When Port City Brewing Company brewer Will Cook is crafting beers, he likes to blast heavy metal as loud as possible. The beer, he says, is listening too. "When I brewed Two [a smoked imperial porter made for Port City's second anniversary], I blasted the heaviest, darkest, smoldering metal I could find," Cook explains. "I played a lot of Fortress, a local band from Maryland; Black Sabbath; and High on Fire. The beer came out dark and smoky as hell. That beer liked metal."
Cook says he tries to pair the beer and the music: Port City's hoppy Maniacal IPA is created to the sounds of Cannibal Corpse, a death metal band whose 2006 album "Kill" includes the song "Maniacal," while the new Oktoberfest was born while listening to the German metal band Kreator. (If you're on a tour of the brewery, look for signs on the tanks that say things like "Brewed to: CLUTCH!")
"I like to think the vibrations from the loud metal music shakes the fermenters and stimulates the yeast during primary fermentation, and the hops during dry-hopping," Cook jokes. "That's my story and I'm sticking to it."
If you're curious about the intersection of heavy metal and craft beer, head for Port City on Sunday afternoon. From 5 to 9 p.m., Cook and his pal Metal Chris – the founder of DCHeavyMetal.com – host the fourth Metal Night at the Alexandria brewery. While Slayer, Ozzy and local bands play from the stereo, metal fans hang out, sample Port City beers and talk about their favorite bands. As a bonus, this Sunday is the official debut of the Kreator-inspired Oktoberfest.
Metal Night began in September 2011 due to a quirk of the building's sound system: Whatever's playing in the brewery also plays in the tasting room. "Whenever possible, I blast heavy metal at full volume all day long in the brewery," Cook says. But as soon as the public can enter the tasting room, "the heavy metal abruptly ends and hippie jam bands, '80s rap or reggae music takes over."
So Cook – a gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps reserves when he's not brewing – told Port City owner Bill Butcher that he'd like to host a night where nothing but metal was played at the brewery. There have been two other events since, most recently in April. Cook says he'd like to hold them more often, but it's not easy to coordinate schedules between his family, his brewing work, the tasting room and local metal shows, so he's happy to only host four or five events a year.
Metal Night's soundtrack is chosen by guests, who e-mail song suggestions to Cook and Metal Chris. "I consider myself a huge fan of many metal genres, but I have discovered a lot of awesome new bands as a result of the eclectic song and band requests," Cook says, pointing to Nekrogoblikon and Xibalba as two of his favorite obscure picks, while Slayer remains the most requested band. "That's the beauty of Heavy Metal Night: It brings together all sorts people with different tastes in metal, and we drink beer."