Since I only write this column once per month, I usually touch upon a big holiday or beer related event and this month is no different. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays for a variety of reasons. I know it sounds cliché, but I’m twenty-seven years old and I’m really just a big kid. I still pine for the days of playing the original Super Mario Brothers all day in my pajamas during a snow day. I miss playing waffle ball in my front yard for hours on end with my brothers. I feel like I need to hold onto my youth as long as possible, and Halloween is the easiest way I know how to do it. It’s ok to be a kid again once a year.
Halloween is a time for children also. It’s their time to dress up as Harry Potter, Spiderman, the little mermaid, or any other popular character they can think up, and walk around their neighborhood collecting a bounty of candy. I can remember some of the more memorable costumes that I wore as youth. One year I was a mad scientist/clown; in retrospect, that is a pretty odd combination for an eight year old. The costume I remember the most vividly though, was also the strangest. For some reason, when I was around twelve, I wanted to be a couch potato for Halloween.
My mother, always good with the sewing machine, made me a big, fluffy potato costume. I wore it for a few years. Looking back, I wonder what people thought when they saw me walking around in that. It must have been a confusing sight, a giant potato with skinny, little legs sticking out of it. I just realized that the only time that costume made any sense was when I was sitting on a couch. Obviously when I trick-or-treated in it, there wasn’t a couch anywhere near me. People probably thought I was a giant cookie or something.
Halloween is also a time for adults to let loose and dress up. We can feel comfortable dressing up and grabbing a piece of our youth, if only for a single night. We can dress up as anything we want. Maybe you’re a grown man and you want to dress as Sponge Bob Squarepants. It’s ok with me. It’s Halloween. I dressed as Robert Goulet for four years, this year I’ve stepped it up. I’m dressing as 1970’s Burt Reynolds. What can I say? I like costumes centered around mustaches and aviator sunglasses.
How does this all relate to beer, you say? Well, as you know, I find a way to relate everything to beer, and Halloween is no exception. Halloween is a good time to try some new brews. We’re finally starting to get that fall chill in the air and that means darker fair in beerdom. It’s time to take a look at Stouts.
Stout is a very dark brew made by roasting malts and/or barley. It is very similar to a Porter and the names have been interchanged throughout history. According to CAMRA (Campaign For Real Ale), originally, stout was
…a dark brown beer – 19th-century versions became jet black – that was originally a blend of brown ale, pale ale and ‘stale’ or well-matured ale. It acquired the name Porter as a result of its popularity among London’s street-market workers.
Originally, the strongest beer made at a certain brewery became known as the Stout Porter. Eventually, it was shortened to Stout and two different styles were born. Don’t worry; we’ll get in depth on Porters in a different column. One of the most famous brands of this style that is readily available in the U.S. is Guinness. Americans, Brits, and Europeans alike love to hoist up a good Guinness and enjoy its dark roasted goodness. Also, most U.S. microbreweries brew a Stout since it is one of the most common beer varieties.
Speaking of the indulgent nature of stouts, one of my all-time favorite Halloween treats is peanut butter cups. Personally, I’m not big into sweets, but I can’t resist these peanut buttery goodies around late October. I’m not a giant chocolate fan in general, but many other people are. But save the candy for the kids–adults can get their chocolate fix by drinking stouts. Two of my favorite Chocolaty stouts are Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and Young’s Double Chocolate Stout.
Since it’s one of my all-time favorite beers, Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout is one reason I don’t mind that the temperature is starting to dip quite a bit. This isn’t your average stout; it’s much darker and doesn’t have nearly as much of a coffee tastes as say Beamish for example. This Russian Imperial Stout does have a strong dark chocolate presence, although it isn’t cloying or overwhelming. At 10.6% ABV you most likely won’t be drinking very many bottles and would probably also want to save this one until after dinner. For a real treat, try a Black Chocolate Stout float with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Young and Company Brewery of England makes Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. This Stout is much lower in Alcohol, at 5.2% ABV, but doesn’t skimp on the chocolate flavor. You’ll notice strong hints of semi-sweet chocolate, vanilla and coffee as well as roasted malts. Brooklyn’s Black Chocolate Stout is only available during the winter months, but Young’s Double Chocolate Stout can be found year round and is readily available in the U.S. with just a little digging.
Some other chocolaty Halloween beer treats to try are: Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock, Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence and Rogue Chocolate Stout among others. Harpoon Brewery of Boston will be unveiling a chocolate stout of their own in the next few months, so keep an eye out for that as well.
Chris Osburn is a 26 year old freelance writer and The Father Life‘s resident beer columnist. On top of that, he writes about professional lacrosse for insidelacrosse.com. He’s also written for Genesee Valley Parenting Magazine, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, and ESPN.com. “Osburn on Tap” appears monthly in THE FATHER LIFE. For questions, comments, or if you have a story idea for Chris, visit his website http://www.chrisosburnwrites.com.
30 year old freelance writer and The Father Life‘s resident beer columnist and sports editor. He also writes about fine beverages for drinkingmadeeasy.com and Chilled Magazine. On top of that, he writes about college and professional lacrosse for insidelacrosse.com. He’s also written for Genesee Valley Parenting Magazine, the Democrat and Chronicle Newspaper and ESPN.com. “Osburn on Tap” appears monthly in THE FATHER LIFE. For questions, comments, or if you have a story idea for Chris, throw him an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on twitter http://www.twitter.com/chrisosburn