What's On Tap
Holidays are the perfect excuse to enjoy a drink or two, and Halloween is no exception.

While the kids are counting candies and swapping sweets, which tricks should you treat yourself to?

To fit the season and the mood, go for dark beers and autumnal ales. Jerald O'Kennard of the Beverage Testing Institute and Tastings.com says strong, substantial beers are right in tune with this time of year.

"Halloween is ... towards the end of the year, and you want something rich, something that has a lot of character to it, something that you can just relax with and get through the cold nights with," O'Kennard says.

Just because a strong beer fits the occasion, it doesn't mean it must be excessively dark. One of O'Kennard's top Halloween picks, in fact, is the refreshing Full Sail Wassail, from Oregon. "It's an old English style of beer. It's actually a really tasty, darker beer that's brewed with a little bit of spice. So it's got a nice, roasted kind of nut flavor, with a little bit of spiciness." Sample it yourself for about $7 per six-pack.

Another standout is the honey-amber Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale. Winter Welcome is one of the best recipes from one of the oldest breweries in England, O'Kennard says, excellent "if you're a fan of Pilsner-style beers. This is an ale, but it has a lot of that crispness like a Pilsner beer."

Tastings.com describes it as a "dry-yet-fruity caramelized malt with dried orange peel, citrus and buttered-toffee flavors."

Calling it a nice, celebration kind of beer, O'Kennard adds that Winter Welcome is slightly more substantial, containing about 5% alcohol. You may have to head to a specialty beer store for this one, where you can find it for about $10 for a 12-ounce four-pack.

Instead of heading to the orchard for some apple-picking, try harvesting the season with Liefman Brewery Goudenband. Cracking the bottle open and taking one whiff is equivalent to strolling through a fall bounty of apple ciders, pies and strudels. Scents of apples with hints of berries exude from the top, but surprisingly, there is not one bit of fruit in the beer, according to O'Kennard. "It's just one of those incredible, artisanal-made beers from Belgium," he says, describing the beer as fruity, smooth and a little bit sweet.

The review of Goudenband on Tastings.com notes the beer's "dry-yet-fruity medium-full body with rich tangy malt, dried berry and spice flavors" and its "long, brandylike finish." About 8% to 9% alcohol, it's also a bit pricier than your average beer, selling for about $10 per 750 ml bottle.

To celebrate the occasion in style, Malheur Brut Reserve dons a champagne costume, but is actually a Belgian beer that O'Kennard says goes down just like wine and is great to accompany a meal. I fell for the fancy gold packaging, pouring a glass without reading the label too closely and believing it champagne upon first glance.

It is a lovely golden shade, similar to champagne, but the thick, foamy head gives its true identity away. A holiday splurge, at $24.99 per 750ml bottle, it's packed with ginger and spice qualities that really fit in with seasonal cooking.

"The flavors in there are so complex, but ... it's just this very drinkable style, smooth, no rough edges at all," O'Kennard says.

If ever there was a dark and mysterious beer for a spooky occasion, it's Deschutes Brewery's The Abyss. A dark, tall bottle with a brown label depicting a jagged crack down the middle hints at what looms inside. Only available in the western U.S., an Abyss experience will cost you about $7.50 to $10 per 22-ounce bottle.

"It's almost pitch black -- it pours like ink," O'Kennard says. "It's a dark, imperial style of beer made from a northwest American brewery. It's just dense; it's like chocolate -- dark baker's chocolate -- and coffee."

For any extreme-beer drinkers, O'Kennard says this is the one for you. With 11% alcohol content, Tastings.com calls Abyss a "powerful, rich, and very seriously dry imperial stout made for slow contemplative sipping." In short, "It's an experience," O'Kennard explains.

And of course, what Halloween drinking celebration would be complete without Oktoberfest? "This is a real classic, German-style beer and it's from a great, great German brewery -- the Ayinger brewery," O'Kennard says. "And this is one just world-class Oktoberfest beer."

To commemorate the Oktoberfest celebration each year in Munich, this style of beer is consumed, and O'Kennard believes this is the perfect one to match the occasion. About $3 per 17-ounce bottle, O'Kennard says the Oktoberfest beers are "just really smooth, no rough edges ... but they have a little more weight, a little more alcohol. They go great with schnitzel and pork sausages and chicken and duck... all that kind of holiday fare."

So when it's time for you to do some trick-or-treating, make sure to stop at a specialty liquor store or look online for these selections. Like the house in the neighborhood with the best candy bars, you may have to hunt for them a little -- but they are well worth the effort.



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Brittany joined TheStreet.com TV in November 2006 after completing a degree in Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers College. Previously, Brittany interned at the local ABC affiliate in New York City WABC-TV 7 where she helped research and produce On Your Side, a popular consumer advocacy segment.

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