If you’re a hardcore Walking Dead and/or beer geek, then you’re probably already aware of the Athens, GA brewery Terrapin’s first collaboration with The Walking Dead comics and TV series, Blood Orange IPA. Somewhat similar in execution to another well-liked blood orange IPA in the Atlanta area, Burnt Hickory’s The Didjits, this first tie-in beer was an obvious move to make, given that the TV series is well known for filming in Atlanta. Living here, I can confirm that Atlanta is definitely a hot spot in terms of TWD geekdom, with bars hosting live screenings of new episodes, complete with photos of the cast framed on the wall.
Now, Terrapin has returned with a second, more limited Walking Dead collaboration, dedicated to the infamous barbed wire bat that has claimed the lives of several cast members. Negan’s “Lucille” is a “blackstrap molasses stout” that is brewed with vanilla and aged on a few varieties of neutral wood (not liquor barrels). Hickory, maple and white ash were chosen because they’re the three wood varieties used to produce baseball bats—a nice touch, in terms of attention to detail.
At 9.4% ABV, you kind of have to call this “imperial stout,” but it doesn’t really quite carry itself as one. It has the substantial body, but not quite the volume of flavor you might expect from reading the description. Instead, it’s ultimately more easy drinking than most other stouts in the same bracket.
On the nose, this beer is quite roast-forward, with a deep, smoky roast profile and plenty of coffee, ‘ala French roast or espresso. There’s a hint of brown sugar, but not nearly as much suggestion of sweetness as I would expect from something with “molasses” on the label. You also get some light vanilla, but not much in the way of wood on the nose.
On the palate, it becomes more apparent that this beer had some wood aging, but it’s still on the reserved side—a supporting player that isn’t trying to upstage anything. Again, roast is big, with a smoky tone to it that is probably derived mostly via malt but partially via wood—think campfire, but not intense or oppressive, with highlights of bittersweet dark chocolate. As in the aroma, it’s really quite dry—the molasses has presumably fermented out more or less completely. On one level, that’s a good thing, because the last thing I want here is a syrupy mess that just tastes like “natural flavor” tincture, but on another level I can’t help but think that the average person picking this up will be looking for a little bit more residual sweetness.
Terrapin makes some very good stouts—their Wake & Bake just scored at #27 out of 102 non-barrel-aged stouts in our recent blind tasting—but this one has trouble being as memorable or crowd pleasing as either that stout or their variants on the milk stout Moo-Hoo. It’s easier to recommend if you want your stouts dry and roasty, but a more assertive, bigger flavor profile might have gone a long way toward realizing the OOMPH possessed by the weapon that is its inspiration.
But that won’t stop us from brandishing it as intended:
Brewery: Terrapin Beer Co.
City: Athens, GA
Style: Imperial stout /w molasses and vanilla
Availability: 500 ml bottles
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer. You can follow him on Twitter for much more beer coverage, and probably some Walking Dead coverage as well.