It must have been nearly 10 years ago that I found the best Halloween costume ever. It was at the closing sale for the St. Petersburg location of Features Costumes (RIP Tampa location, which followed suit last year), and a decade or so later, it's still my go-to costume.
I'd love to say I've come up with a unique, interesting new costume idea each year, but this bizarre, grotesque owl costume — friends know the one I'm talking about — is just too good to leave in the closet.
Although my costume may stay the same at parties from year to year, there's one thing that's always different, and that's my Halloween six-pack. Nevermind the fact that I have to drink these beers through an extra-long straw poking through a hole I cut in the beak of the costume; the Halloween six-pack is a fun tradition and one I recommend for all fans of "dark" beer. Here's this year's lineup:
Narragansett Innsmouth Olde Ale. H.P. Lovecraft, one of most influential horror authors of all time, was born in Providence, R.I., in 1890, the same year that Providence's Narragansett was founded. The second release in the brewery's Lovecraft series is inspired by his story The Shadow Over Innsmouth. The style — a malt-driven, hefty English old ale — is not unlike what might have been found in New England taverns and inns of the time the story takes place. This one's worth getting for the can alone, which features lots of info on the brew, as well as an appropriately Lovecraftian illustration from Rhode Island artist Jason C. Eckhardt. It helps that the beer is also very good!
Terrapin The Walking Dead. Athens, Ga.'s Terrapin Brewing Co. has partnered with AMC's hit show The Walking Dead (which takes place largely in nearby Atlanta) for its new red IPA, flavored with blood orange peel. It falls just over the 6.66 percent mark, at 6.7 percent alcohol by volume. If you're thinking blood orange peels in a red IPA base will be excessively bitter, think again: This beer is full of bright, juicy citrus flavors. And yes, it's a bomber-only release, but it fits in a six-pack holder, so it counts!
Rogue Dead Guy Ale. Forgot about this one — didn't you? The name may be a bit on-the-nose for a Halloween sixer, but it's a true classic, and it's one that demands revisiting now and again. This is Rogue's take on a German Maibock, which has over the years come to be brewed almost entirely with Rogue's own malt, hops, water and yeast. Expect a showcase of nutty and lightly toasted malts, with a clean bitterness from Revolution and Independent hops from Rogue Farms. This beer's an oldie, but I assure you it's anything but dead!
Tampa Bay Brewing Co. Full Moon Madness. One of three new cans released by TBBC over the summer, Full Moon Madness takes the brewery's classic Jack the Quaffer recipe and gives it a "sub-tropical" twist, featuring prominent yeast esters that add fruity banana notes to the beer. Although it's more likely to produce flavorful refreshment than lycanthropic transformation, this is a beer that all moon-watchers will want on hand.
Shmaltz Death of a Contract Brewer. This black IPA is a headstone for 17 years of contract brewing for Shmaltz, whose beers had been previously brewed by Anderson Valley and Mendocino Brewing companies. In 2013, Shmaltz opened its own brewery in Clifton Park, N.Y., and this beer became a seasonal release a year later. Always preoccupied with numerology, Shmaltz has dialed this one in to 7 percent alcohol by volume, made with seven malts and seven hops. Why? You're really going to have to read the label to find out, as I couldn't possibly cover the explanation in just a paragraph. As promised, the beer is pitch black; despite the name, it's quite lively in flavor, with bright, floral hops contrasting with rich, roasted malts. A fitting eulogy!
Twisted Pine Ghostface Killah. Colorado's Twisted Pine calls this one a "demonic treat for true heat freaks." If this describes you, then get this in your six-pack. If not, be aware that this beer is hellishly hot, peppered with six varieties of chilies, including Bhut Jolokia — more commonly known as the ghost pepper. The odds of you actually finishing a bottle yourself are slim, so share this with the rest of the folks at the party: it'll be a bigger hit than an old, vaguely sinister owl costume.
— [email protected]; @WordsWithJG.