Friday, May 17, 2013

Top 10 Beers of Horror!

I've recently been absolutely trapped by an app on my iPhone that my brother Richie exposed to me. And by trapped, I mean trapped in the same inexorable way that a dying planet is trapped in a downward gravity spiral as it's slowly pulled into its once life giving sun. Or, perhaps in the way that will - once and for all - finally finish the wanton destruction to my liver that began so many years ago in college when I discovered the wonder, joy, and blood poisoning elixir most commonly know as beer.

The app is called Untappd. They have a website and have versions that are available on most mobile devices too.

Anyway, Untappd works by tracking your beer drinking and the number of unique beers you drink. It rewards you by giving badges for trying certain beers, or drinking in certain places. It's a social app, so you're also seeing what your friends are drinking, and what badges they've earned.

It's absolutely fucking addicting.

Here's the problem with the whole badge component... Dr. Z finds himself getting into gamer mode. It's great in that it has me trying beers I would have never tried before (who knew there was a whole class of beer known as sour beers?!?) But I'm in bad shape, man. And, by gamer mode, I mean that I'm fascinated and fixated and constantly trying to get more badges. It's a terrible temptation and it's - seriously - killing both my liver and, to some larger extent, Mrs. Zombie - who is seriously fed up with my checking in every gorram beer I drink.

My quest for unknown and untried beer (and the subsequent rewarding of unique badges!) has led to my nixing restaurants on date nights because they don't have a good beer selection. Seriously.

I do have to take a second and mention that Mrs. Zombie is a saint to put up with my shit. If it's not one harebrained scheme or another, or my bugging her for a new Harley, or even my endless fascination with horror movies and other forms of geekery - she puts up with a lot. I think Untappd, however, is going to be the death knell of any patience she has for me.

For instance, yesterday I ran out on my lunch break and hit this really cool beverage store in Mentor on State Route 306 that sells craft and import beers by the bottle. They claim to have over 3000 different craft and import beers - and I tend to believe them. I spent almost 20 dollars on a six pack of assorted beers. 1 of them was a Two Brothers Brewery Cane and Abel because my other brother Phil (who's also been sucked into the Untappd psychosis) recommended it as one of the best rye beers he's ever had. The other 5 were all Belgian beers because there's a Belgian Holiday badge for drinking 5 beers brewed in Belgian. I also picked up an unnecessarily large bottle of Orkney Brewing Dragonhead Stout because I'm a fan of that particular Scottish Brewery.

The 5 Belgian brews, by the way, is how a lot of the badges work. If you drink, for instance, 10 IPA's - you get the 'I Believe in IPA' badge. Or, if you drink 10 beers from the UK, you get the 'God Save the Queen Badge'. They also do special holiday badges, so if you drink a beer on St. Patty's, you get a special 2013 St. Patty's day badge... or Cinco De Mayo, or Halloween, or New Year's, or whatever.

You see how that can get addicting, right? Right?

Anyway, on to the whole purpose of this post. Since I've been absolutely stupid with my beer consumption lately, I'm getting a good feel for some of the cool craft brews out there. There's nothing Doctor Zombie loves more than drinking a couple beers while watching a horror movie. Whether it's a classic Hammer film with old Peter Cushing and Chrisopher Lee, or a modern zombie film, or an 80's slasher flick, or anything with Lon Chaney and/or Boris Karloff - I love sitting down, turning off all the lights, cranking the surround sound, popping on a horror flick, and relishing the delicious hoppy goodness of a great beer.

So, in that vein, here's my list of great horror themed beers!

Some rules: I have some from the same brewery and that's simply my personal affinity for certain breweries - however, they are also breweries that specialize in types of beers. And those beers betray the fact that someone, somewhere in the brewery, has the requisite irreverence that comes with being a horror fan of some sort or other. I honestly think there's someone at these breweries who - like us - just dig cool spooky or horror-themed stuff. Also, the beers have to be horror-themed in some way, they need to be GOOD, and while they may be seasonal - a true brew hound should be able to find them year round if they try hard enough.

If not, you can always do what Dr. Zombie does - stockpile them like he does Monster Cereals, baby!

So, on to the list of the Top 10 Horror Themed Beers!

10) Full Pint Brewing Night of the Living Stout - Night of the Living Stout is a ridiculously smooth, dark, easy drinking stout that comes from, of course, the Pittsburgh-based Full Pint Brewing. Pittsburgh, as we all know, is the home of the modern zombie film, and this stout with the kick ass label does that reputation proud. It pours with very little head, and could be trouble because it goes down so easy.

Suggested Parings: Enjoy with a side of zombie flicks - preferably something from the Maestro, himself - George A. Romero!

9) Rogue Dead Guy Ale - Always a classic. While writing this, I flipped over to their site and saw that Dead Guy is actually a German-style ale, which I find surprising because I don't care for German beer. If they have German beers that are in the style of Dead Guy, I may need to re-evaluate my opinion. It's got a healthy alcohol content (6.5%) and is actually really easy to drink. It looks wonderful in a glass with it's deep rich color and is a delightful combination of maltiness with citrus undertones. Bonus - Rogue always has the best tap handles. You know that a bar serves Rogue when you see the squatting skeleton grinning at you from across the bar.

Suggested Pairings: John Carpenter's The Fog, old episodes of Scooby Doo, or anything with Bruce Campbell! Klaatu Verada Nik... necklace? Nedra? Nose?...  Also while watching Grimm on NBC. Monroe, everyone's favorite Blutbad, loves this brew!

8) New Holland The Poet - Another fine example of New Holland's expertise in turning out exceptional craft brews, The Poet is a delicious oatmeal stout that is pleasing to the eye and filled with delicious hints of chocolate and caramel. Like any good oatmeal stout, it is creamy and fabulous. The label is adorned with an ominous raven silhouette and is reminiscent of Lewis Carroll's line from Alice in Wonderland, "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" Although nonsensical and the point was that it had no answer, (and was indicative of  the Madhatter's madness)... I still prefer the alternative: Because Poe wrote on both! Old Edgar Allen is a genius and honored by this delicious brew!

Suggested Pairings: The 1960 Vincent Price classic, The Fall of the House of Usher; or the 1963 Roger Corman version of The Raven (again, Vincent Price, with the addition of Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and a young Jack Nicholson!).

7) Three Floyds Zombie Dust - I just tried this a few weeks ago, but how could I not give something this awesome a try?!? Zombie Dust is an IPA and I'm not an IPA fan generally. The endless overhopping of beer, I think, diminishes the taste of the beer. I know this is a palate thing, but I often get a weird grassy, herbal tate when I drink IPA's. Three Floyd's Zombie Dust, however, was a pleasant surprise. It tasted good with light, crisp notes that weren't blasted with ridiculous amounts of hops during the brewing process. I'm also an admitted sucker when it comes to good packaging and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the label on this bottle.

Suggested Pairings: Best when served on tap, but it does come in a bottle. Pick up a six pack, turn on the Netflix, and kill the six pack while watching as many low budget, direct to DVD/Netflix zombie films you can. It will buzz you up quick, and deaden the pain of the shit that attempts - and fails - to pass for competent horror film making. Trust me, Zombie Dust will make all groovy, baby.

6) Orkney Skull Splitter - This is not a beer for the weak. It comes from the Orkney brewery, on the Orkney Islands. Orkney has been inhabited for 5000 years and was run by the Vikings for thousands of years before Alfred the Great established the Danelaw. And that tradition of conquest and pillaging shows itself in the beer brewed there. This is a beer that is best drank from the skull of your enemy. It is strong, deliciously so. Seriously, a couple beers into this and you'll find yourself looking for a horned helmet and a nearby village to pillage and rape. This bloodthirstiness works well with horror movies with high gore value.

Suggested Pairings: Like I said, something violent and gory. Saw 1 or 2, Eli Roth torture porn like Cabin Fever or Hostel, or just some good old fashioned 80's slasher flicks. Nothing says 'BLLLAAAARRRGGHGHH! KILL!" like Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Rob Zombie's House of a 1000 Corpses. 

5) Great Lakes Lake Erie Monster - A Great Lakes Brewing offering. Although more of a traditional IPA, I couldn't keep from including it. It's got a great label and pays homage to Lake Erie's very own cryptid. Seriously, there's monsters out there in the blue-green, choppy, dangerous depths of Lake Eerie. Why else would there be so many shipwrecks?!?

Suggested Pairings: The Creature from The Black Lagoon, the deep sea sci-fi thriller Virus with Jamie Lee Curtis, Open Water, or Japanese-made, Matthew Broderick-less Godzilla flicks. As an alternative, whilst watching Cleveland's own minor league hockey team, the Lake Erie Monsters, on Sportschannel Ohio!

4) Ommegang Gnomegang - Although not truly horror-themed, one could say that gnomes are at least fantasy, geeky based? Truthfully, I couldn't leave off one of my new favorite breweries. The New York state based Brewery Ommegang is mind-blowingly good. Everything I've tried from them is fabulous. They repeatedly take the top two spots EVERY YEAR of the best craft brews in the US. Gnomegang is a Belgian-style Hennepin that is delicious, light, crisp, and decadently effervescent. If you've never had anything from Brewery Ommegang, please, do yourself a favor and get yourself some. Believe me, you will not be disappointed.

Suggested Pairings: Leprechaun, Critters, or Gremlins 1 and 2. I might even suggest Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth for the otherworldly, fairy-like creatures. Anything gnome-like will do!

3) New Holland Ichabod - New Holland Brewing out of Michigan is amazing to me because every single beer I've ever had from them is delicious. Their seasonal pumpkin brew, Ichabod, is no exception. I consider myself an expert on pumpkin beers. I start drinking them in early September, and will regularly continue buying them through Christmas. I will also, as I've said before, stockpile them. Fortunately, my beer store of choice keeps it on hand all year as they have a distribution deal with New Holland. Sporting the Headless Horseman on its label, Ichabod is a perfect example of a pumpkin brew. Not too heavy on the nutmeg and allspice, it lets the flavor of the pumpkin through, and lets everyone's favorite orange gourd be the star.

Suggested Pairings: John Carpenter's Halloween, Halloween 2, Halloween 3, and Halloween H20. We can all forget about the other inferior sequels and should admit that these 4 movies make up the best representation of Carpenter and Debra Hill's vision. Carpenter's 1978 Halloween, by the way, is watched year round in Dr. Zombie's Midnight Theater of Terror.

2) Great Lakes Nosferatu - Going local, but that's because Great Lakes is a fabulous brewery. Cleveland is square in the middle of the craft brew revolution with several really good local breweries (like The Market Garden Brewery, or Indigo Imp, or Thirsty Dog, or  Buckeye Brewing); but Great Lakes remains the king. They consistently produce fabulous tasting beer and Nosferatu is my personal favorite. It's a weird, hard to define beer. It's blood red when poured in a glass, but isn't a true red ale. It's got a wonderfully high alcohol content (8%), and comes only in four packs around Halloween (and those 4 packs cost what you would pay for a 12 pack of imported mass produced beer). It has a bitter aftertaste that smacks of the high alcohol content. By all considerations, I should hate this beer. It's harsh, bitter, and not what i normally drink. That said, I love it. I spend an inordinate amount of money snatching up 4 packs of the shit and can usually make it stretch until summer. In addition to that, I have a Great Lakes Brewing growler for the sole purpose of making my annual autumn pilgrimage to the Great Lakes Brewery's west side location in order to get some Nosferatu direct from the keg. I can't tell you how awesome this beer is.

Suggested Pairings: Near Dark, The Lost Boys, 30 Days of Night, Dracula (1931), Bram Stoker's Dracula (with Winona Ryder! Dear, sweet, Winona. Sigh), or Underworld. Really, any vampire flick that plays around Halloween, because that's the only time you can get it. I recommend AMC's Fearnet... it's on constant play for the entire month of October at my casa!

1) Wychwood Hobgoblin - Quite likely my favorite beer, Hobgoblin is the quintessential English Strong Ale. It is delicious, smooth, and has a taste unlike any other strong ale or ESB out there. If you get a chance, check out the awesome design of the Wychwood Brewery website. I love this beer. It is everything a beer should be. It's got a strong bite at the beginning, but finishes smooth. It's drinkability is off the scale and it has a delicious nutty, malty flavor. Wychwood is a cool as hell brewery as well. They have a vintage looking witch as their logo, the hobgoblin on the label appeals to the dark, Pagan part of me, and they have some other great brews out there. In the US, I can get Hobgoblin, Dark Goblin Special Reserve (which is like an amped up Hobgoblin), Wychcraft (a delicious golden ale), and Scarecrow Organic (an English Pale Ale). That's it though.

They have several UK-only brews I'd love to try. They have beers like Gingerbeard (a ginger beer), Pumpking (a pumpkin), Dirty tackle (an English bitter), and a number of other seasonal and special brews unavailable here in the US. This makes me sad. Guess I'll need to get back to the UK in a few years...

Suggested Pairings: Any horror, sci-fi, fantasy, or otherwise geeky movie, TV show, or just drinking on the porch, or at parties, or anywhere. Really... this is a fabulous beer and I can't recommend it enough.

Runners up: 
Harpoon UFO White
Wychwood Scarecrow Organic
Spring House Brewing Braaaiins! Pumpkin Ale for Zombies
Rogue Farms Pumpkin Patch Ale

So there it is. Beers for the horror-minded. Hope you enjoy.

Oh, and if you're interested in joining in the madness that is Untappd, feel free to friend me. Search for me under the name: DoctorZombie. I'll be happy to friend you and help you too lose your life to endless hours of badge collecting and drunken revelry. You're soon to be undead liver will thank you for it!

1 comment:

jen said...

that beer store on 306 is amazing! and they are so nice there.