Halloween is one of the few holidays that is celebrated in many different countries across the world, and has evolved into a huge cultural phenomenon here in the U.S. Whole stores dedicated to costumes and decorations, movies and TV shows drawing on the themes of this scary night, and of course, many beers that pay homage to the traditions of this day. You may have stopped trick-or-treating some years back, but you can still treat yourself and guests to an All Hallow’s Eve party you aren’t likely to forget with a few of these tricks.
Beverages: The clear choice here is pumpkin ales, given the importance of Jack-O-Lanterns in traditional Halloween lore, but cider, and harvest ales are also appropriate.
Evolution Jacques Au Lantern: This deep orange brew is full of pumpkin and spicy clove, cinnamon and nutmeg flavors without being over-the-top. Sweet, and goes down easy. 6.3 % ABV
Long Trail Imperial Pumpkin: A touch of hoppy bitterness balances the sweet pumpkin and pie spice notes in this Brush and Barrel series brew. It’s also a little higher in the alcohol content than others on this list. 8% ABV
Ithaca Country Pumpkin: Natural-tasting pumpkin flavors are the backbone of this brew, with just enough cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg and hop to keep it interesting. 6.3% ABV
Starr Hill Boxcar Pumpkin Porter: This hybrid brew mixes a sweet pumpkin taste with the caramel and coffee notes of a porter. Definitely not your usual pumpkin beer. 5.2% ABV
Victory Festbier: Marzen’s aren’t only for Oktoberfest. The deep-roasted malts in this beer go well with all sorts of hearty harvest foods, and it’s the perfect choice for anyone who isn’t too into pumpkin ales. 5.6% ABV
Rogue Dead Guy Ale: This beer-fan favorite’s name is scary enough to serve at this spookiest of holidays. Great balance between hops and malt makes for easy drinking. Looking to try it before you buy some for your party? JT Brewski’s in Primo is serving $4 drafts of this brew every Thursday in October. 6.5% ABV
An easy way to make these beers even more festive is to serve them in a pumpkin keg. If you have more than one beer, paint the pumpkin festively with the name of the brew, or cut out a coffin from cardboard, paint it black and add the name.
Food: Whether you’re having a sit-down meal, or just want to serve some ghoulish treats for your guests, we’ve got you covered.
Not-so-tricky treats: Disembodied hands, caramel apples, spider bites, finger sandwiches, pumpkin cheeseball, roasted pumpkin seeds, bloody tomato soup & munster sammies, and deviled eggs are all good choices of finger foods to set out on a spooky spread.
Harvest Meal: These foods stick with the theme of the autumn harvest, using such ingredients at squash, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, parsnips, pears, carrots and apples for a number of hearty dishes. Garlicky sweet potato fries, roasted acorn squash with mushroom, peppers and goat cheese, butternut squash and mushroom lasagna, pork roast with apple and sage, Thai pumpkin and chicken curry, fennel-crusted pork loin with roasted potatoes and pears, porcini and pumpkin ale mac & cheese, apple dumpling, spice-roasted chicken, red onions, carrots and parsnips, pumpkin beer bread, apple-pumpkin muffins and of course, don’t forget the pumpkin pie.
Decorations: Atmosphere is all-important when it comes to this holiday. Even if you’re not looking to right-out scare any of your guests, you at least want to maintain an eerie mood. Since there are so many things that can be done with your decorations and we’re sure you’ve already got tons of ideas, let’s cover a few basics and list some things that you might like to try this year.
Outdoors: Fire is a must. If you have a fire pit or room for a chiminea, use it. The heat will keep everyone cozy, and the flicker from the flames add a lovely ambiance. Tiki torches can also be used for this effect, and to light walkways in a spooky manner. Just be sure that trick-or-treaters won’t be in danger of getting burned. For the garden or yard, homemade tombstones can add some fright, and adding a mummy can take it to the next level. Chicken wire can also be used to create ghostly figures in the exterior. This is especially effective in darker corners of the yard, and a fog machine can really bring these life-size figures to afterlife.
Indoors: If you’re hosting your party indoors, there are lots of things you can do to bring a little spook into your home. Candles offer the same benefit of mood-setting as the fire does outside, but without all the heat and minimal fire hazard. Set lights to off or dimmed in certain rooms to complete this effect, or replace bulbs in certain rooms with colored ones, like red, purple or green. Cobwebs are a cheap and easy way to give your home an ancient vibe, and cheesecloth ghosts are a fun craft to do with the kids beforehand to add some haunters in. Silhouettes of bats, cats, rats and freakish figures cut from black construction paper can be set into windows for a scary view inside or along walls to add a bit of flair. Try making a whole swarm of bats flying along a wall.
Activities: Other than the usual trick-or-treating, there are a number of activities for all ages. Contests can be awarded with candy for the kids and a six-pack of a pumpkin ale for the adults.
Costume Contest: Any Halloween party should be full of costumes, so a contest is a fun idea to get people really into the spirit of things. You can divide the contest by a number of categories; age, gender, spookiest, funniest, most creative, or best group costume.
Bobbing for Apples: This old game was once considered a fortune teller, revealing the marriage and financial fates of the players. Now, it’s just a fun game that kids and adults can both have fun with.
Mummy Wrap: Divide guests into twos, give each team a roll of toilet paper, crepe paper or thick ribbon, and have them race for who can mummify their partner first.
Pumpkin Carving Contest: The tradition of carving jack-o-lanterns can be made into a fun party sport, either by having guests bring their pre-carved pumpkins to be judged, or setting up a table with pumpkins and carving sets and judging the freaky creations at the end of the night.