What does it taste like to be dead? Drink this beer and find out. That's the surprise selling pitch of Walker, a new brew from Philadelphia's Dock Street Brewing Company that tries to reproduce the musky rotmouth of zombies. And for added legitimacy? Walker is brewed with a special ingredient: brains.
"Our tagline is 'It's All In Your Head!' says Marilyn Candelero, Dock Street's head of marketing. "With Walker, we've created a beer where that's literally true."
It's a strange recipe, to be sure. Created by Dock Street's Head Brewer Justin Low and representative Sasha Certo-Ware, Walker is a love letter written in 7.8% ABV to the hit AMC show, The Walking Dead.
"Sasha and I are big fans of The Walking Dead," Low tells Co.Design. "Every Monday, Sasha would come in to help, and we'd talk about the episode from the night before. Eventually, we thought it would be fun to create a zombie-inspired beer that imparted the mouth feel of being dead."
So what does it taste like to be dead? Very much like a smoky stout, if Dock Street's interpretation is anything to go by.
Made with chocolate and dark roasted malts, the Walker brew has a slightly acidic aftertaste. "We wanted that tartness you can taste when you cut your finger and then suck on it," says Low. This tartness is imparted by the use of cranberries; as a bonus, it also helps give a freshly poured Walker its hemoglobulous appearance. In color, Walker is blood red. But it's the addition of brains that is Walker's real je ne said quoi.
Founded in 1985, the Dock Street Brewery is no strange to weird concoctions: some of their eccentric past brews include the Prisoner of Hell Aged on Chili Peppers, A Beer Four All Seasons Truffled Old Ale, the Bubbly Wit, and Spanglish Fly. Despite their experience with unique brews, however, putting brains in beer still presented a unique challenge to Dock Street.
"When you're brewing, any ingredient with a lot of fat and oils in it can complicate the process," says Low. "We wanted to see how the lipids and the fats in brains would break down, but still didn't want to complicate the recipe too much."
In the end, Dock Street decided to use locally sourced goats brains in Walker, which the brewers roasted in an on-premise brick pizza oven to give a smoky flavor. They then added the brains during the sparging phase of the brewing process, making sure that whatever flavor the brains impart remains an undercurrent, not overpowering. "In the end, it probably works out to about one brain per barrel," Low says.
After the recipe was perfected, it was up in the air for months whether or not the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau—the federal organization that governs the beers breweries could sell—would even allow a brain-filled stout on the market. They did, but it took awhile: although Walker was originally created as a way for the brewery to celebrate the fourth season premiere of The Walking Dead, getting the recipe approved delayed the beer's released until the season finale instead.
The Dock Street Brewing Company will be hosting a showing of The Walking Dead season finale this Sunday, March 30 at their brewery, where pints of Walker will be available on draft. Drink enough of them, and the next morning your mouth won't just taste like something died in it: you'll go to work like a zombie, too.