When I was in my early teens, I was trying to figure out my personal tastes and interests. I made it as far as: “I don’t like beans in my chili, and I REALLY like boobies.” But I was beginning to form an understanding of what I liked culturally as well. It was around that time, that late one night, as I laid in bed listening to 94.5, something…weird came through my speakers. It wasn’t the music of another Seattle Sounder, or the death rattle of an 80’s band trying desperately to remain relevant. It was angst, and passion, blues, and punk rock. It was like the love child of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Ramones made sweet, sweet love to Reverend Horton Heat. It hit all notes, musically, and emotionally. A wild man piped out sounds I didn’t know a person could make. He mispronounced things, he twanged and howled through choruses, the bass and drum being omnipresent, hypnotic, and relentless. The guitar riffs, piercing and visceral. That was the first time I heard “Possum Kingdom” by The Toadies. I was hooked.
I’m not alone in this. Hundreds of thousands of North Texas Nineties kids can testify that their life was somehow affected by the album “Rubberneck”. Unfortunately, most of us don’t talk so pretty, or write good, so we could never display our true appreciation for the band. We tried. Lord, how we tried. We bought the album on CD. And then, when our friend Chad, borrowed it, and returned it scratched beyond playable, we tried the toothpaste trick, and we didn’t talk to Chad for a week, and then we bought the album again. We screamed off-key lyrics, drunkenly at every one of our high-school parties, “…AND IF I’M ASLEEP…MAKE SURE MY BLANK-ET COVERS ME, YEAH!” (*breaks beer bottle, vomits, passes out in bushes). But, we could never truly find the proper way to thank the Toadies, for what their music meant to us.
That is, until Martin House Brewing did something pretty awesome. They created a tribute. They used their art, and their talents, in order to create something of a love letter to the Toadies, and allowed all of us to sign it. They first, created the “Rubberneck Red” amber ale, named after the seminal album. Then they followed that up with one of my favorite new beers, the “Bockslider” bock, playing off of, perhaps my favorite song of the album, “Backslider”. (It’s tied, by the way, for my favorite song on that album, with every f*cking song on that album). The brewery, that I’ve often referred to as “The Willy Wonka of the North Texas brew scene”, had created something of a “thank you”, for the band of our youth. And they did a great job.
“Rubberneck Red” is a bold, malty amber ale. Caramel notes in the taste, and a beautiful red color, are the predominant characteristics of the beer. But it’s much more than that. It’s several tastes. Some are at odds with each other and a, sort of, cacophony on the palate. There’s a piney, hop flavor, with some citrus, all being bear hugged, by a strong malt flavor. It’s rough around the edges, with a smooth, soulful feel. A truly apt and satisfying ale, to try and embody the feeling that album gave us. And with a reasonable ABV, most of us can maintain a healthy enough buzz to sing along during an encore: “…She PULLS the CUH-vurs TIGHT-ur, I press against the door…” And, if you don’t know what song that comes from, I think less of you as a person, and probably never really respected you in the first place.
My first taste of the “Bockslider” came as I stood behind the Martin House brewery. A motley assembly of music fans danced, and sang, and forgot lyrics, as the Toadies roared on an outdoor stage. Behind the band, the Fort Worth skyline was haunting, standing in stark contrast, before a dark North Texas storm cloud. It was a beautiful sight, and the perfect setting for me to taste the beer.
God, I love this beer. It pours a toffee-brown color, and tastes of “Sin and Salvation”. Malty, and sweet, without being too much of either. Molasses and a slight spice to the taste, it drinks like a conversation with an old, familiar friend. It’s easy, and comfortable, without trying too hard to be something it’s not. It feels like home. Much like the band’s music has always felt to us.
Martin House did something more than create some beautiful beers. You see, I don’t care what is on my mind. It could be a deep, philosophical quandary, such as, “Whatever happened to Haley Joel Osment?”, or an even more pressing matter, “do I have clean underwear for tomorrow?” Whatever it is that I’m thinking, as soon as “Bockslider” is ordered at the bar I tend, and I begin to pour it from the tap, my mind “Vin Diesel” hand-brakes all other cognitive function, and just begins internally sing-screaming: “WELL, I THREW UP MY HANDS, AND I HEARD ‘AMEN!’ AND I PRAYED SWEET JESUS, DON’T LET ME BECOME A BACKSLIDER!” And, that’s exactly the type of love letter that I think the Toadies would appreciate. To know that their art had such a profound impact on some little backwoods jackass, that to this very day, “Just one word” could conjure an emotion, a sense of nostalgia, and an impromptu sing-a-long inside my mind. So, thank you, Martin House, for giving us this opportunity to say: “Thank you, Toadies”.
P.S. Martin House, I would like to suggest, for your next release, perhaps an “I Burn” Rauchbier. I won’t even try to take any kind of financial compensation for my suggestion. I just need a life-time supply of free beer, and for you to make Vaden Todd Lewis be my best friend. You’re welcome.
Kevin Deweber is on the team at LUCK in Trinity Groves.