How the “Walken Cooler” Became a Beer World Meme

Behind this door awaits...beer.

Behind this door awaits...beer.

I recently found myself at Pittsburgh’s East End Brewing, drinking a cold IPA and staring deep into Christopher Walken’s frigid, unflinching eyes. His black-and-white headshot was an ominous presence in an otherwise bright taproom, the photograph taped to a stainless steel door.

“That’s our walk-in cooler,” says East End founder Scott Smith, speaking of the refrigerated room typically used for storing beer. Clad with the actor’s likeness, it’s jokingly been branded a “Walken cooler,” a nod to a familiar pun that’s spread across the brewing industry.

The IPA Through the Ages

Illustration: Liz Noftle

Illustration: Liz Noftle

Do you know the IPA’s origin story?

Over beers one recent evening at my apartment, my friend, David, was recounting a party conversation that turned to the question at hand. One guy swore he knew the story.

“It was invented in England to preserve beer on the journey to India during the 18th century,” he said.

David knew this was false. By the 1760s, British brewers fortified all beers bound for India and tropical climes with extra hops—the multipurpose flowers that bestow beer with flavor, aroma and bitterness.

“Did you tell him he was wrong?” I asked.

“It was a party,” he said. “I didn’t feel like arguing.”