Happy Halloween and welcome the nightcap portion of my today’s double feature! Tonight I am sharing with you all a beer I’ve enjoyed in two incarnations. The details are below, but definitely don’t miss the fantastic can art on this one that can perhaps clue you in on some of the story.
Beer Name: Undead Party Crasher
Brewery: Clown Shoes Beer (Boston, MA)
Style: Imperial Stout
Description: Originally known as Vampire Slayer, Clown Shoes changed the name in late 2013 after being unable to afford a pricy legal battle against an overzealous trademark infringement suit (you can read their statement about it here). As a means of expressing its frustration, the company decided to create can art that included a not so subtle tribute to patent attorneys. The recipe, however, remained the same and features beer features the brewery’s “signature” dark malts smoked with hickory and Ash combined with a sprinkling of “holy water” (for continued protection against vampires, presumably).
Appearance: A full, foamy tan head formed atop a thick black body.
Smell: Rich, creamy dark malt alternating between sweetness and roast.
Taste: The sip began with a strong dose of creamy dark malt. Following this were notes of dark chocolate and espresso before the beer came to a bitter, roasty close. As the beer sat the ending roast gradually gave way to alcohol heat.
Mouthfeel: Thick, full body with low carbonation.
Hype: Elevated, at least personally. I had high hopes for this one, so much so that I picked it out as my Halloween beer. Also, as someone who works with attorneys all day, I can appreciate the humor.
Overall:A very nice throwback to a flavor profile I was absolutely in love with early on in my beer adventures, this really worked for me as something to sip on. The beer’s creamy sweetness stood up to what would otherwise have been a bit too much roast for my current tastes. All in all a solid pick up that really made for a nice addition to my evening.
Welcome to my second annual BeerRantsAndBooks Halloween Double Feature! I had so much fun with this last year that I decided to do it again. Just like last time, my first post of the day is a book review and later on this evening I’ll share a beer with you. I don’t recall exactly how I came across this title, but once I saw it I knew I found my Halloween book. Written by Nick Mamatas and Brian Keene, described in-world as an “avowed communist” and “vicious libertarian,” respectively, the story is an occult homage to Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas that drops everyone’s favorite Doctor of Journalism into the universe of the Cthulhu Mythos.
Set in the early months of 1972, the book opens with our fictional Hunter Thompson holed up in his Colorado compound furiously typing away into the night and cursing the fame and attention drawn to him by that “Las Vegas book” and “comic strip” (Doonesbury) that borrowed his likeness. Inspired by strange noises outside his door and the realization that the American Dream has died, he assumes the alias Uncle Lono and sets off on a new journey in search of the great American Nightmare. Among the forces standing in his way are nothing less the the cults of Moloch and Cthulhu, the Nixon youth, mutant townies, J. Edgar Hoover, the Deep Ones themselves, and some really powerful hallucinogenic mushrooms from Yuggoth. And then things get weird.
I had a fantastic time reading this! A big part of this experience was surely based on the authors doing an excellent job channeling Hunter’s voice and running monologue. They were clearly familiar with his works and heavily referenced a wide range of things he had written by the time the story takes place. My one criticism here is that they were maybe a bit over reliant on a few of his sayings throughout the book, but on the whole I’d say they nailed it. The book was packed full of amazing quotes and rants, almost all of which were unfortunately too long to suitably excerpt here. Another highlight of this story for me was seeing Lono’s infamous attorney burst into the scene right as the Lovecraftian references started to really pick up. He brought with him an entirely other level of energy and intensity to a book that, despite some really dark and bizarre moments, was a hilariously wild ride that more successfully merged these two worlds than one might think possible.
Again, I can’t say enough just what an incredibly entertaining read this was and don’t think I could have asked for a better book to review on Halloween! I would definitely recommend it to any Hunter Thompson fan looking for a bit of a twist.
With Halloween right around the corner, I went searching for ideas on how to mix up my anticipatory posts. That quest led me to this fun tag, which I found on another blogger’s page (thank you Madame Writer). This is a long one, but it sure did get me ready for tomorrow night!
1. Favorite horror or Halloween-themed song? It’s really hard to pick just one, so why don’t I refer you to the Halloween music post I did yesterday? Gut answer is probably Black No. 1 by Type O Negative, but I reserve the right to change my mind a few times.
2. Name something you wouldn’t want to run into in a dark forest or in an abandoned building. I suppose any number of things would fit here. I’d hate to run into a murder-hobo or something like that in either location, nor would I especially like to come across a bear while hiking.
3. Have you ever played with a Ouija Board? Nope. If taken as a game, it’s always seemed pointless to me. If taken as something more intense/serious than that, WHY DO THAT!? 4. Favorite horror monster or villain? I’m going to confess now that I’m not all that into horror so picking a favorite is hard. I was really into monster movies as a kid, though, so does Godzilla qualify? If not maybe I’ll pick the Shrike from the Hyperion novels.
5. The creepiest thing that’s ever happened while you were alone? I’ve seen some weird/crazy stuff in my younger days, though most if not all of the truly creepy or weird can be attributed to my, er, state of mind at the time. Setting those experiences aside, in everyday life I really have only had more run-of-the-mill random house noises or centipede in the basement type things happen. 6. If you were dared to spend the night in a “haunted house”, would you do it? No, I’d probably psych myself out about it. That said, I have spent the night in a few hotels that are supposed to be haunted (though I have no ghost stories to report). 7. Are you superstitious? Yes, but more in the idiosyncratic sort of way. Maintaining certain rituals during sports games, not mentioning certain things or events I want to happen, things of that nature. 8. Do you ever see figures in your peripheral vision? Nothing more menacing than the usual tricks of the eye. I also wear glasses, so that may have an impact as well. 9. Which urban legend scares you the most?
I couldn’t really think of any horror-based urban legends, so I got real with this one and decided upon the conservative myth of systemic voter fraud (on behalf of their opponents only, of course). Truly terrifying that this is a “mainstream” view these days. That’s my rant for the week,
10. Do you prefer gore or thrillers? Thrillers. I’m generally not a fan of gore and that is probably the number one reason I never got into the horror genre. 11. Do you believe in multiple dimensions or worlds? Yes. I don’t necessarily think that we can interact with them without extraordinary cosmic upheaval or technology WAY beyond or current capabilities, but I do believe they exist. 12. Ever made a potion of any sort? Sure, if you count mixed drinks. 13. Do you get scared easily? Yeah, probably. I’m not necessarily proud to admit this but that’s my honest answer. 14. Have you ever played Bloody Mary? Nope. Seemed pointless to me as a kid and I’m not about to start doing it as an adult. 15. Do you believe in demons/the devil? No, though I suppose I could also be called somewhat agnostic on the issue. I’m not exactly sold on the idea of their counterparts either, at least in any mainstream sort of way. 16. You’re home alone but you hear footsteps in your house, what do you do? Assume it’s from next door or outside most likely. I’d probably be more weirded out in a strange setting, like an Airbnb though. 17. If you got trapped in one scary movie, which would you choose? This doesn’t really sound like my idea of a good time, but I wouldn’t mind hanging out with Bill Murray in Zombieland I guess. 18. If you could only wear one Halloween costume for the rest of your life, what would you be? My Flava-Flav inspired steampunk suit. Basically I wear black dress pants and shirt, a knee-length men’s black dress jacket, a top-hat with gears on it, big silver goggles, and a bronze wind-up clock around my neck on a thick chain. Usually a cane completes the ensemble. 19. Would you ever go to a graveyard at night? Absolutely. There are some very nice cemeteries in my area and I find evening strolls in them very relaxing. 20. In a zombie apocalypse what is your weapon of choice? Practical answer is probably a machete since it doesn’t rely on expendable ammunition and can serve other uses. My purely fictional, and likely impractical, answer is shotgun with a pitchfork bayonet. 21. Would you rather go to a Halloween party or go trick or treating? My likely answer is party, but that might change after taking my son out for his first trick-or-treat this year (at least until he gets too old to want his parents around). 22. You’re in a horror movie. Are you the final girl, the first to die, the comic relief, the skeptic, the smart one, or the killer? Well, for starters I’m a guy but in keeping with the spirit of the question I’d probably be the skeptic. I give myself even odds of living. 23. Do you have to watch something happy after watching a horror movie so you can go to sleep?
Not necessarily, but a little decompressing by doing something mindless isn’t out of the question. 24. Whilst watching scary movies, are you the type who yells at the characters, the person with their eyes covered the whole time, or the person who falls asleep?
Who says I can’t be all of the above?
25. Are you the one who gets scared, or the one who does the scaring? It’s a pretty even mix in my house. I’ve gotten my wife pretty good over the years, but she never fails to return the favor. Our two-year old seems to be trying to get in on the action, a prospect that is both adorable and concerning. 26. Favorite scary book? Uh-oh. Um, I don’t really read scary books! I’ve already mentioned Hyperion in this post which has some scary/horror elements to it, but I don’t know if it quite fits what this prompt was going for. I also enjoyed the Lovecraft collection I read earlier this month, though I can’t really say that it scared me. 27. How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? Grade school probably. I recall for sure seeing Ernest Scared Stupid in the theater at roughly 9 years old so I’ll go with that. Truly a horror classic. 28. What was your first Halloween costume? I don’t know for sure, but the first one I remember is a light blue felt stegosaurus suit. I loved that thing! 29. What are you going to be for Halloween this year? My official costume is Vampire. My son has been really excited for over a month about being a vampire for Halloween, so that is what the whole family is doing. How/if he knew what a vampire was at the time he asked for this is a mystery.
My unofficial costume that I’ll wear to work or more minor Halloween outings is MegaMan from the series of NES games. It’s nothing crazy, just a hoodie designed to look like him and a stuffy of his robot dog, Rush, pinned to my shoulder.
30. If you could have a spooky Halloween pet (black cat, owl, bat, rat, wolf), what would you pick? Black cat all the way! I actually had one as a teenager named Edgar (after Edgar Allen Poe) and we had a special bond, probably due to our mutual love of food and extreme introversion. I’d love to have a cat now as an adult, but my wife and I are now both terribly allergic.
After a brief hiatus, I am bringing back Music Monday just in time to share some of my favorite Halloween songs. There’s no way a list this small can even come close to touching upon all the awesome music for this time of year, but I figured I’d share some of my current favorites anyway. What’s on your playlist this week?
This is Halloween – Marilyn Manson (2008)
It might be somewhat sacrilege to say this, but at the moment I am enjoying this cover a bit more than the original version from the Nightmare before Christmas movie. That feeling may in part be influenced by me wanting a reason to share this fan video someone made using scenes from the anime Soul Eater (the story was so-so, but I loved the artwork!).
Black No. 1 – Type O Negative (1993)
This song has been a Halloween staple for me ever since I learned of its existence back in the early 2000s (and shame on me for not uncovering it sooner). There’s no way you can hear or see this and not think of Halloween.
Hell – Squirrel Nut Zippers (1996)
A bit lighter than the previous two songs, this one came out during the brief swing music revival in the mid-to-late 90s. It’s a frolicking, fun trip into the darker side of the afterlife.
Curse of Millhaven – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (1996)
A cheerful number about a teenage girl that makes sport of killing her fellow townsfolk. It has a manic, circus-like energy that just can’t help but hook in the listener.
Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon (1978)
I wanted to include at least one “classic” on this list and I’ve been fond of this one ever since I was little. An irreverent, fun take on the famed creatures of the night.
And, because I couldn’t resist, here’s a bonus track. I’m not quite sure you’d call it a song, but it sure fits the mood perfectly:
What’s he Building in There – Tom Waits (1999)
A gritty, spoken word track told from the perspective of a man wondering what a seemingly eccentric neighbor is doing in their shed. It has a creepy paranoid energy that builds throughout, inciting your curiosity. That eerie feeling is then perhaps taken even higher when you stop to think that maybe it’s the speaker who is the crazy one.
Well, there’s my Halloween list. I hope you enjoyed listening along. Does anyone have any favorites that they’d like share? Feel free to leave a comment and look for my Halloween festivities to continue right on through the big day!
Special Note: Thank you to the YouTubers whose videos I linked to! I assume they are fair use, but if you prefer I take them down from here I will happily comply with your wishes.
We’re inching closer to Halloween and I am starting to get really excited. The BeerRantsAndBooks family is taking our annual trip up to Salem, MA this weekend to meet some friends and take part in all the festivities. I decided to pregame a bit by pulling another one of my spooky brews out of the mini-fridge.
Beer Name: Dead N Dead Guy
Brewery: Rogue Ales (Newport, OR)
Description: This beer was created by taking the brewery’s popular Dead Guy Ale and aging it for several months in Dead Guy Whiskey barrels. Read all about it here.
Appearance: Opaque copper-colored body topped by thin layer of light tan foam.
Smell: Sweet caramel malt and whiskey.
Taste: Light caramel sweetness upfront that tapered off towards mid-sip. At this point the beer initially thinned out a bit into a fairly generic ale, though after sitting for a bit that was gradually filled in by leathery notes of vanilla and oak. The sweet malts then picked up again for the finish, where they were joined by hints of whiskey to give the beer a warming close.
Mouthfeel: A touch past medium bodied with a carbonation level just short of moderate.
Hype: Maybe negative hype? A lot of beer folk look down on Rogue for arguably snobbish reasons, though some questionable brewing concoctions and employment practices have done little to gain them sympathy.
Overall: An unexpectedly mellow and relaxing beer. When first poured I recall wishing it had a little extra something to it, but that eventually came through as the beer warmed up a bit. All told I found a solidly enjoyable brew.
Now that I’ve officially gotten started, I am happy to say that this year I was able to scare up a pretty solid supply of Halloween themed beers to get through my reviews for the rest of the month. This next offering was one that I actually came across a few weeks ago but held off on reviewing until a more appropriate time.
Beer Name: Harpy’s Hex
Brewery: Relic Brewing Company (Plainville, CT)
Description: An IPA brewed with a mix of Jarrylo, El Dorado, and Pekko hops.
Appearance: It poured a cloudy, golden/light copper body with a thick, bubbly white head up top.
Smell: Piney citrus zest.
Taste: More citrus zest upfront, followed by hints of a pale and caramel malt base. The ending brought on a mix of lemon and grapefruit bitterness, with a mildly abrasive spicy bite of hops in the very finish.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a slightly more than moderate level of carbonation.
Hype: Perhaps a little bit from my end, if for no other reason than this being one of the first on-theme beers I found this season.
Overall:It was alright. The brew served its purpose in fitting my theme, but it didn’t blow me away. The ending was just a little too harsh for my taste.
The moment I saw this book in someone’s ARC pile earlier in the year I made a mental note to get my hands on it for my Halloween reviews. With a name like that how could I not? Officially released in June 2018, this is the debut novel of author Raymond A. Villareal.
The book opens as a young Center for Disease Control agent is sent to investigate a pair of unusual deaths in an Arizona border town, only to learn upon arrival that the corpses seem to have walked away. The agent and her team soon realize they are at ground zero for the outbreak of a disease they call the NOBI virus, an affliction of the blood that effectively turns those affected into vampires. Dubbed “Gloamings,” this new group of people begin their struggle to win over the hearts and minds (not to mention blood) of humanity. Extraordinarily well-funded and highly selective about expanding their ranks, the Gloamings work quickly to exert their influence in human society. Using a combination of social influencers and political bribes, their ambitions rapidly move away from mundane goals like access to basic services and protections under the American Disability Act into more nefarious criminal and world domination schemes. The book tracks the progression of these endeavors through a series of POV chapters told from the perspective of the CDC agent who discovered the outbreak, the head of a FBI task force formed to investigate Gloaming criminal activity, and a Jesuit priest working to combat the Gloaming infiltration of the Catholic Church.
While I thought this book had an interesting premise and some amusing social satire, I ultimately found it falling a bit short of my expectations. Although the characters and overall story were interesting enough, the flow of the book was a bit choppy. There was a sufficient amount of action and intrigue to keep things interesting, but the story as a whole lacked a cohesive context in which to place the events of each chapter. With chapters skipping months at a time and only loosely connected to each other I was often left thinking “so what?” when seemingly major developments where either glossed over or abandoned shortly thereafter. Unfortunately that sentiment stuck with me upon finishing the book as well since it did not offer much in the way of resolution to the any of the main conflicts presented and stopped rather abruptly. At the end of its 400+ pages, I was left feeling that story just kind of rambled on without really going anywhere.
Similarly, the questions raised regarding civil rights for Gloamings, a key advertising point and a central theme of the earlier chapters, were non-starters for me as well. The reader is never given a clear view of the social dynamics at play in this world and most of the insights into the causes being taken up were presented through dry court documents that were far too easy to skip over. Since we were never introduced to any even remotely sympathetic or everyday Gloaming characters, the issues they were pushing for seemed inconsistent with what we were told about their secretive and elitist population.
Despite my misgivings, I did stick through with this to the end since more often than not the chapters were intriguing enough as standalone adventures and I was stubbornly holding out hope for some sort of big payoff or revelation. I don’t know if perhaps my expectations were out of line for what the book was, but I ultimately felt neutral/bordering on disappointed about this one. I can’t say that I’d recommend it, but if you’re intrigued I wouldn’t warn you off it either.
Now that we’ve slipped past the month’s halfway point, I’ve set aside my fall seasonals to start focusing on brews that either by name or design are a bit more Halloween-centric. My first of the season was an impulse supermarket pickup, because after all my troubles finding appropriate beers last year I didn’t want to miss any opportunities for suitable material.
Beer Name: Sour Wench
Brewery: Ballast Point Brewing Company (San Diego, CA)
Style: Blackberry Ale
Description: Per the brewery website, this kettle soured Berliner-Weisse style brew was made to be an approachable sour ale bursting with blackberries.
Appearance: It had a deep reddish-purple body with a bubbly off-white head.
Smell: Tart blackberries with a hint of yeast in the background.
Taste: Tart berries were the predominant flavor throughout, with a creamy, yeasty ending.
Mouthfeel: On the thinner side with a slightly elevated level of carbonation.
Hype: It was certainly displayed rather prominently in the grocery store aisles, but I don’t think there is much hype among the beer folk for this one.
Overall: Was pretty light and refreshing on the whole, to the point I was surprised to see the ABV. Nice pick up, especially considering where I found it.
Located about an hour west of BeerRantsandBooks headquarters, River Styx Brewing opened up a little over a year ago in summer 2017. With Halloween now in the air and a pressing need to break up a long car ride, the family and I made a stop here the weekend before last on the way home from visiting some friends so ifinaI fi had a chance to check this place out.
The first thing I noticed upon our arrival was that the brewery’s aesthetics were cool as, um, hell. Visitors are directed to the front doors by the sign of Charon above, beckoning thirsty travellers to step inside. The doors open up to reveal a large open space (think function hall) with a number of small black tables spread about. This part of the brewery was dark (at least in the evening) and lit almost exclusively by a sea of small hanging lanterns that gave off a flickering effect. Adding to the scene were walls covered with artwork and murals inspired by the mythical river. The bar area was in the back right of the building and was more traditionally lit. It had a decent number of stools for those who like to stay close to the taps and a small TV unobtrusively tuned into the featured sportsball broadcast of the day. The music was a touch on the loud side, but otherwise a thoroughly enjoyable mix of classic and late-90s radio rock with a little bit of Coolio thrown in for good measure. One of the biggest draws for us in visiting, however, was the brewery’s policy of explicitly welcoming families (read kids) and well-behaved dogs. People definitely seemed to take advantage of this and my son had himself a great time playing with some giant wooden blocks and oversized checkers with another toddler that happened to be there. It’s at this point that I need to give another shout-out to my amazing (and non-beer drinking) wife for not only supporting this crazy hobby of mine, but for also keeping an eye on playtime while I took notes for this post.
To make the most of my visit, I ordered a flight of 6 samples. It cost $15 and was served in a nifty little iron boat carrier that really added to the ambiance. There was a pretty good mix of styles available, so I tried to mix it up as best I could while hitting some of personal interest as well. I started off on the lighter end of things with Nectar of Aristaeus – Blueberry Glazed Donut, a 6.0% “milkshake-style” IPA brewed with blueberries, lactose, and vanilla beans that in the dark lighting had a bloody looking deep reddish-purple body. It had a light, juicy taste with an edge of tart blueberries and creaminess that flowed into a mild mix of earthy hops and malt on the finish that made a strong first impression. Up next was Helios the Sun God, a 5.3% Farmhouse Ale conditioned with peaches that poured to a clear, golden body. It had a refreshing, lightly funky and peppery taste highlighted by peach notes that peaked upon the brew’s bubbly finish. Rounding out the first half of my flight was another 5.3% offering, this one a Sour Ale named Dawn of Hyperion. It had a glowing amber body and a taste that featured tart strawberries with a lemon rind sourness atop a roasty tasting malt base. I was not a fan of this one and am going to call it a miss for me.
At this point I switched over to the other side of the boat where the bigger beers were lurking. First up was HOP, a cask conditioned West Coast-style double IPA brewed with pomegranate. Checking in at 9.0%, it poured a deep reddish-brown body and had a very nice base of both caramel and ever-so-slightly toasted malts underneath an aggressively dank and resinous haze of piney hops. It finished with a lingering blend of caramel malt, raw brown sugar, and hop resin that put this in the running for my favorite beer of the flight. In close contention, however, was the next beer named Ares God of War. A big, bold 12% imperial stout it brought on huge notes of chocolate, coffee, and vanilla. My nitpick is that I wish it had a slightly thicker body, but on the whole I was pretty impressed with this one as well. The final sample of the day was an 11.0% port barrel aged imperial stout named Rhea Darkness. Super smooth with a big, creamy dark malt profile I was amazed at how easy drinking this was for such a large beer.
Put all that together and I am happy to report that my visit here was a success and good time was had by all! The novelty of the really cool decor and mythological themes were backed up by some good beer, making this a place I am definitely interested in revisiting this winter, especially since it was so welcoming to everyone in my crew. Definitely check this place out if you get a chance.
Here we go with my final Marzen review of the fall. This one appropriately comes from a German brewer, so I am ending things with a certain air of authenticity.
Beer Name: Hofbrau Oktoberfestbier
Brewery: Hofbrauhaus Munchen (Munich, Germany)
Description: A festive lager brewed to help drinkers celebrate the spirit of Oktoberfest wherever they live. Read up on the details here.
Appearance: Poured a clear, pale yellow/golden body with about a half finger of white foam on the top.
Smell: Light crackery malts, with maybe a little hint of underlying sweetness.
Taste: Very clean tasting, with a light sweet malt presence complemented by earthy noble hops. The ending had an equally mild dry, toasted malty ending that took on a bit of creaminess after sitting a few minutes.
Mouthfeel: Started out with an elevated amount of carbonation that gradually tapered off through the course of the sip. Medium bodied.
Hype: None I guess. I am glad to get at least one German brewed Marzen into this year’s lineup though.
Overall: A very nice mild, easy drinking fall brew. If there was ever something that seemed like it be right at home in large stein on a cool fall day, this is it.