“This is the best year of my life – it truly, truly is,” says Dave Mustaine, relaxing at his Nashville home during a well-deserved month-long break from the road. Given how Mustaine’s withering snarl has fired such classic Megadeth tracks as “Peace Sells,” “Hangar 18,” and “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due,” it’s a little jarring to hear that same voice making such a nakedly sunny admission. And yet, Megadeth’s main man has ample reason to be feeling good these days.
Dystopia, the legendary thrash metal band’s fifteenth studio album, was released in January 2016 to massive acclaim, with fans and critics alike hailing it as the best Megadeth record in years, and maybe even decades. A massively successful world tour followed, capped by the band – which had never won a Grammy Award, despite being nominated eleven times – finally taking home the Best Metal Performance award this February for Dystopia’s title track. “When they say you can’t have something, it just makes you want it more,” Mustaine chuckles.
But the Grammy is not the only prestigious award Mustaine has received this year. In March, Megadeth’s first foray into craft beer – À Tout le Monde, an easy-drinking Belgian-style saison ale, created by Unibroue’s Jerry Vietz with input from Mustaine – won a “Best Saison” Gold Medal, a 93 score and a rating of “Exceptional” from the Beverage Testing Institute in Chicago.
“We’ve been doing really well with our alcohol business,” says Mustaine, who has also teamed up with Fallbrook Winery’s Vernon Kindred to create Mustaine Vineyards [http://mustainevineyards.com], which offers several well-regarded limited-edition varietals. “I think the most important thing is, it’s not about making money off of it; it’s about what you like – and if you really, really like it, it doesn’t matter if it wins an award or not. But if it does win an award, it’s just icing on the cake!”
With the Grammy win blowing new wind into Megadeth’s sails, the band is gearing up for a three-week North American tour with Meshuggah, Tesseract, and Lillake, followed by a month-long tour of Europe, and then a fall tour of North America in which the band will open for Teutonic metal vets The Scorpions. “Which I’m super excited about,” Mustaine says, “because I’ve been a fan of the Scorps since I was a kid.” We raise a glass of À Tout le Monde to all of that, as Mustaine takes a few minutes out of his busy schedule to talk to us about beer.
Congratulations on À Tout le Monde winning a gold medal. I never thought I’d hear myself saying, “Megadeth has an award-winning beer,” but here we are…
Yeah, thank you. That was something that was quite a surprise. I don’t really know a lot about the beer business, yet; I’m learning as quickly as I can. This isn’t something that I plan on just doing and getting in and getting out. This is something that our family wants to do. [I want] to learn more about the contests, the competition, how they do it, because that’s a whole other facet of the business. There’s the making, there’s the way to serve it, there’s the drinking, but then there’s the other stuff, the fun part, when you’re going up against some of the other breweries. “My dog’s better than your dog, my dad can beat your dad up,” that kind of stuff. [Laughs]
Whose idea was it to make a Megadeth beer?
It was my brilliant wife’s idea. When we were in San Diego, back when we lived in Fallbrook, I had to do the symphony thing [a 2014 performance with the San Diego Symphony], and she had mentioned us having something to kind of lighten the atmosphere. Because the two worlds were obviously universes apart, with the classical people and the metal people all converging to see what was happening… The metal fans showed up in their tuxedos, and the classical subscribers showed up in their leather jackets [laughs], and it was super-cute to see all that stuff. And my wife was right – alcohol was the social lubricant that got everybody kind of talking to one another, and it was just an amazing night for everybody. When it was all over, we had sold two pallets of wine in under 48 hours…
You’re talking about the Symphony Interrupted Cabernet?
Yes, the very first wine we did, the cabernet sauvignon that we did. I think it was a 2012 bottling, and the orchestra concert was in 2014, so the wine was a couple years old already, and people loved it. We still have a little, teeny bit left in our private collection, but it’s not for sale to anybody. We’re saving that for ourselves.
So moving into beer was a natural progression from there?
The beer idea germinated because, in the middle of the day, if I’m thirsty, the idea of having a room temperature red wine doesn’t fit the bill, if you know what I mean. [Laughs] And I’m not a big mixed-drink kind of guy, so a cold beer during the day when it’s really hot is great. And I don’t really like to drink a lot of beer, because I’m 55; I’m really, really grateful that I have been able to maintain my health, and that I don’t look like a bloated, dead rock star.
So I try to watch what I consume – especially, you know, with so many fans that we have that look up to people like me. When I was going through the really crazy years, my role as a role model didn’t really matter at all to me; now, I’m really proud of who I am, and the role that I play. I want to be a good influence to people and show them that they can do anything they want to do, no matter what it is, as long as they put their mind to it…
Just like you, I would never have thought that Dave Mustaine would have a beer company. But when the idea came, and we went up to Quebec and I met Jerry [from Unibroue], it was like I had known this guy for years. He had a bunch of bottles of beer; I sampled some of them and said, “I like this one” — and he said, “Oh, you can’t have that one, because that’s our new blah-blah-blah.” [Laughs] So the next time we met, he had another round of stuff, and I said, “Well, I like this and I like that, and I don’t like this about that.” So the next time we met, it was pretty much narrowed down to three bottles, and they were still kind of green, because they hadn’t had a chance to set up.
With À Tout le Monde, we only do one fermentation per batch; we don’t use yeast for more than one batch. Other companies will sometimes use their yeast for upwards of a hundred batches, I’ve been told; but we only do one, so it keeps all of its characteristics pure. And I love the fact too that there are spices in it – and if you know to turn the bottle upside down and turn it three times, that you release even more of the characteristics of the beer. That’s a really cool story to tell people when you’re serving it: “Hey, turn it upside down, spin it three times, pour half of it, and swish it around even more at the bottom. It’s gonna taste even better!”
Dave Mustaine — craft beer aficionado!
Yeah, and here I am, remembering when I was 14 years old and stealing my mom’s Meisterbrau – or you’d open up the fridge and there would be a six pack of the white cans with the four blue letters that said “BEER” on them, because we were so poor. [Laughs]
You drank generic beer?
Ohhh yeah. But I honestly believe that if you haven’t drunk Meisterbrau or some of that generic beer, you haven’t lived. You’ve gotta drink some of that really raunchy stuff that they have on tap in old bars in Wisconsin, stuff like Iron Gut or Steel Colon. [Laughs]
It’s not like, “Pound this stuff down, get loaded, I don’t care about you, I’m not building a relationship with you.””
When did you become interested in better beer?
You know, it’s just been a new thing. When we moved out here to Nashville, there were all these new and hip and trendy to places with craft beers. And I was like, “I don’t know anything about these craft beers. Heck, I’ll check it out and see if there’s anything there.” One of my friends would get the beer that was made it a whiskey barrel, and then another friend of mine would get a beer that was made with grapefruit juice. And some of this stuff was so awful. It was like, “Here, try this – it’s bubblegum beer!” [Laughs]
There are a plenty of musicians involved with craft beer these days, but so many band-related microbrews seem to be super-hoppy or overly “flavored”.
Yeah. It’s not subtle — it screams.
But that’s not the case at all with your beer, which really is quite subtle and refreshing. Going into this, was a saison was something you were specifically interested in making?
I didn’t even know what a saison was. We were really open to the whole process; they [Unibroue] said that it was something that traditionally was made by Belgian Monks to be served during the summer months, so its main focus was for refreshment, and it’s not super-heavy in alcohol content. And I thought, “Well, shit – I don’t want to make ‘homewrecker’ beer.” It is important that if I say, “Have a good time, have some cold beer,” if I’m going to encourage someone to have some, I also have to remind them to drink responsibly. It’s not like, “Pound this stuff down, get loaded, I don’t care about you, I’m not building a relationship with you.”
Yeah, it’s definitely not a “Let’s get fucking wasted!” kind of beer.
It’s got a very distinct taste to it. It would be a waste [to chug it] — it would be like gobbling filet mignon. [Laughs]
You named the beer after your 1994 song “À Tout le Monde,” though I’m sure you could have called the beer by any one of a hundred Megadeth-related puns — Countdown to Inebriation, etc.
[Laughs] Yeah, there were a lot. There were some that were really good, too, like Rust In Yeast, Distilling is My Business… but yeah, I heard a lot of ‘em. See, the thing with Unibroue is that they have history with all of their different beers that has something to do with their French-Canadian heritage. Now, my last name is French, so obviously there’s some French heritage, and my father’s side came down from Canada and into Ohio.
So there was that history, but we also had the history of the song, “À Tout Le Monde,” which had a chorus in French, and which was in the Quebec Music Hall of Fame there, unbeknownst to myself; it was a huge fan favorite there. So we had that connection, and we called it À Tout Le Monde. But the simple version is, it’s called À Tout Le Monde because it’s for everybody – we want everyone to try it.
Do you have another beer in the works with Unibroue?
We’re talking about a new recipe. But, you know, the success of À Tout Le Monde has been so overwhelming; we were focusing on the United States and Canada, but it’s gone [global]. They’re just really excited to be partners with me, as I am with Unibroue; I love the company, and I love being an ambassador for them. I think they’re great people, and I think that the way they make their product is incredible. During my search for a beer company, I did see some other breweries; some of them were really good, and some of them left a lot to be desired. But Unibroue, for me, was exactly what I wanted.