Two of Pittsburgh’s most passionate subcultures collide at Spirit Hall on November 6 for the inaugural Pittsburgh Brewtal Beer Fest.
Four local metal bands will partner with four local craft breweries to create one-off collaborations for a daylong celebration of all things metal and craft beer, including performances by all four of the featured bands.
The festival is the brainchild of Meg and James Evans — she’s the head brewer of Homestead’s Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery and he is the assistant brewer at Spoonwood Brewing in Bethel Park. The two married in 2014, three years after first meeting as workers on the bottling line at Southern Tier Brewing in Lakewood, NY.
What unites heavy metal and craft brewing? “It’s a willingness to go to the extreme to make something special,” says James.
“Some of the most inspired people I know are from these communities,” adds Meg, one of only two female brewers in the city.
Meg grew up favoring punk and ska but says she has evolved into a metalhead since meeting James, who once played guitar in Western NY heavy metal band Discidium. (His favorite band is Revocation; she’s a Dillinger fan.)
In addition to Rock Bottom and Spoonwood (who will be partnering with World’s Scariest Police Chases and Vermithrax, respectively) East End Brewing Co. and Penn Brewery will be on hand with their respective bands, Natural Causes and Greywalker.
Scott Smith, owner of East End Brewing, says that while craft beer has taken a mainstream turn in recent years, both metal and craft beer were long considered “the bastard children of their industry.” It was as difficult for an up-and-coming metal band to sign to a major record label as it was for a craft brewery making new and interesting beers to secure tap space at a bar.
The festival was inspired by a column in Decibel Magazine called “Brewtal Truth” that explored the intersection of metal and craft beer. If big names in metal like Clutch, GWAR and The Sword could all collaborate with breweries on signature craft beers, the thinking went, why not do the same here in Pittsburgh?
Tickets to the event cost $50 and include 40 ounces worth of beer samplings and band performances, including a headlining set from Michigan’s Child Bite, who toured with Superjoint Ritual and Down in the past year. VIP tickets go for $75 and include early entrance and a private set from Pittsburgh’s Dethlehem.
Some of the collaborative beers planned for Brewtal include a “Snow Melt Your Face Off” Winter Ale with hot peppers from East End Brewing and a take on malt liquor from Rock Bottom. There will also be samples on hand of a coffee stout brewed by Rock Bottom in collaboration with Allentown’s Black Forge Coffee House.
Attendees will be able to vote on their favorite collaborative brew and the winning band and brewery both will receive a professional wrestling-style championship belt designed by Bar-Jutsu‘s James Porco.
“Metal is not just a genre of music; it’s a whole counterculture,” says James Evans. “You have some of the most bold, spirited people out there willing to take risks. 98% of bands aren’t going to make it, and not every brewery is going to make it, either. You have to be willing to put yourself out there.”
Chris Marasti-Georg, guitarist for Natural Causes, says he started home brewing almost five years ago and is now vice-president of the popular TRASH Pittsburgh homebrewers association. He says he isn’t exactly sure what the commonality is between the two groups (besides a lot of dudes with beards), but he’s happy to show that metalheads drink more than just Pabst Blue Ribbon.
“It’s hard to pass up when it’s on special for $3,” he laughs. “Sometimes you want volume and sometimes you want quality.”
With six hair-whipping bands sharing the spotlight with as many extreme beers, it’s safe to say Brewtal will offer plenty of volume to go along with plenty of quality craft beer.
Tickets to Brewtal can be purchased through their Kickstarter page.