Long before there was a Brewtal Truth column in Decibel or Municipal Waste was celebrating the Art of Partying or Three Floyds was making beers for its favorite metal bands, Bill Yurkiewicz and his grindcore band, Exit-13, were not only drinking amazing beers from around the world, they were writing songs about them. Yurkiewicz, who co-founded Relapse Records in the early ’90s, was mixing extreme beers and extreme metal back when craft beers were still called “microbrews.” His passion for good beer and desire to spread the craft beer gospel is legendary. Just ask ex-Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris who was recently on the receiving end of a beery care package of Dogfish Head brews. Or Dave Witte, who points to Yurkiewicz as the source of his own craft beer obsession. Naturally, we had to get the lowdown.
You were singing the praises of strong Belgian brews back in the mid-’90s in Exit-13 when every other metalhead was still shotgunning mass quantities of cheap beer. How did you discover these beers?
I hung out with folks a bit older than me during college (1985–1990) and we always bought cases of beer that we had never tried. Stuff like Grizzly and Calgary from Canada; Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale from the U.K.; Innsbruck from Austria; D.A.B. and Steinhauser Lager from Germany; Kronenbourg from France; Royal Brand from the Netherlands. One evening I went with some friends to a now sadly defunct restaurant named Whatney’s Pub in Brickerville, Pennsylvania, that specialized in world-class beers. It was the first place I ever saw a “Beers of the World” Tasting Club. I had a bottle of St. Sixtus 12 Abbey Ale (now called St. Bernardus 12 and reported to be the very same recipe as my beloved Westvleteren Abt 12) and the rest is history. It was by far the best tasting beer I had ever tasted, and I truly loved the crazy looking drunk monk on the label! After that, I started buying books on beer and was quickly introduced to the writings of Michael Jackson. I realized that I greatly preferred ale to lager and just started trying to track down all the beers I was reading about. Back then it was so much harder to find the world-class stuff as I was not part of any network of beer freaks and most of the distributors in my area did not cater to people looking for the really high end stuff.
How much of Exit-13’s recorded output was directly or indirectly influenced by good beer?
We never practiced or recorded a single note of music sober. Ever! Beer was always a part of rehearsals and live shows. When it came to recording, we probably spent more on the grog than on the studio time, up to the Ethos Musick sessions. The early days of Exit-13 were just a blur of four freaks getting baked and drunk and totally enjoying life to the fullest! Some of the later material was directly influenced by craft beer as the lyrics were written about humulus lupulus (hops) and the Belgian ales that I had tried up to that point. “Gout d’Belgium” was my ode to the joys of Belgian beer, as influenced by the writings of Lord Jackson.
Orval, Duvel, Corsendonk
Scaldis, Chimay, Rodenbach
Westmalle Triple, Golden Carolus
Get startin’ with Hoegaarden!
I’m flask whacked on Pauwel Kwak!
I’ve raised many a glass with St. Sixtus
And deviled my brain with Duvel
My mind is as high as the heavens,
But my liver is burning in Hell!!!
Bellvue, Boon Gueuze, Timmermans
DeTroch, Leifmans, Lindemans
Rose de Gambrinus by Cantillion
Go get say, geuze or peche!
On framboise or kreik, get lambiclly geeked!
Sixtus, Leffe, Affligem
Witkap Pater, Grimbergen
Tunic frocked and drunk again!
The Abbey ales just don’t fail!
Several triples will leave you crippled!!!
Belgium is literally heaven on Earth for the beer aficionado!
No other country can boast of more distinct, individualistic styles,
So rich and complex in character. Whether it’s the unique lambics
Or the top fermenting, bottle conditioned strong ales,
Belgium’s beers deserve the most sincere reverence!
“This is drink most sensuous”
Brigand, Steendonk, Mort Subite
Saison Dupont, Oerbier
Petrus Triple, De Verboden Vrucht
Chimay Blue will slay you!
Liquid grail… Satan Ale!!!
Orvel, Duvel, Corsendonk
Scaldis, Chimay, Rodenbach
Tunic frocked and drunk again
I’m the Stille Nacht snowman
And I’m drowning in Scaldis Noel!
My mind is as high as the heavens,
But my liver still burns in Hell!!!
Were any of your Exit-13 bandmates receptive to trying the beers you were drinking at the time? Which ones?
Yes, everyone in Exit-13 was into good beer! Just as much as I was, although they did not study it per se, as I did. It was a very equal thing with each of us trying to find the best stuff to drink. There are some good pictures of us circa summer 1990 all enjoying those large steel cans of Thomas Cooper Real Ale from Australia. Oranjeboom from the Netherlands was another band favorite. Our original bassist Joel DiPietro ended up in Colorado working at the Wynkoop Brewery for a spell. Of course, the later days of Exit-13 were fueled with lots of Belgian ales and German hefeweizen, although Danny Lilker always loved his 16 oz. cans of Budweiser! Dave Witte says having a De Dolle Brouwers Stille Nacht at the recording session for the split 7″ EP with Hemdale sent him on a lifelong journey of beer appreciation.
Relapse put out the Spectrum Ale promo sampler CD back when craft beer was still called “microbrews.” What do you think about bands like Mastodon, Municipal Waste and Pig Destroyer having their own beers now?
I am almost in disbelief and quite happy for these guys. How far things have progressed! I’ve yet to try any of these band beers and am quite curious about them. I love Three Floyds Alpha King IPA and Robert The Bruce, so I know what they brew must be fantastic. I wish Avery would make a 13% ABV Exit-13 High Hops Indica Pale Ale with fresh cannabis!
Do you see any parallels between turning on friends to craft beers and turning on friends to cool bands back in the pre-Internet days?
To me it is the exact same thing. Turning on others to things they have not yet experienced is one of the greatest endeavors of life. I just wish the U.S. Postal Service rates were not so expensive these days. It costs me $65+ to send a couple of bottles of broth to the U.K.
You obviously love Belgian beers, but what else is currently in your beer rotation?
Over the last six of months I have been imbibing these: Lavery Imperial French-Style Ale, Lavery Devil Bird Porter aged in Maker’s Mark casks, Uinta Cockeyed Cooper Bourbon Barley Wine, Uinta Birthday Suit Sour Brown Ale, Uinta Hop Notch IPA, Green Flash West Coast IPA, North Coast Brother Thelonious Belgian-Style Ale, Sixpoint Resin DIPA, Sixpoint Hi-Res DIPA, Stone Drink By 2/14/14, Stone/Stochasity Project Grapefruit Slam IPA, Orkney Skull Splitter, Avery The Beast Grand Cru, Avery The Reverend Quad, Avery The Czar Imperial Stout, Malheur 12 from Belgium, Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA, Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout, Weyerbacher Insanity, Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Brown Ale, Dogfish Head Burton Baton DIPA, Dogfish Head Olde School Barley Wine and Bells Two Hearted Ale. Having read your book several times already, I am dying to try the Cascade Sang Noir, Duclaw Colossus and the Midnight Sun Arctic Devil.
Morning, noon and at night
temptations I can’t fight
hoist pints, imbibe, delight…
so sly, that guy, he’s dried… DRY HOPPED! that sly Hopduvel
he plys in guise so wise… CANNABIS?!? evil Hopduvel!
today mugs raised in praise… HOPPED UP! for the Hopduvel
bongs blazed, eyes glazed, way dazed… PROPPED UP! confound the Hopduvel
Nick’s brews, a few, your stewed… HOP SUCKED! by the Hopduvel
with shrooms, you vroom, mind blooms… DROP OUT! Leary as Hopduvel
more trays, mugs raised, your saved! HOPPED UP! by the Hopduvel
bowls blazed, eyes hazed, mind phased… PROPPED UP! stonehead Hopduvel
Revived for a bout of wicked liquid clouts form lambics, weizens, stouts
ein stein in my grip, nectar raised to lips, a joyous sin each sip!
malted incantations fortell my vexation, fiendish inebriation
some more? of course, we pour… POUR MORE! says the Hopduvel
adore and soar, hit the floor! KNOCKED OUT! by the Hopduvel
bongs blazed, amazed, half crazed… HOPPED UP! for the Hopduvel
four days a haze of praise! HOPPED UP! my God Duvel!!!
Get HOPPED UP!
Adem Tepedelen’s new craft beer book, Decibel Presents the Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers: An All-Excess Pass to Brewing’s Outer Limits, is now available in the Decibel online store.