As a Bostonian living in Britain, autumn (or as I like to call it, “fall”) can be a bit of a disappointing time of year. Instead of crunchy, colourful leaves and crisp mornings, it tends to be soggy leaves and overcast skies. Trick-or-treaters are regarded with more suspicion then delight and I seem to be the only one hell-bent on decorating the house ahead of the 31st.
But there is some hope yet – Britain seems to be slowly embracing the wonderful tradition of Halloween with greater enthusiasm every year as well as the seasonal beers that come with it!
While the concept of pumpkin beer is still somewhat regarded as blasphemy among many UK beer writers, there is a huge range of seasonal porters, Belgian, bitter and rye beers to try that can get you in the mood for Halloween this month.
The beers to try
Wychwood Brewery’s Black Wych
While I’m not sure this is strictly a seasonal beer, its definitely one to get you into the Halloween mood! This dark porter is a respectable 5% ABV and kicks off with an alluring dark malt and biscuit flavour. There is a clever hint of blackberry hops followed by a sweeter, caramel finish. As a huge porter fan, I can’t recommend this one enough – it has a great balance of everything and definitely falls within the “treat” category.
Robinsons Brewery’s Hallowed
A favourite for both my cat and I, this is an excellent Belgian beer that is brewed in England by Robinson’s Brewery in collaboration with Iron Maiden. Apparently the band vocalist Bruce Dickinson is a real ale enthusiast and wanted to try his hand at brewing – who knew? This is a must-try for anyone who loves a strong Belgian – at 6.0% ABV it doesn’t disappoint. Made with Belgian yeast, this beer has fruity and earthy flavour, and is a spooky blood-red hue.
Black Sheep’s Reaper
Reaper describes itself as a “frighteningly good red rye ale”, and I have to agree. Not usually a rye fan myself, I really enjoyed this beer – it had a great blend of hops balanced with roasted malt flavours and was very easy drinking. It is only available until the end of November, so make sure to grab a bottle before its gone!
Shipyard’s Little Horror of Hops
From my side of the pond Shipyard’s Little Horror of Hops is another hoppy rye. Once again this was an easy drink to pair with a meal (or sweets) yet it also had its own character with citrus and a lovely grainy taste coming through.
Unfortunately my favourite Halloween beer from this brewer “Pumpkinhead” isn’t available in the UK – but if you do come across it definitely pick up a bottle! Best drunk cold from a glass with a cinnamon and sugar rim.
This is probably the closest to pumpkin beer you’re going to get in the UK, however I do have to warn Americans that it is a bit of a let-down compared to its overseas counterparts. It certainly smells like your typical pumpkin beer but it lacks the essential sweet cinnamon flavouring. It is, however, the best pumpkin beer I’ve had over here, so will remain firmly on the “try” list.
The beers to avoid
In my search for the perfect Halloween beer I also came across a few not-so-great ones. Below are the few I’d recommend passing on.
Wychwood Brewery’s Pumpking
I was so excited when I saw this beer in the shop as it was the first “pumpkin beer” I came across in the UK. Unfortunately, I couldn’t detect any “pumpkin” in it. This beer is so lacking in sweetness not even a sugar/ cinnamon rim could save it.
Greene King’s Gangly Ghoul
The best thing about this beer is the design – which isn’t saying much. A premium bitter with a hint of toffee notes, it is a decent beer in its own right – but seriously boring for Halloween.
So there you have it – the Halloween beers to try and avoid this month. Happy tasting!
If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider subscribing to my blog below! You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter on @wilesaboutbeer