The voting has opened for the Memphis Flyer Beer Bracket Challenge. Not being at the Young Avenue Deli for the Flyer's Toby Sells' reveal of the match-ups in four categories — light beer, dark beer, IPAs, and seasonals — is no excuse not to cast a vote. These are some of the best beers from Ghost River, Wiseacre, High Cotton, Crosstown, Meddlesome, and Memphis Made. Who is the favorite? Well, that's not my job, Spanky, that's on you. Support your local brewers, and pray to all that's holy that they don't start promoting their beers with 1980s hair band music videos.
This is a greater danger than you might think. There is a strange trend lately of aging heavy metal bands launching their own brews, and it raises some legitimate questions: How involved in the process are they really? What's the policy on spandex and carbonation? Do they wear hair nets? They should.
Is it any weirder than that Ian Anderson guy from Jethro Tull becoming a salmon farmer? Or Francis Ford Coppola making wine (yes, actually, he's an almost-Italian foodie with a certain attention to detail)? Or, for that matter, George Clooney getting in (and out with a boatload of cash) of the tequila game or Ryan Reynolds flogging Aviation Gin (the commercials are brilliant)? Probably not.
Still, the side hustle of these aging rockers is a bit off-kilter. Growing up, I was never a fan of heavy metal because the music is so awful, but I got the general vibe. So when legendary Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson starts going on about the band's new Trooper Sun and Steel lager being "a delicate, subtle fruit flavor infused into a pilsner-style lager," the world seems to have air-guitared itself off its cultural axis.
Sun and Steel is a saké-infused beer, or rather, it's a double-fermented lager, with the second round of fermentation using saké yeast. The name comes from a song about a samurai on their 1984 album Piece of Mind. What's more confusing is that it's not actually bad — a little weird, maybe, but not bad. Dickinson says that the beer, now available stateside, is a thank you to all the fans who came out to the "Legacy of the Beast" North American tour in 2017. Okay. The Legacy of any Beast worth its salt, I'd think, would be neither subtle nor delicate.
Iron Maiden isn't the only band getting into the game. Last fall, Megadeth released its second beer in collaboration with award-winning Canadian brewer Unibroue. It's a Belgian-style farmhouse ale called Saison 13, named for front man Dave Mustaine's chronic fascination with that number. We are told that it is made with "13 special ingredients." In my opinion, a good beer needs to be made with however many ingredients a decent brewer thinks are needed to make it work, not the magic number of some formerly drug-addled obsessive compulsive. But that's just me.
The first Megadeth foray into the otherwise decidedly not-Megadeth world of craft beer was called A Tout le Monde, which is French for "To Everyone." It was named after one of those twangy heavy metal ballads where headbangers want to show how sensitive they are by not screaming. Megadeth went one step further and started singing in French. I understand it was a big hit in Quebec.
Craft beer has a pronounced hipster vibe — so who is the market for these beers? Does it even matter? If the metal bands aren't playing the FedExForums, they are playing the Tunicas of the world. And when Bonnaroo kicks off for the year, the metal-heads do converge on Manchester. So why not?