Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. The air is crisp, and it’s a time for flannel, sweaters and things that make you feel warm – like beer. Who am I kidding? It’s always time for beer. With 3,500 craft breweries now commanding over 10% of the American beer market1, there is a style and flavor for every day of the week. Here at Smith Brothers Agency, we don’t shy away from things that stray from the norm – and our beer consumption is no exception.
We set out to have a Halloween-themed beer exchange that went a little outside the box. Sure, we could have traded bottles of pumpkin-spiced this, and nutmeg-caramel that – but where’s the creative challenge there? Participants were instead tasked with selecting a beer that they deemed to be “scary”. It could be a beer you’ve never tried before, a style you typically don’t like, or something that reminds you of a past experience with the supernatural. Keeping the theme ambiguous meant we were sure to get a wide variety of beer – and hopefully some creepy or hilarious stories to back it up.
We took to Left Field Meeting Space to trade beers, enjoy snacks and tell some spooky tales around the kitchen island. We also picked up a seasonal case to sample from Uinta Brewing that included both their Punk’n (Pumpkin Ale) and Baba Black Lager. Each was a perfect fit to the cool October evening in its own right.
With 11 individuals and one team of two, we ended up with 13 participants (eerie, right?). Each approached the challenge differently, yielding a pretty impressive assortment of beer. From IPA to stout and lager to bock, the variety of styles spanned all tastes (and only one pumpkin ale in the mix). Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good pumpkin beer – however, I feel like the season and the beer industry as a whole has so much more to offer.
Going along with the evening’s theme of scary beer, we also dove into a bottle of Elevator Brewing’s Ghost Scorpion Lager. This horrifying creation was brewed with the infamous Ghost and Trinidad Scorpion Chilies. One sip was enough for most of us, as the spice was overwhelming (and in some cases even induced hiccups).
With warm snacks and cold beers, the stories of beer selections started to flow. We reminisced the terror of trying a first craft beer, laughed at the anxiety of choosing a case without first looking it up on our phones, and referenced historical characters. Each participant brought something different to the table. Below are a few quick excerpts…
Rogue Dead Guy Ale: Brandi Smith
I had an imaginary friend for a period of my childhood. His name was Sam. I forced my parents to set a place at the dinner table for Sam. I vividly remember talking to him. My mom went to a party with friends where there was a psychic, and the psychic asked her if I had an imaginary friend. My mom said yes, and the psychic said “You know, she really does see someone there.” One day my parents asked where Sam was, and I said “He died. He got hit by a car.” Sam was my BFF, and basically a “dead guy.” So this beer is for Sam.
North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout: Tom Kirby/Zakk Weston
This is Rasputin (below). If his presence alone isn’t enough to frighten you, here’s the gist on this guy. Born a peasant in tsarist Russia, he rose up as a religious “mystic” into the innermost circle of Tsar Nicholas’s life and as a healer to the Tsar’s children. He grew increasingly influential with the Tsar’s wife. So much so that other politicians decided enough was enough, and poisoned him. But he didn’t die. So they shot him three times, including once in the head. Yet he still lived. Then they beat him, dragged him and dumped him in the river, where he finally drowned.
So toast one to this guy.
Tröegs’ Troegenator Double Bock: Noah Purdy
During our senior year of college we decided to throw a Halloween party. With the mini-fridge stocked we invited everyone we knew over and had an excellent time. The next day we found one lone terrifying bottle of beer left over. It had an angry, horned, Krampus-like face covering most of the bottle and an almost unpronounceable name.
On a whim – probably on a Wednesday, and definitely during a beer drought – I decided to take the plunge. I grabbed the scary, angry-Viking covered bottle of potential poison and took a sip. Before Troegenator I had never tried a craft beer. I was, however, a connoisseur of corn-based pilsners. Sickly sweet. Watery. Easily drinkable. Low ABV. Inoffensive. Cheap. After Troegenator, my eyes were opened to craft beer. But damn, that first step was scary.
With bellies full, tales told and tongues scorched, the party eventually wound down. We left for the evening with an adult’s Halloween bounty and a sense of Fall warmth from an evening with friends. In perhaps the most frightening part of the evening, I realized that I am already thinking about what we can do for the Christmas beer exchange.