Toadies’ Texas Grunge Pairs with Craft Beer Americana on New Album “Heretics”
The movie Dream a Little Dream, while admittedly not a paragon of filmmaking, holds a special place in my heart. It was one of my most often watched movies during my high school years. A couple of days ago, I introduced my daughter to it. That’s one of the joys of parenting – foisting your own childhood’s pop culture onto the next generation. This is why I was excited when I heard that the Toadies were releasing an album containing some new songs as well as retooled old favorites. I get to “trick” my kids into falling in love with a band from my youth without them realizing that’s what I’m doing, until I spring it on them after the fact, that their old man listened to the band while in college. Even better — proving that I can squeeze more than one application out of a single anecdote — similar to how the characters in Dream a Little Dream had their old age and youth cosmically intertwined, Heretics, the latest album from the Toadies, intertwines the music genre of my past with the music genre of my present.
The Toadies have taken their alternative rock and grunge from the mid-1990s and sunk it deep into the roots of Americana. The Texas-fueled grunge of the Toadies experienced a breakthrough in 1995 with the song “Possum Kingdom” from their album Rubberneck. That breakthrough reached my ears all the way in South Carolina, where I was attending college. As stated, I love, among other musical genres, early and mid-’90s-styled alternative rock, and I became a big fan of the Toadies. However, as much as I may desire to do so, I’m not going to make an argument for the artistic merit of grunge music, at least not in this article. I am going to tell everyone that Heretics, showcasing the band’s embrace of roots music, is even better than the version of Toadies that was receiving radio play in 1995.
The band’s lyrics have always steered in my preferred direction – narrative. Their biggest hit, the aforementioned “Possum Kingdom,” which has an enhanced iteration on Heretics, is styled as the follow-up to a macabre Texas folk tale about cult members immolating themselves. Granted “delightful” is probably not the descriptor of choice for “Possum Kingdom,” but while listening to the song, it’s easy to picture the band regaling delighted listeners as they drink beer together on a sweltering Texas front porch. Which helps explain why, from my very first listen, I knew that Heretics deserved to be paired with excellent craft beer.
As with all of my beer/album pairings, keep in my mind that there are many beers that will pair well with the songs. Please share, using the comment section below, which beers you’ve found pair well with tracks from Heretics. And, as always, don’t try to drink all of the suggested beers in one sitting by yourself; invite some friends over and enjoy excellent beer and music together.
“In the Belly of a Whale”
Heretics’ first track, “In the Belly of a Whale,” is a new song, but it’s so good that I swear that I’ve been listening to it for years. The official press release for the album states that Heretics includes “new songs and fan favorites.” Well, I would imagine that “In the Belly of a Whale” will quickly cross from “new song” to “fan favorite,” if it hasn’t already. Reflecting on “In the Belly of a Whale,” Clark Vogeter, who plays electric piano on it, stated in an interview with Texas Music Scene that, since it’s the loudest song on Heretics, it “bridges the gap from the old material and the new, more restrained material.” That thought, combined with the song’s wonderfully funky bass line, means that Mystery Brewing Company’s Annabel Black Saison will pair quite well with Heretics’ opening track. A funky, old-world farmhouse ale that does its own bridging between old and new via the bold innovation of one of North Carolina’s premiere and boldest craft breweries, the Annabel is a beer that will keep deliciously surprising over and over again.
This song opens with a gorgeous mandolin that is quickly followed by electric piano, establishing a beautiful melody that stays with you long after “Tyler” has stopped playing. “Tyler” is a love story in the tradition of boy-gets-girl-and-can’t-believe-how-lucky-he-is. And after drinking the Two Women Lager from New Glarus Brewing Company, you’ll be left with the giddy feeling of good fortune that comes from finally finding a delicious full-flavored lager. The fear of losing that much deliciousness combined with utter drinkability will cause you to bribe your Wisconsin friends to ship you as much of it as they can get away with; you will also sing the praises of the Two Women Lager to whomever you meet.
“Heart of Glass”
This may be heresy, but I much prefer the Toadies’ cover to Blondie’s original. There is a grounded fullness in this version that is lacking in the new wave hit from the ’80s. Vaden Todd Lewis’ vocals contain nuance that give the lyrics more emotional depth than is probably deserved. Hopefully that’s not taken as a diss, because this is my second-favorite track on Heretics, plus, my wife loves it. In honor of my wife loving the Toadies’ cover of “Heart of Glass,” and the fact that the band makes the song better than it should be, I’m going to do something that surprises even me – I’m going to pair “Heart of Glass” with a fruit beer. But not any fruit beer, mind you. No, Founders Rubaeus, a raspberry ale, is one of the standards of fruit beers. Which shouldn’t come as a shock since Founders Brewing Company is one of craft beer’s seminal breweries.
Most people, even if they aren’t familiar with the Toadies, have heard “Possum Kingdom.” I doubt, however, that most of those same people would’ve guessed that the band reworked the song into a stripped-down masterpiece that has a hefty alt-country vibe. Those changes brought several moving parts into the picture when selecting a beer to pair with “Possum Kingdom” – the beer needs to be familiar, yet take the drinker by surprise; it definitely has to be robust and filling; not to mention that “Possum Kingdom” deserves a beer that is downright delicious. Of course, all of that fails to take into account that, based on the song’s thematic content, dark and brooding are adjectives that should probably describe the beer paired with “Possum Kingdom.” Finding a beer that fits all those requirements isn’t necessarily an easy task; thankfully, the talented folks at Westbrook Brewing Company have gifted the world with Udderly Stout.
If you couldn’t guess from the name, Udderly Stout is a milk stout. Now, the fact that I generally turn my nose up to milk stouts may require a bit of an oversimplified beer history lesson. Milk stouts, being a great way to deliver nutrients safely, were designed for the elderly and the infirm; that teleology is usually apparent in the mouthfeel and flavor profile. Not Westbrook Brewing Company’s milk stout, though. The Udderly Stout, while still retaining creamy milk notes, is a bold, flavorful stout containing a dark richness that belongs alongside the best stouts on the market.
There will come a point during your probably fun and raucous porch sitting, music listening, and beer drinking when you and your friends will stop talking, choosing instead to sit back and simply enjoy good music and good beer. “The Appeal” comes along at the right time for that exact purpose. A laid back, stripped down song on an already stripped down album, “The Appeal” has a soothing ponderousness that will cause you to want to float in that moment with your friends for much longer than the moment will actually last. Take heart, you can always hit “repeat.” However, before you hit “play” on “The Appeal” for the first time, make sure that you’ve poured everyone a pint of Bells Two Hearted Ale. Deserving to be savored and enjoyed alongside a contemplative track, it’s hard to find a better IPA than Two Hearted Ale from the famed Michigan brewery.
As a bonus, the next track, “Dollskin,” can serve to function as a continuation of the moment of quietly enjoying good beer and good music; no need to rush drinking the Bells Two Hearted Ale. That leaves six tracks unpaired. No worries. Explore pairing your favorite beers with the remaining songs. This may require several listens of Heretics, which won’t be a problem. Demonstrating musical vulnerability alongside the ability to masterfully weave together genres, the Toadies have produced an album in Heretics, scheduled to be released on September 18th, which will undoubtedly make the regular music listening rotation of many music fans.
 A similar thing can be said of Sturgill Simpson’s cover of When In Rome’s “The Promise.” A cover that I absolutely love, by the way.
 FWIW: “In the Belly of a Whale” is my favorite.
 My wife will only drink fruit beer, and she rarely likes the same music as me.