Witches’ Brews: Eight Local Beers to Sip Around Boston This Halloween

With devilish ABVs, creepy colors, and more twisted takes on seasonal beer.

Darkling by Night Shift Brewing

Darkling by Night Shift Brewing. / Photo by Tim Oxton

There was a time when every brewer was going from patch to pint with a plethora of pumpkin beers. But now, the U.S. beer market is seeing a shift. Fewer brewers are making pumpkin beers because last year’s batches lingered long on store shelves, Forbes reported. Some local breweries, like Smuttynose, adjusted accordingly.

“This year, we pushed back our Pumpkin Ale release date to August 1, several weeks later than previous years, but we also shortened the Pumpkin sales window to sixty days,” communications manager JT Thompson says. “We did that mostly to get more in a consumer-defined selling season, but [also] to make room for a second fall seasonal, a classic Oktoberfest lager.”

Cambridge Brewing Company’s ninth annual Great Pumpkin Festival, featuring one-off house brews and pumpkin beers from across the country, sold out well ahead of the October 29 event, says brewmaster Will Myers. But his team bottled about 20 percent less of their flagship gourd brew, the Great Pumpkin Ale, this year, because of the writing on the wall.

And of course, not every festive fall beer has to have pumpkin in it. Below, eight local potions that play up creepy colors, devilish alcohol-by-volume content, and more twisted takes on seasonal beer—including a couple pumpkin resurrections.

Ghoulschip By Allagash Brewing Company

This year’s batch of Ghoulschip, the brewery’s wild pumpkin ale, is still fermenting, but you can sip last year’s incarnation while you wait. OSaturday, October 29, Allagash is reanimating the 2015 batch of this oak-aged ale for bottle sales and small pours at its Portland campus, alongside doughnuts and coffee. Doors open at 9:30 a.m.

Allagash Brewing Company, 50 Industrial Way, Portland, Maine, 207-878-5385, allagash.com.

Muerte by Backlash Beer Company

An imperial stout perfect for Día de Muertos, the Mexican tradition around All Saints’ Day. This brew takes its name from the Spanish word for “death,” and with good reason. Festive flavors of cinnamon and vanilla are bolstered by more than 200 Scotch bonnet peppers and a few gallons of Fazenda cold brew coffee. Backlash expects 22-ounce bottles of the beer to hit shelves in the next week, with a few kegs sent around New England. Get in the spirit with this fun animation of the beer’s label by Beer Labels in Motion artist Trevor Carmick.

Backlash Brewing Company, backlashbeer.com.

The Session Ender by Banded Horn Brewing Company 

When a beer label displays Godzilla’s nemesis Ghidorah, you know to tread lightly. This 11.5 percent ABV triple IPA is hoppy, aggressive, and fully capable of derailing a casual drinking session. Up for the challenge? The beer is available at the brewery’s Biddeford taproom on draft and in 16-ounce cans. A few kegs were also sent out to Massachusetts bars.

Banded Horn Brewing Company, 32 Main St., Biddeford, Maine, 207-602-1561, bandedhorn.com.

Brett Sematary by Cambridge Brewing Company

Last Halloween, CBC brewers put a batch of Great Pumpkin ale to rest in oak barrels, to condition further with a strain of Brett yeast. During that time, the beer soured into a funky, earthy, and, as the brewers put it, “evil” ale. That cursed pumpkin beer has risen from the brewery’s cellar and is available in 750mL bottles, and is on draft at the Kendall Square brewpub.

Cambridge Brewing Company, One Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617-494-1994, cambridgebrewingcompany.com.

Ectoplasm by Far From the Tree Cider

Ectoplasm by Far From the Tree Cider. / Photo provided

Halloween Ciders by Far From the Tree

Like you’d expect from a brewery based in Witch City, Far From the Tree has created a number of spooky ciders this season. While only one is on draft right now—a dry, English-style cider called Scarecrow—others will rear their ugly heads in the weeks leading up to October 31. Keep a look out for Black Lagoon, brewed with black cherry, currant, and cuttlefish ink (for a dark color); and Purple People Eater, with purple carrot, blueberry, and sour cherry. During Halloween weekend, you can also sip Ectoplasm, a ghastly green cider with jalapeño and kiwi, and Beetlejuice, made with prickly pear and sour strawberry.

Far From the Tree Cider, 108 Jackson St., Salem, 978-224-2904, farfromthetreecider.com.

Pumpkin Smoke & Dagger by Jack’s Abby

This version of the brewery’s smoky black lager is aged for two years with wild yeast strains and pumpkins from Volante Farms in Needham. The beer will only be available at the Framingham taproom, with an expected release sometime next week. With the addition of the Springdale Barrel Room, we could see more of these wooded pumpkin lagers next fall. If you must have pumpkin lager right now, Jack’s Abby is currently pouring Pumpkin Crop at the beer hall, too.

Jack’s Abby, 100 Clinton St., Framingham, 508-872-0900, jacksabby.com.

Hot Potato by Lamplighter Brewing Company

The Cambridge brewery is debuting two new beers at its growler counter this weekend: Hot Potato, a spiced sweet potato porter, and Space Monster, a 7 percent ABV American IPA. Whether you’re feeling festive this fall or want a little fright, there’s a beer here for your Halloween delight.

Lamplighter Brewing Company, 284 Broadway, Cambridge, lamplighterbrewing.com.

Darkling by Night Shift Brewing

It’s luscious, it’s thick, and it’s black as night. It’s the Everett brewery’s bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout. Darkling will be available on draft and in bottles on Sunday, October 30, to round out the Fermentation District’s Halloween festivities that week. If you want an early taste, stop by Brewer’s Fork in Charlestown on Thursday, October 27, for a pre-release party.

Night Shift Brewing, 87 Santilli Highway, Everett, 617-294-4233, nightshiftbrewing.com.