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Dawn of the Red: The Final Chapter

Oct 08, 2015 Comments (0) Dawn of the Red: The Final Chapter

When we first met with our Artist in Residence Neal Williams, we said these words, “There’s a cityscape within Dawn of the Red’s packaging, and we want you to zoom in on what’s happening in that city. Use your unique style of art to complete the story behind Dawn of the Red.”

Neal then did what Neal does and created a killer triptych to tell the story behind our killer beer. His art showed a small but mighty group of humans, who banded together to fight off those infected by a mass global disaster deemed "Dawn of the Red."  For this group of rebels, the rock and roll hand became a symbol of hope. It suggests that in the midst of un-paralleled, excruciating noise, man must always rock harder and louder than the infected.

In the depths of a full-fledged attack on the last trusted water source, the McKenzie River, a group of doomed rebel fighters quickly crafted a makeshift wooden structure of this hand as a signal to their fellow brothers and sisters at arms that the river has been taken over. 

We spent a few days introducing you to the characters that play a leading role in this story. 

We met Blair, the group's fearless leader

Rusty, the lone wolf armed with rage and his trusty chainsaw.

And Nick "El Dorado" McKenzie, a washed up baseball player who finally found the perfect target for his powerful swing when the infected invaded. 

In this final chapter, we'll tell you how these brave souls banded together and what brought them to the river on that fateful day.

Crack a beer, grab your zombie fighting weapon of choice, and dig in!

As Blair sat atop the observation post, her feelings of unease steadily increased. She peered through her binoculars and watched in horror as the infected continued to blanket the town. Their numbers were increasing exponentially;it was only a matter of time before the infected outnumbered the still living. Their headquarters was humble, but effective. A high-planed peak with limited tree cover, enabled them to see any infected wanderers for miles. They’d sustained some attacks, but they were few and easily won by the rebels. Blair and the rebels had taken several dangerous missions to town to raid pharmacies, stores, and gas stations for supplies. While they’d lost several rebels in the process, they had stockpiled enough supplies to last for months. The “Dawn of the Red” was full of unknowns, but the immediate plan was to defend their headquarters for as long as possible and hope they could outlast the infection.

Given the circumstances, there were no better ideas to be had. But the longer Blair watched the scene below, the harder it became to sit still. She had anticipated that the infected would quickly die off, but that didn’t appear to be happening. In fact, it looked like they were getting stronger and their behavior was getting even more erratic. But, with so many people relying on her for safety, she knew that she had to keep everyone in a single, contained location.

Then she saw it. It wasn’t immediately clear, but the longer she looked, the more in focus it became. Along the bank of the McKenzie River, Blair spotted their rebel symbol of hope, the rock and roll hand. It was large, but rough. It must have been crafted quickly from old plywood, logs, and brush. But the hand was defined by splattered red spray-paint, and that made it undeniable. Blair frantically scanned the river to find out who had crafted the hand, and then she saw two young men at the tree line running for their lives. Infected were everywhere around them, and when they reached the tree line, they scaled the first tree they could find. They both barely escaped the grasp of the hundreds of infected at their heels, but they climbed their way to temporary safety. As Blair watched through her binoculars, her heart sank when she realized that the trees around those men were filled with people. The infected were simply waiting below, and leaving them stranded.

Blair rose to her feet and sprinted back to the group. The rebels could immediately sense her urgency and fell silent. Blair spoke with a shake in her voice, but her tone was unwavering.

“There are people stranded in the trees off the McKenzie River. I’m staging a rescue mission. We’ll be vastly outnumbered, and I can’t guarantee even a shred of safety. But these people will be doomed if we don’t take immediate action. I can’t ask anyone to join me, but if there are any volunteers, I need people prepared to fight.”

The crowd was silent. While there were hundreds of brave souls on hand, they’d all seen how quickly the river had been overrun. What Blair was asking was extraordinarily dangerous, and they all knew it. But as the silence hung, one hand raised. It was Nick “El Dorado” McKenzie. He said nothing as he walked up and stood by Blair. Then a gruffl voice came from the crowd that muttered, “Ah hell, I’d rather risk the infected than stay another minute with this group of whiners.” It was none other than Rusty.

There were no more volunteers.

Blair nodded in agreement at Nick and Rusty, and they grabbed their gear.

With the exception of some cursing from Rusty, no words were spoken as the three marched down the mountain. Partially because they didn’t want to attract the infected, but mostly because they were all lost in their own thoughts. They’d seen the river and were well aware that it was the prime gathering area for the infected. But while the mood was solemn, their adrenaline was propelling them forward.

They intentionally packed light so they could remain nimble. Each carried only their signature weapon and a few rations of food Blair also packed three bottles of beer from her favorite brewery, Ninkasi, trusting they would need a victory celebration. They quieted their steps as they reached the river.

Infected could be seen in every direction, but so far, the three of them hadn’t been spotted. Blair spoke just loudly enough to be heard over the flowing river and said, “Keep your head on a swivel, and look to the trees. When we spot people, we’ll need to be ready to fight our way to them.”

Almost immediately after she finished speaking, one of the infected leapt from the brush behind them. Rusty fired up his chainsaw and stormed at it. The sound of his chainsaw raged, and the infected rushed toward the sound. The fight was on. The three of them remained close and skillfully wielded their weapons. The infected were dropping like flies, but their sheer numbers were insurmountable. THEY JUST KEPT COMING. They moved their position into the shallows of the river and quickly scaled the wooden hand, leaving  an infected mob clawing at the base. It was only a matter of time before they toppled the structure and pounced on their prey.

Sensing their inevitable doom, Blair reached into her pack and pulled out the Ninkasi. She popped the caps and handed one to Rusty and Nick. She spoke with a somber tone as she raised her bottle, “Gentlemen, I’m sorry I asked this of you, but I know that your bravery will never be forgotten.” The three of them clinked their bottles together and drank.

Immediately after drinking that first sip, something remarkable started to happen. The infected wailed in horror. The three rebels looked in awe as the infected sprinted away from them. Rusty was the first to pick up on what was happening, “Them sons of bitches are afraid of the beer!” Blair and Nick looked at him with their mouths gaping open, and then shook their heads in approval. They leapt off of the wooden hand with their beers in hand and darted toward the tree line. The infected were running aimlessly away from them, crashing into and toppling each other.  When they reached the tree line, Nick heard the first cries from the tree tops. “We’re up here! Help us!”

Nick called to them with his deep, soothing voice. “Climb down, and drink this beer! You’ll have to trust us!” The trees emptied as dozens of people cautiously ran to Blair, Nick, and Rusty. They passed around the bottles of Ninkasi, and after everyone had sipped the beer, they went on the attack.

Blair watched as the infected fled the river. For the first time since the Dawn of the Red began, she smiled. She wasn’t sure what had happened, or why the Ninkasi had deterred the infected, but she knew this was the beginning of a recovery. She wiped away the single tear that had formed on her cheek, grabbed her machete and rejoined the rebels.


It turns out that the antidote to the infection was hops. Scientists determined the chemical make-up of a hop is essentially toxic to the (still) unknown virus. The reason the infected fled was because the virus had overpowered the mind of the subject, and the virus was doing everything it could to survive. In addition, if hops were consumed by an infected subject, the virus would die, and in most cases, the subject could make a full recovery.

After inoculating all the rebels with beer, Blair, Rusty, and Nick led the charge to capture infected people, and force Ninkasi into their system. Thanks to the intense hop balance in Ninkasi beer, it immediately started to reverse the disease, and the recovery could begin. Slowly but surely, people were returning to normal.

It’s been a year since the Dawn of the Red hit, and the infection has since been obliterated. To honor those who saved us, Ninkasi Brewing Company brewed a dank, dry hopped India Red Ale and named it “Dawn of the Red.” To pay tribute to the rebels, they immortalized the rebel symbol of hope (the rock and roll hand) by placing it on Dawn of the Red’s packaging. Now, we drink Dawn of the Red to remember.

Grab your Dawn of the Red this Halloween, and toast those who fought to protect us. 

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