Halloween is around the corner, and that means your favorite beer styles are starting to dress up, too.
Pumpkin is the most popular costume, with pumpkin ales, stouts, sours and lagers pouring from your favorite brewery’s taps or sitting on the shelves of your favorite bottle shop.
Your standard pumpkin beer is sweet and loaded up with plenty of nutmeg, cinnamon and other pumpkin pie spices.
As far as local breweries are concerned, Big Boss Brewing makes a classic one called Harvest Time that’s all over Triangle grocery stores.
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Another familiar face, Lonerider Brewing Co. in Raleigh, has brewed a pumpkin spice version of its classic Sweet Josie Brown Ale. If you’re intrigued, it’ll be on tap at the brewery for one day: Wednesday, Oct. 18.
If you prefer something more atypical, and which will be around for more than just a day, Crank Arm Brewing has a pumpkin porter on tap. It combines just a dash of the sweet pie spice blend with some lactose for added creaminess, plus 80 pounds of pumpkins (per batch, not per glass) from Penny’s Produce, a local farm.
“I really wanted it to taste like a pumpkin pie,” said Crank Arm brewer Michael Morris. “I also don’t really like pumpkin beers, so I tried not to make it too sweet.”
Non-pumpkin fall beers
Pumpkin beers get a lot of the advertising and shelf space this time of year, but they’re not the only fall beers to try.
People who find pumpkin beers a little too sweet – but who still want to be seasonally fashionable – should be on the lookout for Märzen. The traditional Oktoberfest beer is a lager that ranges in styles but tends to be a little more full-bodied and darker in color than your average lager.
Many of them are pretty close cousins of one of the most well-known craft beers, Sam Adams’ Boston Lager.
If you can find it locally, definitely try the Asheville Lager from Wedge Brewing. It was just named the country’s best Märzen-style beer at the Great American Beer Festival, one of several North Carolina breweries to bring home medals.
Raleigh’s Trophy Brewing is canning its Märzen in tallboys featuring the white-and-blue checkered flag of Bavaria. In Durham, you can find another Märzen on tap at Bull City Burger and Brewery. They call it the Stierstadt, and it comes in a classic Oktoberfest stein.
And at Crank Arm, the pumpkin porter isn’t the only specialty fall beer. The next few days will also see the official release of a beet beer. Yes, a beet beer. Don’t be surprised when you order it and it comes out a bright reddish-pink color.
If you haven’t been regularly eating your three to five daily servings of vegetables, drink a few of these and call it a night.
Or for something stronger, try Fullsteam Brewery’s newly released Igor, an imperial stout with a Halloween-appropriate name to go along with its hints of chocolate and dark malt.
Spooky beer experiences
Finally, if you’re a fan of my colleague Josh Shaffer’s columns about North Carolina’s most haunted places, here are a few ideas.
Most local breweries, if they do have a Halloween party this year, are going to have it on Saturday, Oct. 28, instead of on Halloween itself. So hurry up on putting your costumes together.
Between now and then, Durty Bull Brewery in Durham is holding a “Boos and Brews” movie night Saturday, Oct. 20, from 5 p.m. ’til midnight with horror movies, costumed actors and plenty of beer.
At some point you’ll definitely also want to try Devil’s Tramping Ground, a highly delicious Belgian trippel that’s high in alcohol, from Aviator Brewing Co.
If you’re feeling brave, drink it at the actual Devil’s Tramping Ground itself in Chatham County and try to spend the whole night there, but make sure to clean up your empty cans before you leave in the morning.
If you leave at all, that is.
Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: @will_doran