Extreme beer expert Adem Tepedelen is poised to take me to the dark side.
We’re about to sample a beer called Hel & Verdoemenis, brewed by De Molen in the Netherlands. The name is Dutch for “hell and damnation.” And, to accompany our tasting, Tepedelen has cranked up a hard-rocking track, To Heaven from Hell, by the English metal band Diamond Head.
“To heaven from hell,” bellows the singer, “lock my door!”
Victoria’s Tepedelen is the author of The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers. These include Utopias 10th Anniversary, a 29 per cent alcohol Samuel Adams beer that sold for up to $300 per bottle. And there’s the Ghost Face Killah. Created with six kinds of chili peppers, Tepedelen promises it will have “even the most die-hard heat-freak howling in pain.”
Needless to say, such libations are not for the faint of heart.
Each extreme beer included comes with an “extreme rating” using skull-and-crossbones icons. As an added bonus (because he’s a metal head) Tepedelen offers hard-rocking musical pairings to go with each brew. And that’s why To Heaven from Hell — which sounds like AC/DC on steroids — is playing as we sip Hel & Verdoemenis.
"You can really smell chocolate. A chocolate note and coffee,” says Tepedelen, who also praises Hel & Verdoemenis’s strong “rich dark malts.” Umm, chocolate. It is good. And you know, Diamond Head is starting to grow on me, too.
Since 2009, Tepedelen has written a beer column, Brewtal Truth, for the American metal magazine Decibel. He’s written about metal for RollingStone.com, Guitar World and Mojo magazine. He’s written about beer for All About Beer and Seattle Weekly. So it made sense for the American-born writer to combine his twin passions in book form, hence The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers.
Craft beer and metal may seem an odd combo. Or at least, not an obvious one. But Tepedelen has a theory about that. He figures people who love craft beer — which offers more variety and taste than mass-produced beers — are not “necessarily listening to Top-40 radio and consuming mainstream music.” They’re more likely to be into indie rock, jazz or … yes, heavy metal.
Whether you buy his theory or not, there’s no denying it’s all pretty fun.
In his book, Tepedelen suggests listening to The Evil One by Roky Erickson while sipping a Belgian beer called Lucifer. Indeed, he writes about many beers with devilish names, such as Mephistopheles, 666 and Hades.
Most are out-of-town entries; the only Victoria beer included in the book is Son of the Morning, by Driftwood (“son of the morning” is apparently a euphemism for “the devil”).
Then there’s Bloody Beer. Brewed by Michigan-based Shorts, it is made from tomatoes, dill, horseradish, peppercorns and celery seed. In his book, Tepedelen describes it as “the godless offspring of a Bloody Mary and a beer.”
“That was a pretty weird one,” he told me.
Even the beers brewed from oddball ingredients — or at least those included in this book — are eminently palatable, Tepedelen insists. The brewers know what they’re doing; often the left-field ingredients (Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale uses actual bacon) are merely hinted at, rather than slamming you in the face like, well, a side of bacon.
Tepedelen first became enamoured with craft beers while attending the University of Oregon. He started out, like other students, drinking mass-manufactured beer. At this time, in the late ’80s, the craft beer movement was beginning to take hold in the Pacific Northwest. So Tepedelen begin sipping craft beers at the High Street Café in Eugene.
“And it tasted better,” he said. “Back then, we were probably drinking Rainier and 40-ouncers of Pabst or Coors or whatever was cheap.”
Heavy-metal music was also an early interest. “As a kid,” Tepedelen said, “I just always liked the sound of very distorted guitars.” Early on he worked for small record labels in Seattle. He even played drums and guitar in metal bands, although none achieved commercial success.
Later, as a freelance journalist, Tepedelen latched onto writing about food, wine and beer as well as music. In 2008, he won the Michael Jackson Beer Journalism Award (Jackson was an internationally known beer writer) for a magazine feature on the global hop shortage. This led to Tepedelen’s Brewtal Truth beer column, and subsequently, this book.
For Victorians contemplating buying The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers, there’s a drawback. Only about a dozen of the beers in the book can be purchased here. That’s because B.C. has strict regulations regarding the importation of beers with a high alcohol volume.
Tepedelen notes some Victoria beer aficionados make trips to Seattle to stock up at such stores as The Beer Junction, which offers a rotating selection of 1,300 beers. As far as Victoria breweries go, he's particularly impressed with Phillips and Driftwood — the latter particularly skilled in the challenging art of making sour beers.
As to what draws him to extreme brews, Tepedelen says — whether it be beer or music — he’s always been drawn to the less-travelled path.
He added: “I’m always looking for something different and interesting and new.”