October is a great month for both craft beer and horror films, and unsurprisingly the two go great together. But how best to pair them? Many beers display monsters, zombies, ghosts and ghouls right on the labels. Some, like Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s Nosferatu, Two Road’s Brewing Co.’s Roadsmary’s Baby and Full Pint Brewing’s Night of the Living Stout even allude to iconic horror films. While these are great beers, their names alone do not instantly qualify them as the best possible pairings. Let’s stroll past this low-hanging fruit in favor of finding beers that better match horror flicks both new and old.
What do you drink when you need to stay awake, lest you be eviscerated by the bladed glove of A Nightmare on Elm Street‘s Freddy Krueger? Why coffee, of course. And coffee beer is the next best thing. Let’s just overlook the fact that the caffeine in these beers pales in comparison to the sleep-inducing alcohol, and grab something like No-Li Brewhouse’s Rise and Grind, a coffee-laden stout that the brewery describes as “a wake-up call, a brewer’s breakfast.”
The very title of The Cabin in the Woods makes it seem as if this is just another cheap slasher flick, reliant on the same tropes that run rampant through the genre. And make no mistake, they’re here: the usual suspects of a virgin, a whore, a nerd, a jock and a stoner head to a cabin, where even more clichés await. But instead of relying on these genre conventions, they subvert them—in much the same way a little dark malt might flip a traditional IPA on its head. It might seem dark, but at its heart the beer is a playful attempt at bending style guidelines. Try Founders Brewing Co.’s new Dark Penance, but check your expectations at the door.
The beauty of The Nightmare Before Christmas is that it celebrates Halloween as well as Christmas, and thus you can go one of two ways with your beer pairings. You could grab a pumpkin ale—assuming any are left over from this summer’s bounty—or you can snag one of the early Christmas beers hitting shelves. Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s Christmas Ale would be a fine choice, and it should hit shelves in the days before Halloween. Just make sure to put a few away for Christmas.
In Drag Me to Hell, loan officer Christine Brown falls victim to a curse when she denies Sylvia Ganush an extension on her home loan. As punishment, Mrs. Ganush curses Stephanie with a spirit “summoned by the gypsies for their dour deeds.” And while Ganush is clearly distraught to leave her home, Evil Twin Brewing’s Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø is content to travel from brewhouse to brewhouse, never staying in one place for very long. Though he hails from Denmark, this “gypsy brewer” currently brews at around 10 different breweries. Will his Even More Jesus save you from the fiery pits of hell? Probably not, but it’s a damned good stout.
Okay, I fell victim to the label here. In Stephen King’s IT, a shape-shifting creature preys upon the residents of Derry, Maine (and especially a group of children that call themselves “The Losers Club”). It usually appears as Pennywise the clown, however it also assumes the form of a werewolf and mummy, both of which grace the label of Clown Shoes’ Undead Party Crasher. Were one of the kids from “The Losers Clubs” to have become a brewer, I can imagine them peering into a dark mash tun to see Pennywise’s blood-red hair rising from beneath the clumpy grains, eyes shining and lips pulled back in a sneer as he says, “We all float down here.”
They are everywhere in Shaun of the Dead, and I’m not talking about “the zed word.” Though there are hordes of zombies, the film’s beer count rivals its undead. Shaun and Ed—played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, respectively—consume most of this beer at The Winchester, their local pub. They even glean philosophical quotes from “beer mats,” or what we on this side of the pond call coasters. And though the world might be completely overrun by zombies, they still plan to “... go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all of this to blow over.” I don’t remember specific brands being mentioned, but something tells me the two wouldn’t thumb their noses at Fuller’s London Pride, a classic English pale ale.
Children of the Corn is set in the fictional town of Gatlin, Nebraska, which is surrounded by fields of corn as far as the eye can see. In the shelter of those stalks, a boy named Isaac convinces the town’s children to rise up and murder all of the adults in the name of a deity he refers to as “He Who Walks Behind The Rows.” Like Gatlin, the craft beer industry is also surrounded by corn amid rows and rows of adjunct lagers, but that’s not to say they eschew the grain. Several craft breweries use corn as an adjunct in cream ales, with Wisconsin’s New Glarus Spotted Cow being a popular example. Sacrifice the cow—not people—and be glad you’re drinking the corn instead of being chased through it.
In the 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, alien “pod people” come to Earth and start duplicating the residents of a small town. At first glance they might look just like the real thing, but the astute can tell something’s missing. In this case, the pod people are lacking emotion or, some might say, a soul—the very thing that makes people people. While watching this film, it might be good to do your own comparison. Snatch a bottle of craft beer and a bottle of crafty beer—maybe something like an Allagash White and a Shock Top Belgian White—and see if you can pick out the imposter.
The House of the Devil is a throwback film, an homage to horror films from the ‘70s and ‘80s not just in terms of its content—babysitters in danger, creepy mansions, satanic rituals—but also in how it was filmed. It was shot on the 16mm film typical of the time, features retro typefaces in the credits and includes ‘80s music throughout (often played through a Walkman, no less). The film is something new born from something old, just like Anchor Brewing’s California Lager. This 4.9% beer is Anchor’s attempt at recreating California’s first genuine lager by using Cluster hops common in 1800s California as well as two-row barley grown in The Golden State.
Sam Raimi’s low-budget film The Evil Dead achieved cult classic status despite Raimi having no experience in moviemaking prior to picking up a Super 8 camera and filming with his friend Bruce Campbell, who would play Ash Williams in the Evil Dead trilogy. The film’s amateurish nature is part of its charm, and if that’s true anywhere in beer it’s with homebrew. It’s easier to overlook minor flaws if they’re your own, just as it’s even more rewarding when one of your own beers exceeds expectations. How many amateur homebrewers have later gone on to start their own breweries? Just be careful when aging beers down in the cellar.