Fear The Beer – by Kristi Locklin
Video stores are dead, but I can still experience the same type of visual thrill by taking a stroll through Giant Eagle’s beer department! Like the creature features of my youth, brews with creepy packaging enchant me.
My favorite time of year to partake in this hobby is during the Halloween season, when a tidal wave of pumpkin beers hits the shelves. While I’m not a big fan of the style, I end up drinking mass quantities of it because I am a marketer’s wet dream.
“Case” in point: I bought a Magic Hat Night of the Living Dead 12-pack because the box was covered in dancing skeletons. Inside was a mix of four different beers I don’t particularly like. I shared them with friends at a Labor Day party. My summer ended – not with a whimper – but with a Wilhelm Scream Pumpkin Ale.
I recently visited New Kensington’s House of 1000 Beers (my second “home”) to stock up on libations for a Spooky Beer Tasting at my basement bar, The Zombie Lounge. All of my selections were based solely on label art:
1. Flying Dog The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale: A better-than-average pumpkin beverage boasting artwork that looks like a possessed Jackson Pollock painting.
2. Full Pint Night of the Living Stout: I’m a Pittsburgher and a diehard zombie enthusiast…how could I not support this local brew?
3. Flying Monkeys Netherworld Cascadian Dark Ale: I’d never heard of a Cascadian Dark Ale before (it’s basically a Black IPA) but the hops zombies on the bottle urged me to try something new. Glad I did. It was delicious.
4. Clown Shoes Undead Party Crasher American Imperial Stout: Like most people, I hate clowns. However, Clown Shoes Brewing can bring its alcoholic circus to my mouth any day! This Massachusetts brewery has taken beer-naming and label artistry to another level. Angry Beast, Gargoyle Love Song, Exorcism at Sunset, Evil Crawfish…these aren’t beers you drink at a tailgate party; it’s beer you drink while worshipping Satan!
5. Ballast Point Dead Ringer Oktoberfest Lager: This nautical-themed brewery uses a lot of skeletons in their marketing, which makes me feel like I’m drinking “Army of Darkness” suds.
6. 4 Hands Brewing Passion Fruit Prussia Berliner Weissbier: There’s a man-eating plant on the can. Beer me, Seymour!
7. Southern Tier Warlock Imperial Pumpkin Stout: When it comes to carving jack-o’-lanterns, I’m a three-triangles-and-a-gap-
Worried that I wouldn’t have enough variety for my Spooky Beer Tasting, I went online to search for more seasonal offerings. I am currently on the lookout for:
1. Pretty much anything from Spring House Brewing Company: I had their Lil’ Gruesome Peanut Butter Jelly Stout on tap at Stoke’s Grill in Ross Township, so I didn’t get the aesthetic value of sipping from a cool bottle, but the taste was amazing. Their website is very horror-centric, as are the names of their beers. Not only does this Lancaster, Pa. taproom make a pumpkin ale called Braaaiins!, they’ve also got The Astounding She-Monster Mango IPA, Lexicon Devil Grapefruit Pale Ale, Spinal Remains Pumpkin Stout, Diabolical Doctor Wit and Satan’s Bake Sale Mint Chocolate Chip Stout! Happy Halloween, indeed!
2. Punkless Dunkel Pumpkin Wheat Ale: I like to think of this beer as the liquid equivalent of “Halloween III: Season of the Witch.” It’s a pumpkin ale, but it’s a German dunkelweizen. It’s a Halloween staple, but it’s totally different. Bonus points to the gut-spewing jack-o’-lantern with pendulous eyeballs on the label! I’d totally get that sumbitch tattooed on my ribcage … or maybe I’d just display the bottle in my house.
You see, I collect bottles, cans, caps, coasters, steins and signs. My beer kitchen (a.k.a., my bitchin’) is filled, floor-to-ceiling, with brewery memorabilia (most of which I don’t remember buying). The crown jewel of my collection is a Coors Light Elvira standee!
During the late-80s and early-90s, The Mistress of the Dark served as the official “spooksperson” of Coors Brewing. Her life-sized advertisements stood seductively in beer distributors and grocery stores nationwide. With her low-cut dress and come-hither stare, dudes would gravitate toward her, ahem, cans and mindlessly plunk down hard-earned cash on a case. Never mind that the Silver Bullet had a hellish taste. When a cardboard Elvira commands you to drink something, you drink it!
The busty horror hostess parted ways with Coors when the company tried to tone down her image (she was even asked to leave the Great American Beer Festival due to her “inappropriate attire”). Elvira balked at covering up her trademark cleavage and, in 1996, came out with her own brand of beer: Elvira’s Night Brew.
I’ve never tasted the dark lager, but an unopened six-pack recently sold online for $150. Unlike its namesake, I’m sure the beer hasn’t aged well, but I’d still take a swig if given the chance…because it’s ELVIRA BEER!
I wouldn’t drink a Coors Light though. That’s just too scary!