In honor of Halloween, I wanted to scare up the 10 best beers to rip open at your next Halloween party.
10. Moorhoueses' Pendle Witches Brew This English strong ale has a full-flavored malt body with lots of rich, dark, fruit notes and medium to low carbonation, making it easy to quaff. Pair it with eye of newt and toe of frog!
9. Young's Old Nick Another English ale, this one is in the style of a barley wine, though at 7.2 percent alcohol by volume, this one is less robust than many American barley wine versions. Cane sugar and caramel dominate the flavor profile, but decent hop bitterness from Fuggles and Goldings hops work to keep this ale from being cloying.
8. Rogue's Dead Guy This Oregon brew is in the bock style, but Rogue switches things up by using their proprietary Pac Man ale yeast strain rather than lager yeast. The nose is redolent with sweet caramel and bready malt, balanced by an aggressive pine and citrus hop note. These aromas translate over the flavor as well.
7. Fantôme's Black Ghost This Belgian strong ale has seen many changes over the years, and thanks to eccentric brewer Dany Pringnon, what is in it from year to year is anyone's guess. What you can expect is a beer that is more wine-like than beer-like. Vinous red grape notes, musty cellar, cherry, prune and spice are evident in the aroma, while the flavor profile adds sweet dark fruit, slightly earthy notes and a noticeable spiciness that tastes of coriander and oak.
6. Great Lakes' Nosferatu The nose of this Ohio-brewed beer is heavy on the hops with spicy pine notes galore. The flavor however is all about rich sweet malts. Expect toasted caramel, dark fruits, pumpernickel and even hints of rye. The finish gets even sweeter with brown sugar and molasses notes lingering on the palate.
5. Wychwood's WychCraft Another entry from the U.K., where Halloween-themed beers seem to be all the rage. This refreshing golden ale features pale fruit flavors alongside bready malt notes and both floral and citrus hop accents.
4. Alesmith Evil Dead Red This hearty and balanced strong amber ale is quite the treat. But in the spirit of Halloween, I've played a mean trick: You probably can't get it! The world-renowned Alesmith Brewery of San Diego only offers it on draft at a handful of locations.
3. Reaper Deathly Pale Ale With beers like Mortality Stout and Ritual Dark Ale, the Reaper brewery could fill many slots in a Halloween beer list. But, Deathly Pale Ale goes that extra macabre step further. Deathly is a well-balanced American pale ale that is big on citrus and pine hop notes, but doesn't slack in the caramel malt department. This yields a brew that offers hop bitterness and malt sweetness in perfectly blended doses.
2. New Holland's Ichabod Taking their cue from Washington Irving's short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, New Holland Brewery uses pumpkin, a la the Headless Horseman, along with tradition pumpkin pie spice and a rich, bready malt backbone.
1. Gritty McDuff's Halloween Ale Sometimes simple works. What better brew to serve at a Halloween party than a beer dubbed, simply, Halloween Ale? That Gritty McDuff's ale is a tasty and approachable extra-special bitter that appeals to a wide variety of tastes makes it all the more fitting. Gritty's Halloween brew is slightly dry with toasted malt notes, but does yield some caramel and toffee along with hints of fruit-like esters and light earthy tones.
— Joey Redner is a Tampa resident and world beer traveler.