Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Zombie Monkie

Tallgrass Brewing Company
Manhattan, KS

Style: Porter
ABV: 6.2%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

Nigel’s feeling apocalyptic, and it’s not just because it’s a foggy, windy Halloween night in the Midwest and I’m actually writing a beer review. Au contraire, bonjour (that’s all the French I know). I’m feeling apocalyptic because I’m drinking something that the brewer refers to as a “post-apocalyptic porter.”

And it’s called Zombie Monkie. Freakin’ awesome!

A few reasons why I chose Zombie Monkie to review:

1) It is in fact Halloween, and I’m all about drinking spooky, seasonal ales to celebrate. Beer is FAR better than candy corn or freakishly small Snickers bars as an accompaniment to the horror films I’ve been watching, such as “The Hangover Part II & III” (seriously … they’re so bad it’s scary).
2) It’s from Kansas. Not sure why that matters.
3) Zombie Monkie. ZOMBIE MONKIE!!! Enough said.

Zombie Monkie comes to us from the folks at Tallgrass Brewing Co. in Manhattan, Kansas, a city that is proud to be called “The Little Apple” and is home to Kansas State University, a university that is world renowned for absolutely nothing. Founded in 2007, Tallgrass has been rapidly gaining market share in the past two years and their 16-ounce cans are now found all over the Midwest.

It intrigues me to review a beer from Kansas, as in both 2011 and again this past spring, the better half and I saw plenty of the Sunflower State, coming away unimpressed for the most part. Save for the extreme generosity showed to us this spring when we popped a flat tire in the middle of nowhere (Rolla, Kansas … Google it) and met some of the nicest rural folk one could imagine, there’s not much there. We did break the law while crashing for a night in Salina, where the sign in the hotel lobby proclaimed all carry-in alcoholic beverages in hotels illegal. Five beers later, Nigel’s still a free man.

Tallgrass seems to be jumping on the pop culture bandwagon, as zombies are the “it” thing right now, finally replacing those annoying “vampires” that looked like Luke Perry circa 1993 and weren’t scary at all. Nigel has long been a zombie fan, beginning with many a late night in college playing “Resident Evil” when I should have been studying. In 2004, the remake of George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” was one of my favorite flicks, directed by Zak Snyder and set in Nigel’s backyard (if you’ve ever been to a mall in Milwaukee, you can understand the context). “Shaun of the Dead” was an excellent spoof of the genre a few years later, and the final scenes set in a British pub were most enjoyable. Currently, I’m one of many who are obsessed with “The Walking Dead,” a spectacularly entertaining show that is not lacking in gore.

I first sampled Tallgrass ales last year, as their standard lineup popped up out of nowhere in the Milwaukee market and began spreading like an unknown virus that causes one to lose all … oh, crap. I think I see where this is going. Until recently, I considered Tallgrass offerings to be solid but unspectacular. Buffalo Sweat is a tasty stout, decent but nothing special. 8 Bit Ale is a standard American Pale Ale, there’s about a million like it on the market now. Oasis was a substandard IPA, probably the least impressive Tallgrass brew I’ve had to date. Velvet Rooster was a so-so Belgian ale.

It wasn’t until this summer, with the release of Tallgrass Ethos IPA, that I realized this was a brewery with some real potential. Ethos is an upper echelon IPA, one that’s really good poured from the can and even better on tap. Zombie Monkie is first new Tallgrass release I’ve seen since Ethos, and the first to reference monkeys, which is nice.

Zombie Monkie comes in the standard Tallgrass 16-ounce tallboy can, with one caveat … it has a grip. Yes, there are slightly raised ridges on the can, referred to by the brewer as a “tactical grip” to “prevent slippage while fleeing.” Freakin’ brilliant. At this point, I couldn’t care less about the beer. The name, the graphics, the grip, the monkeys … this is the best beer ever. But alas, I need to clear my mind and focus on the brains … er, uh, beer and not get caught up with the gimmicks.

Zombie Monkie has many of the visual characteristics one expects from a porter. The pop of the can reveals a nice waft of roasted, chocolaty malt. One always needs to be careful when pouring from a tallboy since the carbonation level of craft beer can be somewhat unpredictable, but Zombie Monkie pours as expected for a porter … slight carbonation revealing a half inch head that dissipates fairly quickly. Head retention is impressive, however, as the moderate head lingers leaving a creamy tan lace at the top throughout and plenty of residue clinging to the side of the glass. Black as night, one can tell it’s an unfiltered brew when looking at the sediment settling to the bottom of the glass. All in all, it’s an outstanding pour and a fine looking porter in the glass.

Aromas are powerful and pleasing. Initial scents of roasted malt and cocoa are quickly joined by milder, sweeter hints of creamy vanilla. A slight hint of smokiness comes through at the very end of the aroma, but clearly this is more of a creamy porter than a smoky porter. Thankfully, no hint of monkey aroma is present at any point. Anyone who’s been to the zoo knows that monkeys may be fun to watch, but they smell like the walking dead … pun clearly intended.

Flavors back up Tallgrass’ claim that this is a “robust” porter. Thick, complex, tasty, yet not overwhelming, this is a balanced beer that was very satisfying on a cool late autumn night. Flavors emulate the aroma for the most part, as roasted malt dominates from the outset. I don’t sense any hints of coffee or smoke … just a nice, roasted earthy flavor that is strong, yet not overpowering. Milk chocolate is the other predominant player in the flavor, giving it a sweet, creamy component that balances so well with the roasted grain. It’s like Cocoa Krispies on steroids, minus the crunch. And with alcohol. And monkeys. Clearly zombies are eating my brain as we speak, as I’m making horrific analogies that make no sense. Checking in at a modest 6.2 percent ABV, Zombie Monkie may look dark and intimidating, but overall is a tasty, approachable beer that can be enjoyed by anyone who likes darker ales. It goes down smooth and leaves little in the way of aftertaste, making this a session ale in every sense of the word, assuming one is comfortable with darker, thicker beer that comes in a zombie grippy can.

Ultimately, Zombie Monkie is not just a gimmick. Sure, the references are a fun stab at pop culture in 2013. Yes, the graphics are cool and the release was clearly meant to coincide with Halloween. Setting all of that aside, Zombie Monkie is a surprisingly balanced, complex, and tasty porter. As much substance as it is style, Zombie Monkie is worth a try and is easily the creepiest thing to come out of Kansas since those midgets on “The Wizard of Oz.”


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on November 4, 2013.
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