brewery have been regularly working with their favorite metal artists since 2010, when they teamed up with Pelican to create a dopplebock called The Creeper. It's a natural combination, really: Most bands love to drink beer, obviously, and — as 3 Floyds' Todd Haug told Revolver this fall — metal provides the perfect soundtrack for making beer. "Brewing's not a great job," says Haug. "It's a lot of work, it's hot, it's uncomfortable, things are moving fast. Metal goes with the territory. I don't see how anyone can listen to anything but metal while brewing!"
This year, the band-brewer collaborations came flying out so fast and furious that it was almost difficult to keep track of them. So as a service to all our thirsty readers — wherever your taste may fall on the IBU spectrum — here's a breakdown of our ten favorite metal brews from 2017.
Original thrashers Anthrax entered the craft beer fray this year with help from upstate New York brewers Butternuts Beer & Ale, who collaborated with Scott Ian & Co. to create a 5.5% ABV American pale ale. The cloudy, golden-orange beer has a mildly sweet malt taste and a dry, bitter finish; though a considerably more subtle drinking experience than you'd expect from something with the Anthrax name on it, Wardance is still a worthy addition to this year's roster of band brews.
In honor of Darkest Hour's latest album, Godless Prophets and the Migrant Flora, DC Brau partnered with the D.C. band to come up with a light, easy-drinking beer in the Dortmunder/Helles tradition. The 5% ABV German-style lager strikes a perfect balance between its Czech Republic 2 Row Pilsner malts and its Hallertau Mittelfrüh hops, making for a most swiggable libation that's especially refreshing after working up a sweat onstage or in the pit.
Metalcore veterans Zao teamed up with Louisville's Against the Grain Brewery for an unusual smoked stout brewed with chili peppers. The dark, chocolatey 6.5% ABV beer — inspired by Mexican mole sauce – definitely lives up to its name, with an intense smokiness that some drinkers may find off-putting. But it's well worth seeking out, so long as your mouth isn't afraid of a little dragon breath.
There's been a veritable onslaught of Motörhead-branded products in the two years since Lemmy's death, and the fact that the late, great Mr. Kilmister was really more of a bourbon man makes one cast a rather cynical eye towards the idea of a Motörhead-licensed beer. That said, Live to Win — the second Lemmy-inspired beer from San Diego's Amplified Ale Works, following last year's Born to Lose IPA — is good stuff, even if it's not exactly the sort of thing you'd associate with the man who wrote "Love Me Like a Reptile." This very drinkable 6.5% ABV American-style hazy IPA, which is dry-hopped with Citron and Bru-1 hops and fermented with London III yeast, offers a soft mouth feel with some nice tropical notes.
Leave it to 3 Floyds to come up with a beer as powerful and vibrant as thrash legends Exodus, who collaborated with the Indiana brewery on this 9.2% ABV Belgian-style strong pale ale. Big, hazy, fruity, spicy and malty as fuck, Toxic Maltz comes at you hard on the finish with some sour funkiness. Those expecting a full-on 3 Floyds hop assault might be disappointed, but Belgian fans will definitely want to keep an eye out for a bottle of this limited-edition brew.
Soused, the brilliant 2014 collaboration between drone terrorists Sunn O))) and avant-garde crooner Scott Walker, was a harrowing descent into the sonic abyss, so it's no surprise that a beer inspired by its dark and intense sounds wouldn't be the sort of thing that you'd shotgun during a summer cookout. This aggressively-hopped 7.0% ABV Nordic-style IPA — created by brewers from Right Proper, Stone and Pen Druid, with input from Sunn O))) — starts off sweet and citrus-y, then follows with a hoppy kick and some surprisingly heavy juniper notes. Much like its namesake, it's an acquired (but ultimately rewarding) taste.
Created by Tampa's Cigar City Brewing to coincide with the release of Killswitch Engage's 15th anniversary LP release of Alive or Just Breathing, Alive or Just Brewing is an appropriately in-your-face interpretation of an American-style IPA. Brewed with plenty of Citra, Mosaic, Motueka and Nelson Sauvin hops, the 7.6% ABV beer has a fuller body than most IPAs, thanks to the liberal inclusion of white wheat and flaked oats. The nicely balanced flavor includes elements of caramel and pale malts, with a nice kick of peppery hops.
Having tossed their hat into the craft beer ring last year with Belching Beaver's Phantom Bride Ale, Deftones teamed up once again with the San Diego microbrewery for Swerve City, a summery and delicious 7.1% ABV West Coast-style IPA. Full of hops handpicked by Chino Moreno himself, the golden, medium-bodied brew explodes with tropical fruit flavors — passionfruit, orange, guava, mango and melon all make their presence known — but finishes on a dry, herbal note.
Led by beer aficionado Bruce Dickinson, Iron Maiden have been in the brewing game for several years now, starting with 2013's Trooper, an ESB-style ale produced in collaboration with England's Robinsons Brewing. Hallowed, the band's fourth collaboration with Robinsons, marks Maiden's first attempt outside the realm of classic British beers — in fact, it's the first time that the venerable brewery has ever used Belgian yeast — and it may well be Bruce's best brew yet. The robust, 6.0% ABV Belgian-style red ale has a deliciously balanced mixture of fruity yeast, bready malt, and earthy hop flavors, and is highly recommended to anyone who loves malty, smooth-drinking Belgians.
We love Mastodon, and craft brewers apparently do, too — Sultan's Curse is the fifth beer collaboration that the band has been involved with, and their second one brewed in partnership with the acclaimed Mikkeller microbrewery. As befits its name, this intense, bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout is layered with such Middle Eastern flavors as dates, toasted pistachios and cardamom, and is lent even greater complexity by the addition of Yemeni coffee, courtesy of Chicago's Dark Matter Coffee. At 12% ABV, Sultan's Curse is strictly for sipping and savoring, preferably with Emperor of Sand blasting on your headphones.