BREWHEADS: Hopped in Half
BREAKING NEWS: 2015, Munster, IN: 3 Floyds Brewing Company Creates Time Machine, Travels to 1990 in Search of Death Metal Pairing for Pilsner.
1990 was a phenomenal year for heavy metal—especially death metal. Older metal heads like me bore witness to releases by Cannibal Corpse, Demolition Hammer, Death, Deicide, Entombed, Morgoth, and Obituary’s sophomore album Cause of Death. And I bought them all. Sadly, that same year decent American craft beer barely existed. Two and a half decades later, the beer is exponentially better, and death metal still sounds as pristine as it did in 1990. Finally, 2015 was the year to fire up the time machine, the flux capacitor, the amps, and the brew house. 3 Floyds Brewing teamed up with Florida death metal legends Obituary to brew an official beer for the band — Hopped In Half: “A crisp pilsner for those who like to rot slow, live large and drink their beer quickly. Very quickly. Brewed with our friends in the band Obituary.”
Full disclosure: I’m a huge Obituary fan dating back to their first album Slowly We Rot released in May 1989. I have a photo of my maternal grandmother (R.I.P.) wearing my Obituary hat. I bought an Obituary onesie at their Baltimore show in 2008 way before I even thought of having kids. So I was more than delighted they named their official beer Hopped In Half after the song “Chopped In Half” off Cause of Death—my favorite Obituary song and album.
Hopped In Half is a 5.3% ABV pilsner, a lager beer style first brewed in the city of Pilsen (now in the Czech Republic) back in 1842. As the name suggests, Hopped In Half is brewed with about half the suggested hops for the pilsner style. Hops add bitterness to beer, and at 35 international bitterness units (IBUs), this beer is right in the middle of the suggested range of 25-45.
I know a lot of you may be thinking does 3 Floyds make lower-alcohol pilsners? Is a pilsner an appropriate metal beer? Can the official beer of a legendary death metal band be a pilsner? Yes, Yes, and Gates to Hell Yes!
3 Floyds is known for their big hoppy ales so it may seem anathema to the casual fan for them to brew a medium-hopped pilsner. As a brewer, I respect the hell out of a good pilsner. It takes a lot of skill and patience to make a clean, crisp pilsner. There is no room for error because there isn’t an overabundance of malt or hops to hide off-flavors or technical mistakes. Great brewers and cellarmen make great pilsners just like great bands with producers and sound engineers make great albums. Hopped In Half benefitted from all of the above.
Who better to give you the inside scoop about Hopped In Half than Obituary’s own front man, John Tardy. He was kind enough to answer a few questions by e-mail after he returned home from their extensive Battle of the Bays Europe Tour late last year.
BrewHeads: How did the collaboration on Hopped In Half come about? Did it result from Obituary playing 3 Floyd’s annual Dark Lord Day in 2015?
John Tardy: Yes it did. We had no idea about the festival or the brewery before we played it and it was a blast! Those guys are totally cool and love their beer and their metal! I would do it again anytime.
BH: How did you decide to make a Pilsner and how much input did the band have in finalizing the beer style and the recipe?
JT: We were straight up with them about if they make some crazy triple hop, maple and orange crazy ass beer we were not gonna be down with it. They were into making what we like and did a great job with it.
BH: Who came up with the name Hopped In Half?
JT: Actually, I think my brother’s [drummer Donald Tardy] girlfriend came up it!
BH: Before you collaborated with 3 Floyds, did you guys previously talk about wanting an official Obituary beer? Do you know of any breweries that make an unofficial Obituary tribute beer—especially in Florida?
JT: We have a good friend out in Holland who works at a brewery, Praught is their beer. We talked with him about doing one but just never got it done. So many people brewing beer now a days...it’s crazy!
BH: Does Obituary have any particular beers on its riders?
JT: Budweiser and Heineken. I know it makes a lot of beer lovers cringe, but I am a simple man who loves drinking my Buds! But we are very fortunate to travel all over the world, and we get all kinds of beer. So many good ones that we get to try and it is awesome how beer brings people together! I think more world leaders need to sit down with a beer for sure! The world would be a better place!
BH: What are some of your favorite metal albums from 2016?
JT: We have so many friends out there with some great albums. Our friends in Dust Bolt have a great new album.
Thanks, John and Obituary!
3 Floyds only distributes their beer to Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Kentucky. Therefore I rely on on-line beer stores or the kindness of Twitter friends to fuel my beerlust for 3 Floyds’ metal beers. I have to give a huge thanks to Marc (@Postmarc) in Milwaukee, WI for sending me three bottles of Hopped In Half. Cheers, Marc!
Hopped In Half released in February 2016 and I drank one bottle a month starting in April: I drank my fist bottle having dinner with my little metal head minions; I brought a bottle to Maryland Death Fest XIV in May and shared it with my co-conspirators on Metal Heads Podcast, and I took my time and enjoyed my last bottle in June vacationing in Pennsylvania’s forests while reading Choosing Death.
Hopped In Half has a beautiful golden straw color and a thick white head. It reminds me of a Belgian golden ale with just a slight haze. It has a mild biscuit taste and aroma layered with a mix of earthy noble and citrusy hops. I can definitely tell it’s a lager—it has that distinct lager smell and taste from the yeast. What sets this pilsner apart from the rest—in my opinion—is the full-bodied mouthfeel, which I find common in 3 Floyds beers. It’s not very dry like traditional pilsners, but rather juicy. Maybe the brewers mashed-in the malts at a higher temperature, which leaves behind more residual sugar after it’s done fermenting. Perhaps they fermented at a slightly higher temperature putting Hopped In Half between a traditional pilsner and a Californian Common beer. I can’t quite put my finger on it—but I like it. I get a slight citrusy aftertaste, which becomes more pronounces as the beer warms up. It’s very drinkable as the beer label proudly proclaims. Hopped In Half’s approachable taste won’t turn you inside out and put you in a body bag, but it will quench your thirst and make you beg for more. Most importantly, 3 Floyds brewed a great beer to Obituary’s specifications, and everyone nailed it. Don’t just take my word for it; it has an 87 score on Beer Advocate, which is very good.
Obituary threw a kegger in August at the Brass Mug in Tampa, FL (naturally) to release Hopped In Half and they played “Chopped in Half” live during the encore (naturally). The song is a classic example of Obituary’s sparse song lyrics common in their early discography—just five short lines repeated twice:
Chopped in half
Feel the blood spill from your mouth.
With rotting ways comes destiny.
Feel the soul taking over.
I was curious to see whether John Tardy would honor their new beer by changing the lyrics sung at the Brass Mug show to something like this:
Hopped In Half
Feel the suds spill from your mouth.
With lagering ways comes destiny.
Feel the buzz taking over.
To John’s credit, and probably to the relief of the fans, he stuck with the original lyrics. Maybe when I see Obituary on the final stop of the Decibel Magazine Tour in Philadelphia on 15 April, he will sing the alternative verse while chugging bottles of Hopped In Half beer quickly. Very quickly. An old fan boy can dream.
I don’t know if 3 Floyds has plans to brew Hopped In Half again. But it would be great to have the beer available when Obituary pummels Chicago, Indianapolis, and Cleveland in early April on the Midwest leg of the Decibel Tour. Fire up the time machine, flux capacitor, amps, and the brew house again!
Obituary’s new self-titled album releases on 17 March 2017. Buy it. If you can’t find some Hopped In Half, honor John Tardy and grab a Bud or Heineken (in a can) and watch their hilarious cartoon video for their song “Violence”.
“Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let sip the Brewheads” - Quote attributed to William Makesbeere