BREWHEADS: Permanent Funeral
GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) According to the Surgeon General, drinking Permanent Funeral will annihilate your taste buds and leave lesser beers to be poured down the sewer where the roaches listen to Kanye West. (2) Consumption of Permanent Funeral beverage impairs your ability to podcast but will cause happiness, double hop rainbows, and unicorn-filled mosh pits.
Yeah, it’s that good. Permanent Funeral Pale Ale is masterfully brewed by 3 Floyds Brewing Company in Munster, Indiana. This beer is so good that it won a Silver Medal in the Imperial India Pale Ale category at the Great American Beer Festival in 2013 – beating out 147 other beers. To put it in context, in the beer world it’s like winning the Nobel Peace Prize and an Olympic Metal—but cooler. To top it all off, it’s a collaboration metal beer with Grindcore legends Pig Destroyer! It just may be the ultimate metal/medal beer. Period.
3 Floyds arguably is the most well-known brewery making Heavy Metal themed-beers on planet Earth. They’ve brewed official collaboration beers for Pelican, Municipal Waste, High on Fire, Obituary, Cannibal Corpse (read my review here), Amon Amarth, and At The Gates to name a few. First brewed in 2013, their Pig Destroyer “Permanent Funeral” beer is named after the last song on the band’s 2012 album Book Burner. It’s the longest song on the album clocking in at an epic 4:08 minutes, which is long for Pig Destroyer.
3 Floyds officially calls this beer a Pale Ale, but it’s an Imperial India Pale Ale at 10.5% alcohol by volume and 100 international bitterness units. It’s big and bitter like Satan on a bad day but in a good way. BEER NERD ALERT: India Pale Ales (IPAs) originally were brewed in Britain in the 1800s to export to India. They were hoppier pale ales with slightly higher alcohol—both act as preservatives—which helped the beer taste better and stay fresher on the long journey to India.
Heavy metal and craft beer collided in March 2013 when they released Permanent Funeral at a Pig Destroyer show at the Back Cat in Washington DC. The timing was perfect because it conveniently coincided with the annual Craft Brewer Conference. I swear half of the nation’s brewers are metal heads, so the place was packed. As a professional brewer and metalhead, I made damn well sure to be at the show, but sadly I arrived too late to try the beer that night. But I did get to see Pig Destroyer tear it up. I’m pretty sure this was the first time they played the song Permanent Funeral live.
Most 3 Floyd’s metal collaboration beers are one-offs and never to be brewed again. Permanent Funeral is an exception. Whether it’s due to the popularity of Pig Destroyer or the fact it won a medal at Great American Beer Festival, they’ve brewed it a few times including earlier in 2016; which leads me to my much-anticipated acquisition of Permanent Funeral for this article.
DC Brau Brewing Company in DC celebrated its 5th Anniversary Party in mid-April with an epic outdoor metal show headlined by The Sword. My friend Metal Chris covertly busted out several bottles of Permanent Funeral at the brewery that he acquired from Blake Harrison, the electronics and sample master in Pig Destroyer since 2006. During the party/concert/beerfest, I conspired with Blake to meet five days later at the Amon Amarth show—along with George and John—to drink some beers and deliver two bottles of Permanent Funeral for this BREWHEADS installment. If you listen to the podcast, that’s the show when the vicious parking garage gate attacked me!
The two bottles Blake gave me, however, were not my first. Way back—before BREWHEADS was a twinkle in my eye—I enjoyed a bottle of Permanent Funeral the day after it won the medal in October 2013. I commemorated the beer and metal collusion by capturing a photo of my daughter Evelyn throwing her horns at the Permanent Funeral bottle when she was 2 ½ hears old – three days before her brother was born. It now is firmly rooted in both their DNA. But for now, I needed a resupply and Blake delivered.
As usual, I wanted to learn and share more background on the collaboration between the brewers and the band. Blake provided great insight as well as prompting me to seek out Dave Witte, drummer for Municipal Waste, Brain Tentacles, and tons of projects. He’s also affectionately become the craft beer ambassador to the heavy metal world.
BREWHEADS: Did 3 Floyds approach Pig Destroyer about doing a beer or vice versa?
Blake Harrison: Dave [Witte] from Municipal Waste hooked it up. He really liked 3 Floyd's beer, and they worked with Municipal Waste, so when 3 Floyds were looking for more bands, Dave suggested us.
Dave Witte: Great people need to know one another. For a while I was kind of a metal beer rep in a sense, devoted to spreading the love of great beer within the metal scene. The Floyds at the time (Barnaby, Chris & Nick) and Todd Haug (the reason for Surly's great beers and success) would load me up with beer to drink while on tour, and then I would share and give it to friends/bands who loved beer across the country. It was kinda like underground tape trading at that point. I had a small network of music people into beer, and we'd just share everything possible. I made a lot of great friends and the volley between bands and brewers was amazing. We were total fans of one another. Barnaby and Chris [from 3 Floyds] were big Pig Destroyer fans and Scott Hull [Pig Destroyer guitarist], and I talked about beer and shared quite a bit of it over the years. Yup, we were beer nerds. Haha. The connection was easy to make when Barnaby asked about Pig Destroyer. Basically, in a nutshell, Sanford Parker [prolific metal musician] introduced me to Barnaby, we became fast friends; he introduced me to brewers, and I introduced him to bands. It was true love. Hahaha
BH: How did you decide on the beer style? How much input did the guys in Pig Destroyer have in the beer style and the recipe?
Blake: We did have input. Not to be too basic, but I think that Scott [Hull - guitarist] told them to take Zombie Dust and kinda amp it up a little.
BH: Were any members of Pig Destroyer at 3 Floyds during the brew day or when they released it?
Blake: No, but we did do a release show at the Black Cat for the Craft Brewers’ Conference, which was a lot of fun.
BH: How did you hear the news that Permanent Funeral won a medal at the Great American Beer Festival? What was your reaction?
Blake: I think the 3 Floyds people told us and we were immensely flattered. We still get a lot of kudos on the beer from various websites.
BH: Before Pig Destroyer collaborated with 3 Floyds, did you guys previously talk about wanting to have an official beer? Do you know of any breweries that make a Pig Destroyer tribute (unofficial) beer?
Blake: We had discussed it, but never seriously. I think for the most part we just didn't know how to go about it. We've worked with Surly Brewery, and someone in Denver made a small release for our Denver Black Skies show. If there are Pig Destroyer tribute beers, I'm not sure that we know about it, which would be cool if we did, as we could probably get some free beer out of it.
BH: Would you consider doing another official collaboration with another brewery?
Blake: Most definitely. Like I've said, we've collaborated with Surly before, but I'm not positive that was an "official" release. But yeah it'd be cool to get a different style beer for the band.
BH: What are each Pig Destroyer member’s favorite beer and/or style?
Blake: I'm basically into stouts and shitty mainstream pilsners. I'm really digging the DC Brau’s Brau Pils and the Flying Dog’s Mexican Hot Chocolate Stout (when they make it). Adam [Jarvis – drums], Scott and John [Jarvis – bass] are into craft beer, mostly the hopper stuff. J.R. [Hayes – vocals] doesn't drink beer too much. He's mostly a Jack Daniels guy.
I finally took the time during vacation this summer to give Permanent Funeral the true BREWHEADS treatment— block out all distractions, really pay attention, and take notes. During vacation, I also was reading the book Choosing Death, which features Grindcore and Pig Destroyer quite a bit.
Permanent Funeral pours a hazy golden orange color and has a substantial off-white head with lacing for days. Initially, this beer comes across as dank smelling from the hops, but the citrus aromas linger underneath. When I tasted it, the first thing I notice is that it has a full-bodied mouth feel like most 3 Floyds beers. Permanent Funeral tasted a bit tangy—like a tangerine—in the aftertaste. Hops clearly are prominent, but there is a decent malt backbone. The 10.5% alcohol by volume is not overtly noticeable but holy shit if you can’t feel it halfway through the bottle. Just ask how I felt (and sounded) after drinking a bottle on an empty stomach while recording Metalheads episode #49! Deservingly so, Permanent Funeral has a 98 rating on beer advocate. So don’t just take my word for it—judges at the Great America Beer Festival and hundreds of beer nerds all agree that this is a world-class metal beer.
Perhaps Dave Witte summed it up best: “A real hop monster. A sick balance of hops & just the right amount of malt to not overpower the hops. Citrus & pine assault with a cloaked, clobbering ABV.”
Just like album art is important to convey the band’s message, beer label art is also important. I’ve bought tons of beers and albums back in the day (before you could preview them on-line) solely based on the artwork. Permanent Funeral label art is colorful, brutal, and beautiful all at the same time. The artwork was done by Orion Landau, who has done work for YOB, Red Fang, Inter Arma and dozens more. The creature on the label looks a little like a cross between a wolf and Oderus Urungus with a sword through its head—with lots and lots of blood. I have a white Pig Destroyer t-shirt with this same design on it. The beer description on the side of the label says, “The wolf inside this pale ale is trying to walk upright. This bright and aromatic beer was brewed with our friends in the band Pig Destroyer.” 3 Floyds lifted the same lyrics from the first line of the song Permanent Funeral to intertwine with its description.
Deep inside I’m just a wolf trying to walk upright. The moth flew into the white light. The girl takes the flag from the gravesite. Unrequited love kills. Spawns black blood cells. The dark cradles mystery. The light ruins everything. You know it's true.
Hopefully, 3 Floyds will keep brewing Permanent Funeral so hopheads and metalheads can continue enjoying its blissful hoppy brutality. Just don’t do so on an empty stomach! In the meantime, check out Pig Destroyer at the release party in DC and at Hardywood Park Brewery in Richmond.
Pig Destroyer live at the Black Cat in Washington DC performing the song Permanent Funeral during the release show for the beer.
Pig Destroyer Live at Hardywood Park Brewery in Richmond, VA.