Beer Review: Terrapin’s Walking Dead Blood Orange IPA
All photos by Kevin Gibson. It’s good to have friends with connections. My friend Jessica heard about Athens, Ga.-based Terrapin Beer Co.’s Walking Dead Blood Orange IPA and set to work, contacting a friend in Tennessee where this elusive beer would likely be distributed.
She scored, even volunteering to drive south to make the pick-up. I’ve been calling her Jess Capone in honor of her bootlegging skills ever since. But I digress.
She brought me back some of this intriguing red IPA with the zombie terrapin on the label and the official Walking Dead logo (graphic novel version), and I almost wanted to keep it only for display purposes. But hey, there’s beer inside, and the bottle will still look the same empty.
I poured the IPA into a tulip glass, and to say it is red is an understatement. Actually, it doesn’t look far off from a porter – black, but with red hues. It was topped with a medium, creamy tan head, with plenty of carbonation. So far, so good.
What I did notice is that the aroma was a bit understated, which surprised me. I sensed the roasted malts, those being 2-Row Pale, Crystal 45, 65 and 85, to provide a depth of flavor, but got little from the hops in the nose. The aroma was sweet and earthy. Now, had this been a lightly-hopped beer, that wouldn’t have surprised me, but Walking Dead Blood Orange IPA blends Summit, CTZ, Cascade, Centennial, Zythos, Calypso, Citra, and Lemondrop. And not lightly, as the IBU comes in at 73.
What I finally realized is that, because the beer is labeled an IPA, I was expecting hop-forwardness, probably because of the prevalence of hoppy, bitter and floral IPAs currently dominating the market. It was beer bias brought on by my buying into the culture.
So I took a step back. Given that this beer is built on malts usually associated with stouts and porters, I decided to simply take this IPA for what it was trying to be. As I took the first drink, I noticed a hint of nuttiness, but still mostly was getting the roasted malt. Finally, the back of my palate caught onto the piney hop finish, which gives way to a bit of tannic acidity.
As I took a few more drinks, the beer developed into a lingering flavor reminiscent of dark chocolate. And as that developed, the chocolaty bitterness took shape with the hop spice and bitterness to form a circle of sorts. Imagine a beer that bore a vague similarity to pairing dark chocolate with a peppery red wine, and you’re close.
I did notice that the dried blood orange peel was barely present; my guess is it was added more to drop the word “blood” into the beer than to enhance the flavor profile. But it was there, and it began to come through in the nose as I sipped.
As the medium-bodied brew persisted and pleased – I kept thinking it was more like a hoppy porter than a red IPA, and Jess agreed – I realized that rather than try to judge it as an IPA, I should do exactly what I set out to do, and simply judge it as it is. Hey, I’m no brewer, and I’m certainly no beer judge; I’m of the mind that if you like it, drink it.
For this Sunday’sWalking Dead mid-season finale, I’m kind of hoping for cold weather where I live, because I have a couple bottles left (it is available in 22-ounce bombers), and one of them will make a really nice, warming sipper to take me into the mid-season break. And at a manageable 6.75 percent ABV, it won’t dull my zombie-fighting senses. Heck, I might even enjoy both of them.
Finding it in your area might be tricky. As we reported when the beer release was announced, Terrapin’s website lists distributors throughout the south as well as along the east coast; I’m in Louisville, Ky., which is why Jess Capone had to sneak some into the state from Tennessee. But if you are a Walking Dead fan, it’s worth a try. And you can always display the bottle after you drink it.