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Horns and Hops!

 

Brew top 


By Mark McKellar

 

Ryan Messenger, Travis Michael Vrba, Jason Fitzgerald White IPA brew timeHeavy metal and craft beer ~ even if you’re not an expert on either (and I’m guessing a lot of our FlashWounds readers have at least a very healthy appreciation for both), it’s hard to argue that the two aren’t made for each other and more than likely to show up at the same place at the same time.    

But for Within the Ruins’ guitarist Joe Cocchi (top left), the music and beer are much more than simply happy bedfellows; they represent a lifestyle, an adventure, and an entrepreneurial spirit that Joe shares with his brother and a childhood friend.  The trio hopes to capitalize on that entrepreneurial passion that courses through their veins, but also takes seriously maintaining integrity in the business side of things and never losing sight of the element of fun and, if all continues to go well, on getting to fulfill their lifelong dream. 

Earlier this year, the three started brewing beer together in Joe’s kitchen in Western MA. In May, they founded Tin Bridge Brewing, moved to a much larger location, and will soon be launching a line of craft brews created for the metal community (although everyone is invited…no, encouraged!…to enjoy the many beers that Tin Bridge already has ready for release.


Joe

Joe


As a fan of Within the Ruins and craft beer, I was for a brief moment that kid in the front of the class with his hand raised, saying “Ooh, pick me, pick me,” and it worked, since my Editor handed me the assignment, which involved just what I had hoped it would:  getting to sit down with Joe and sure, cover the main topics for this article, but also see where the conversation took us. So we talked about music. We talked about beer. We talked about family business. But primarily (and most personally), we talked about how closely all of these elements are intertwined in Joe’s life now more than ever.

Within PhenomWithin the Ruins formed while Joe and drummer Kevin McGuill were still in high school. They began touring in 2006, and were first signed to heavy hitters Victory Records in 2009. Since then, the band has released 3 EPs, 4 studio albums (Phenomena ~ July 2014, E1 Music ~ is their most recent, and it’s been earning high marks from the industry’s heavy hitters), toured the world, developed a fiercely devoted fan base, and charted as high as #11 on Billboard’s Hard Music charts and the Top 200 charts at #72.



Joe recognized almost immediately exactly how much work it takes to be a successful band.


“Everyone has their role in the band. I was pretty much…The guy in the band who took care of everything, and babysat everyone. I worked my ass off.”

Even after WTR signed with Victory, the pace and amount of work required never eased up. And for the entire time the band was signed to the hardcore/metal label, Joe continued to take on the lion’s share of all that responsibility. Now, the band is managed by Scott Lee, the man behind, amongst other things, the annual New England Metal and Hardcore Festival, and someone who knows how to navigate the business, look out for, keep control of, and promote his bands, and basically do things right.  But there was no Scott Lee managing the band while they were at Victory.


Within the Ruins, 2014

Within the Ruins, 2014

 

“We were without management all the way up until 2011/2012. We never had management. So, I was basically taking on that role too. Every day, emails back and forth, this and that, you know. It was just 100% working on the band.”

In today’s music industry, a band stands a chance of succeeding only if they think of and conduct themselves as a small business. And, just like entrepreneurs in all other lines of work, musicians must be able ~ and willing ~ to wear a number of hats, usually all at once. More than simply being masters of their instruments, musicians now have to be able to play the role of booking agent, publicist, and manager and handle a variety of jobs including marketing, keeping the finances straight, and delivering projections. Knowing that the person in the band who assumed the role of manager ~ willingly or by default ~ had to have a more than solid understanding of all the aforementioned business functions and more,  I asked Joe if while growing up he’d had any experience in small business, maybe even a family business. His answer didn’t surprise me at all.

“My father is a contractor and has been for 35 years, my uncle is a plumbing contractor. I had a few other jobs here and there growing up, but I’ve always been working for my father… It’s made me who I am.”  And a major part of Joe is a leader, realistic but determined and dedicated to his vision.

Metal horns up after a solid night of brewing!

Metal horns up after a solid night of brewing!

So with Tin Bridge as with Within the Ruins, Joe is hoping to launch a business and watch it grow ~ which it has already done, going from concept to a great way to destroy a kitchen to a legitimate, productive brewery.

“Within the Ruins is our business, and it didn’t start off that way. We knew it could possibly be something. But yeah, it take steps, and you get to certain points when you realize, wait a minute. This is actually something. We need to actually file taxes. This is actually becoming something, holy shit. It’s slowly turned into a legitimate business, as well as something we enjoy.”

Let’s go back for a minute to the organic union between heavy metal and craft beer. When you think about it, both are for a very specific type of consumer ~ they’re niche markets, unlike pop music and Budweiser, both of which are marketing to the masses. Also, both have seen a recent surge in popularity and thus an increase in production and revenue. In 2013, craft beer represented a 14.3% dollar share of the $100 billion U.S. beer market, up almost 20% from 2012. Similarly, in 2013 heavy metal represented 10.2% of the almost 300 million albums sold in the US, which is higher than the genre had ranked in almost a decade.

With, I wondered if the recent growth in both industries could have anything to do with the parallel accessibility of and growth in home production. Musicians now use programs like Pro Tools quite regularly, allowing them to record at least pre-production versions of their work at home, taking the expense of studio time and engineers out of the equation and giving them some additional control over their sound. Likewise, more people than ever are trying their hand at home brewing, which allows them to control and experiment with flavors, alcohol content, etc.  ~ which is exactly how Tin Bridge was born.

Good harvest of hops over the weekend!

Good harvest of hops over the weekend!

“I’ve been interested in craft beer since I can remember. It’s kind of always been our [Joe’s close friends and family] thing. We’d go out and grab like six or seven 22s of different types of beer you haven’t seen, you know? Because the flavors, the names, the labels, it’s just cool. There are so many different things out there. So that was kind of our thing on the weekends,” Joe recalled.

“One night, we went out to the bar, and we got back, and I think we had a couple of Wormtown porters or something at this bar, and it was just like, incredible. So we sat down at a computer and we go, ‘Let’s order one of those beer kits.’ This was like a long time ago. And it came, and we made a one gallon beer kit in my kitchen, and we had a great time!”

So what about with music? Did Joe agree that the availability of information and technological advancements have helped give a boost to the heavy metal/metalcore sectors of the music industry?

“Yup, absolutely!…And I mean yeah, I can of course relate to that too because I just did our newest album. I engineered and tracked and recorded it all at my home studio… You can make some pretty killer sounding demos or albums or whatever on a pretty small budget nowadays because of obviously, the computer advancements. It’s ridiculous.”

Smoked Chipotle Porter recipe is finalized; Tin Bridge will be brewing up and kegging 60 gallons of this for the winter!  Malts: 2-row, 6-row, smoked, black, special roast Hops: Centennial, Cascade, Willamette

Smoked Chipotle Porter recipe is finalized; Tin Bridge will be brewing up and kegging 60 gallons for the winter!
Malts: 2-row, 6-row, smoked, black, special roast
Hops: Centennial, Cascade, Willamette

Within the Ruins’ latest album, Phenomena (July 2014, E1 Music), reached #11 on Billboard’s Hard Music Charts and charged into the top 200 Charts at #72. Over the fall and winter, they will be hitting the road in the US with Born of Osiris, then heading up to Canada before hitting Europe and Russia in January and February.  Click here for tour dates and here to order the album.

I’m looking forward to seeing them at the very beginning of the Born of Osiris tour on November 3rd at The Palladium in Worcester, and hell yeah, you had better believe I plan to meet up with Joe and try one of Tin Bridge’s creations!


Cheers!

Within tour poster
facebook.com/Tinbridgebrewing


tinbridgebrewing.com (coming soon)


facebook.com/withintheruins


withintheruinsofficial.com


Very special thanks to Brian Kucharski 

One Comment

  1. Joe is my nephew and he is the bomb. He is so talented with his music and now with yet,
    another new talent.. Beer Master.. Killer Beer. Killer Band.. What a Talent.. I’m proud to be
    Joe’s and brother Nick’s uncle.

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