Breweries are out to prove Halloween isn’t just for the kids, as SARAH SINGLETON discovers

THE veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is reckoned to be thin at Halloween — or Samhain, as the ancient pagans called it — which seems as good a reason as any for feasting and drinking.

Several local breweries are getting into the spirit of the occasion by concocting special new Halloween beers, full of autumnal flavours and perfect to drink sitting by a warm fire as you while away the long dark nights.

Devizes-based Wadworth has brewed a limited edition beer called Treacle Treat. It contains neither eye of newt nor wing of bat, but target hops, treacle syrup and liquorice root. And Wadworth promises it is a ghoulishly good dark ale.

Head brewer Andy Weaver explains why: “The addition of treacle syrup makes this one of the sweetest and most distinctive tasting Wadworth beers to date. As a result, we see Treacle Treat appealing to new and emerging dark ale drinkers as well as the enthusiasts.”

This is the first time the brewery has made a Halloween special and the idea came from former head brewer Colin Oke.

“We thought it would be something interesting and different to try. Halloween has become a big event in the year and has potential for a lot of sales,” says Andy.

“We chose black treacle because it’s an ingredient you might associate with Halloween. We did a test brew. You start with a little bit, and then we tried two and a half barrels, then when we’d got it right scaled up to 100 barrels.”

The brew contains dark muscovado sugar as well as treacle and a hint of liquorice. He says the beer has a hint of sweetness, balanced with the bitterness of the target hops.

The label’s artwork was inspired by the famous Mexican Day of the Dead. It combines the popular Day of the Dead skull with a distinctly dark English folk aesthetic, with the hop and barley eyes and nose.

Andy says the response so far has been good.

“I’ve been checking the reviews on the beer tasting website and it’s been received really well,” he says. “I’m sure we’ll brew it again next year.

The beer is available in Wadworth pubs throughout October, and in bottles from the Wadworth online shop and visitor centre, costing £2.10 each.

The new Treacle Treat will also star in the list at Wandsworth Common Halloween Beer Festival, October 25-28, at the aptly named Le Gothique, in London.

Billed as a festival of “dark, autumnal, mild, barley wine, porter and stout from the four corners of Britain”, the Halloween event is in its ninth year, and its beer list includes a host of spooky brews, such as Devon Earth’s Lost in the Woods and Drop the Anchor Brewery’s Silent Stones.

Swindon-based Arkell’s Brewery is also creating its first Halloween special. While many of us may be carving this season’s pumpkins into spooky lanterns, Arkell’s is putting them into its beer.

“Halloween doesn’t just have to be for the kids,” says head brewer Alex Arkell. “Why should the fun stop when you’re 18?”

He says pumpkin beers were popular in the United States, as he discovered on a visit to Chicago in 2011.

“I tried a few when I was out there, and I came up with a plan for our own this year,” he explains.

“Pumpkins don’t have a huge, bold flavour, but what they add to a beer is a bit of body and richness. To that we add the spice, which is the perfect complement, giving it a woody, autumnal flavour. We used cinnamon and others, in a secret combination.”

Alex created the recipe for this new beer through trial and error, tasting and mixing pumpkin, barley and hops. The pumpkins were chopped up, flesh and skin, and added to the brew.

“You bring the ingredients together just like you do when you’re cooking,” he says.

The pumpkins are Wiltshire grown – in Bromham – and are supplied by Heritage Fine Foods, based in Devizes.

“We did a kind of barter,” says managing director Ken Mortimer. “They showed us round the brewery a few weeks ago, so we donated 70kg of pumpkins – that’s six great big pumpkins.”

The striking Halloween pumpkin label was designed by Darren Graham at Adprofile.

At 4.2% ABV, Pumpkin is sweet and he says it is “a deliciously dark beer worthy of a time of year when we celebrate the end of summer and harvest, and the beginning of the long winter months”.

So far, the new beer has proved popular and Alex says feedback had been good – so he is planning to brew it again next year.

“It has been selling like hot cakes,” he says.

It will be available on draught at most Arkell’s pubs in the run-up to Halloween, and all over the country at selected pubs.

Wiltshire-based Box Stream Brewery has been making a seasonal special for about five years. Their Halloween beer is Ghost Train – a dark, rich, ruby-coloured bitter.

“It’s a full bodied, fresh, fruity brew, made with a blend of malts, including chocolate malt which gives it the colour,” says spokesman Jake Doherty.

“The recipe has stayed similar, but the designs for the pump clips and labels have changed and evolved.

“Halloween is mostly a children’s event – but why shouldn’t the adults have fun too?

“This beer is perfect with a hot dog.”

Ghost Train is available on draught at Wiltshire pubs and selected pubs nationwide.