With the possible exception of Jack Daniels and Coke (henceforth known as the Lemmy), beer is clearly the official drink of rock ‘n’ roll. There’s nothing like standing in a grimy rock club, drinking beer after beer, not even caring if a little bit sloshes on your shoes. And now, with small batch brews popping up all over world, a rock ‘n’ roll band can expect no greater honour than being bestowed with their very own beer.
Calgary’s Napalmpom follow in the footsteps of bands like Iron Maiden and Hanson with the introduction of their very own beer, produced by Calgary’s mighty Big Rock Brewery. Evilly dubbed 666 Number of the Yeast, the beer will be introduced and celebrated here in Calgary tomorrow night (January 21) at the Drum and Monkey pub. The beer will continue to be available exclusively at the drum and monkey until the batch is gone. I caught up with Napalmpom guitarist Shawn Petsche to talk about beer and food:
Rolling Spoon: How did this business about developing your own beer come about?
Shawn Petsche: It’s a Dan Northfield (Palomino, Drum & Monkey, Local 510, etc.)/Big Rock Brewery collaboration. The two of them had come up with the idea to collaborate with Calgary stoner rockers Chron Goblin to make a special small-batch brew around the time of their last album release. Apparently it was a huge success, with the band and their friends and fans drinking through almost the entire batch in the one night, so they decided to keep the series going. Somehow one of them decided we’d be a good follow-up. We didn’t ask questions, we just said yes, because it seemed weird and fun! Now we’re feeling the pressure of living up to the heavy drinking party precedent Chron Goblin set.
What does the beer taste like?
We got to sample two growlers last Friday for the first time…and before we did, we were warned by the Big Rock top brass, “so, this is going to taste like a flatter, less flavourful version of the real beer.” Good news, it still tasted pretty damn good! It’s a session ale, super drinkable, not overpowering on the hops side of the spectrum. It’s like the kind of beer I tend to drink when sitting with my guitar trying to write a guitarmony lead for hours on end.
Beer aside, what are some of your favourite places to eat in Calgary?
So much of our band’s existence is owed to The Western Coffee Shop on 4th Street. We’d gather there every Saturday morning and spend hours eating and talking about ideas for songs, things we wanted to do with the band, etc. The owners, William and May, were basically my surrogate parents when I moved to Calgary. They had even named a dish after me — the black bean beef with peppers was the “Shawn Special.” They even catered our LP release (BBQ pork!). Unfortunately, they sold the business and retired recently and now the Western is nowhere near the magical place it used to be. My current favourite spots are El Charrito (the barbacoa tacos in particular), Szechuan Restaurant on 16th (incredible pork belly and green bean dishes) and Joycee’s… because I miss the amazing rotis I grew up with in Montreal.
Do you cook? If you do, what are some of your specialties?
Not as often as I should. To be honest, my signature dish, puerco pibil, is stolen from the extras of the DVD of Once Upon A Time In Mexico. It’s a slow-roasted, spicy Mexican pork, heavy on the annatto seeds, cooked in banana leaves. It takes a good while to prepare, but if you buy the pork shoulder at T&T Market, you can feed 10-15 people for super cheap. Everywhere else, the pork butt is far too expensive. It’s my kind of cooking. All prep work, and then you just sit back and wait.
What is always in your fridge?
My friend Zsofia, out in Toronto, makes her own hot sauce, called Hot Sass Hot Sauce. It’s vegan and gluten-free and the most delicious thing in the world. I fell in love with it and for awhile she’d ship me out boxes and boxes of the stuff which I would then sell to friends out of the Sled Island office. She’s on hiatus but I just scored a fresh jar of it recently!
Do you have any good stories about breaking bread with other musicians?
When I worked at POP Montreal Music Festival, one of my greatest memories was us helping to put on the 1st Canadian show for Roky Erickson ever, and one of the first shows he’d done since his well-documented recovery (see: You’re Gonna’ Miss Me documentary). We wanted everything to go super smoothly for him, so we went the extra mile and ordered some of his favourite horror DVDs and ice cream brand for his rider. After the show, I had the pleasure of taking Roky and his brother Sumner for their first poutine. I was never a big poutine eater in Montreal, and honestly, after that, how can any poutine experience live up to that one?
What is your favourite kind of pie?
Contentious! For the longest time it was lemon meringue. Put a good-to-great lemon meringue pie in front of me and I’ll eat a slice with breakfast, lunch and dinner until it’s gone. That said, the single best pie I’ve ever had was a key lime pie from Big Bob Gibson’s in Decatur, Alabama. I’ve been chasing that dragon ever since.
If you’re in Calgary, go out and help Napalmpom drink their way through the batch of 666 Number of the Yeast tomorrow (January 21) night. If not, you’ll have to be satisfied with the band’s most recent video, “Watch It Burn.”