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The Beer Fox

March 31 2014

“Head” Brewer Mashes Brains into Beer

Justin Low, “Head” brewer at Dock Street Brewery in Philadelphia, mashed a new blend of madness into what truly defines Extreme Beer by adding brains to the brewkettle. The idea may seem a bit intense for the faint-of-heart, but Dock Street took off at breakneck speed to slam the trump card on the deck with Walker, an American Pale Stout that glows blood red in the glass, just in time for the season finale of The Walking Dead on AMC.

Not human brains, mind you. You won’t see barrels marked “Abby Normal” in the lab at Dock Street brewpub. But the viscous red body will surely make you wonder what Low may have put in your glass. Still holding your breath?

Celebrating the mutant zombies of The Walking Dead Series, Justin Low and Brewery Representative Sasha Certo-Ware put their heads together to give life to a beer that would be a worthy proponent for the 4th season finale of the wildly popular show. As an American Pale Stout, the beer style is a bit of a mutant itself, brewed with malted wheat, oats, flaked barley, Fuggles hops and – here’s the weird part – roasted goat brains. Conditioning with organic cranberries imparts a scintillating vermillion shimmer. The brains add a smoky profile to the pale stout (a hybrid sister to brown ale), while cranberry adds tartness to the bitter finish.

It may seem a bit “brewtal,” even for an extreme beer, but this is not the first time brewers have unleashed their radical whip on the beer-drinking public. You may recall when Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware had his entire staff chewing Peruvian corn for a beer he called Chicha. Following South American traditions, Chicha’s special ingredient was the human saliva of the chewers. The enzymatic action of spit, added to chewed corn, catalyzed the starches into maltose, just before boiling.

Wynkoop Brewery of Denver gave new meaning to the phrase “beer nuts” when they made Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout using bull testicles as a prime ingredient. AleSmith Brewing of California hit the headlines with Speedway Stout made with Kopi Luwak, coffee seeds found in clumps of fecal matter left by the Asian Palm Civet in coffee plantations and the surrounding jungles. Not to be outdone, Dogfish Head came out with ChocLobster, brewed with 40-50 crushed Maine lobsters and cocoa nibs. Uncommon Brewers of California featured Bacon Brown Ale, made with – you guessed it – real bacon to highlight the smokiness of Rauchbier, without wood treatment in a smokehouse.

In less extreme conditioning, brewers have been known to add hot peppers, tobacco, licorice root, chickory, and oysters to different styles of beer. Tomme Arthur of the Lost Abbey in California says, “A lot of beers are brewed for esoteric sake,” implying that not all extreme beers are worthy of a place on the top shelf.

When these weird ingredients work to enhance flavor, as in the case of Dock Street Walker, they awaken curiosity in the zombies that have been slamming down light lagers for a lifetime. Dock Street has drawn a lot of PR from this little beer, which is only available in limited quantities at the brewpub or in 2-bottle limits on March 30, 2014, the day of release. Dock Street Walker has captured the imagination of newscasters on E! News, the Today Show, Canada’s CTV National News, ABC News, and headlines in newspapers and blogs across the country. It has even hypnotized European audiences in the UK, Germany and Spain, to those as far away as Australasia.

As the Walking Dead celebratory beer, Dock Street Walker made a noble partner with other Dock Street beers on draught, including the ever-popular Prisoner of Hell, Man Full of Trouble, and Stoker’s Red. It turns out that “Bohemians,” as Dock Street regulars are affectionately called, know how to kill a keg in style.

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