Usually, white wine is for warmer weather and red wine for cooler. Beer, on the other hand, is year-round. Still, there are somewhat heavier-weight beers that are brewed for autumn-winter. With fierce weather predicted for Chicago in the coming months, you might want to lay in a few cases of these three local ales to see you through the colder season (you don’t want to get snowed in without liquid bread on hand).
The following brews—good for Halloween and beyond—are listed in order of increasing heaviness.
Scylla’s Grasp (Urban Legend)
Pulling through the scary theme of the season, Scylla’s Grasp from Urban Legend is a crisp pale ale made with a “mosaic” (i.e., collection) of hops that make for a lot of dimension in each sip. There’s pronounced hoppiness, but also some light citrus, a pleasing combination that would be welcome on an autumn evening. The first sip tickles the buds with light astringency, and the backend pays off with layers of taste, some bitter, others floral. The different angles of light flavor in this brew make this a good food beer: it’s likely that any dish set before you will contain flavors that will complement the many, though uncluttered, tastes in Scylla’s Grasp. If you like hops but recoil from the current trend toward over-hopped beers, this is a good one for you. In case you’re not remembering Scylla from Greek mythology, it’s the mythical creature from Homer’s “Odyssey” who pulls sailors to their death—the beast was once a beautiful maiden who refused a god’s advances and was transformed into a hideous, murderous monster. Thirsty yet? 5.2 ABV
De Ogen (Ten-Ninety)
De Ogen means “the eyes,” which refers to tiny eyes that are said to peer out of the darkness of Belgium’s Sonian Forest. Ten-Ninety’s Halloween-appropriate farmhouse ale contains pumpkin, but the flavors of the seasonal squash are very dialed back and complemented by light spices. The beer is finished with free-rise fermentation using Omega Yeast Lab’s seasonally appropriate “Sainsonstein’s Monster.” This beverage is in the Belgian style, but with only moderate sourness and none of the horse-blanket funk of some of Belgian’s feistier brews. We liked it with salty pumpkin seeds, but the label suggests “maple-glazed pork or a plum-ginger cobbler.” Oooh, so specific, as Mallory said in “Natural Born Killers.” 8.40 ABV.
Five Vulture (Five Rabbit Cerveceria)
In the Mexican state of Oaxaca, the Day of the Dead is very big, and many families make their journey to the local boneyard to have dinner with deceased relatives. A beer could definitely take the edge off that particular kind of family get-together. Five Vulture is billed as Oaxacan-style dark ale, with ancho chiles that deliver flavor without a lot of heat (in our book, less heat is a good thing in beer). Piloncillo sugar adds caramel-like notes, with a whisper of chocolate (think mole negro, the savory chocolate-based sauce very popular in Oaxaca and found on many Day of the Dead tables). This is a complex and powerful offering from Five Rabbit Cerveceria, and it might be best to enjoy it with simple fall dishes like roasted chicken or maybe a big bowl of Halloween candy. 6.4 ABV (David Hammond)