Scaring and Pairing: Halloween Movie Night

By Kirby Bennett

You’ve probably caught onto the craft beer and food pairing trend by now, and possibly even have a few favorites. I know I certainly enjoy a Tank 7 saison from Boulevard Brewing Company with some aged cheese or a beer float with vanilla-bean ice cream and Linden Street Brewery’s Black Lager.

I often use craft beer to cook. Most recently I put some Mole Stout from Ska Brewing Company in a spicy black bean soup, yum! I enjoy craft beer with a variety of other things too. Lately I have been thinking, what else can you pair craft beer with besides food?

As an experiment, I used Julia Herz’s “Eight Tips To Help You Pair Like A Pro” article as a guide to pair American craft beer to some of my favorite Halloween-themed movies. How do you think it works?

The Birds (1963)

Filmed in Bodega Bay, Calif, this classic Alfred Hitchcock movie stars Tippi Hedron as Melanie Daniels, an urban socialite who decides to play a practical joke on a lawyer. Instead she ends up in the middle of full-on seagull blitzkrieg. Gross and scary! While the reason for the sudden fowl insurgency remains unexplained throughout the movie, attacks continue with sparrows and crows getting in on the game. Coupled with an ambiguous ending, The Birds leads you to believe that this could, just maybe, really happen.

Old Birdbrain Barley Wine | Black Raven Brewing | Redmond, WA

This is nice, warm barley wine with a butterscotch aroma and a subtle heat from the 35 percent that is aged in Rye whiskey barrels. It has varying hints of dark fruit, toffee and vanilla which complement the motley crew of feathered assailants. This barley wine is as well balanced as the movie is well timed.

Other Options

Halloween (1978)

What started as a low-budget, slasher film starring Jamie Lee Curtis sans probiotic yogurt, turned into a huge Halloween movie phenomenon, complete with 10 films, novels and comic books. Psychotic stalker and murderer Michael Myers wears a blank white mask over his “blank, pale, emotionless face,” as he stalks the students of the fictional Haddonfield, Illinois. With very little gore and violence by today’s standards, this is more of a creepy, suspenseful scary, where you find yourself yelling “don’t go in there!” at the screen.

Pumpkin Ale | Williamsburg AleWerks | Williamsburg, VA

Pumpkin and spice play nicely together, unlike Michael Myers and Laurie Strode. Made with Pale, Caramel, Munich, and Victory malts, the beer is spiced with American Fuggle hops. Cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg turn this amber-colored ale into pumpkin pie in a glass, complete with the whipped cream.

Other Options

The Shining (1980)

The short version—Jack Torrance and his family take a winter job as a caretaker at a creepy haunted hotel. They get snowed in and both Jack and his psychic son start interacting with ghosts. Jack descends into madness and the ghostly presence in the hotel convinces him to try to murder his family. You may know that Oregon’s Mount Hood is not only famous for its namesake hop, but it’s also home to the Timberline Lodge, where The Shining was filmed. I dare you to go there and stay in room 237!

Arctic Blast | Vertigo Brewing | Hillsboro, OR

This robust vanilla porter has dominant chocolate notes and hints of Madagascar vanilla bean that pair well with the scene where Shelly Duvall locks a maniacal Jack in the food storage locker. Light roastiness and a full-bodied mouthfeel matches the intensity of the plot, while still keeping you warm—a nice contrast to being chased through a snowy hedge labyrinth by a possessed psychopath that also happens to be your father.

Other Options

Return to Oz (1985)

Okay, so not technically a Halloween movie, but it could be argued that Jack Pumpkinhead was the precursor to Tim Burton’s Jack Skeleton. The movie was released the year after Burton left Disney, so I will leave you to draw your own conclusions. A young Fairuza Balk, as Dorothy, returns to an Oz in ruins and battles an evil witch that can change her head as easily as a pair of shoes. This is possibly the only movie where the protagonist has a chicken for a sidekick. The Wheelers and the Hall of Heads will give any kid at heart nightmares!

Kickin Chicken Bourbon Barrel Aged Barley Wine | Santa Fe Brewing Company | Santa Fe, NM

This is a palate-blowing libation to complement a mind-boggling movie. It has hints of vanilla and caramel which calm the Disney over-production. It is (sort-of) a kids movie and the smooth bourbon spice of the Kickin Chicken cuts the PG rating and reminds you that you are (sort-of) an adult. SFBC asks if you “know what it’s like to be kicked in the mouth by a chicken?” If you are the Nome King you do.

Other Options

Blair Witch Project (1999)

Perhaps the scariest part of this movie was that everyone thought it was real when it was released. Shaky camera work and footage of dark forests with creepy abandoned buildings are all that is left of three film students who went in search of the local legend Blair Witch. Camping in the woods will never be the same.

Note: I picked two beers for this movie to follow Herz’s rule #3.

Enchanted Forest Black IPA | Sonoma Springs Brewing Company | Sonoma, CA

This brownish-black beer matches the murky night scenes of the movie. Citrus and piney hops complement the shaky forest shots, while molasses, chocolate and roasted malts contrast . This beer moves from sweet on the tongue to a lingering bitter end, which mirrors the experience of the three students.

Campfire Stout | High Water Brewing | Chico, CA

This beer is a liquid s’more. Brewed with 150 pounds of graham crackers in the mash, chocolate malts, and natural toasted marshmallow, it is the perfect liquid companion to any camping trip. With its smooth, creamy mouthfeel, this is a libation to be shared with friends, but don’t pass it to that lady all in white, she never gives it back.


Kirby BennettKirby Bennett’s love of craft beer started in 2002 when she was living in Amsterdam and discovered an amazing bottleshop called De Bierkoning. A long ways now from sipping La Trappe on the canals, she is currently the Craft Beer Program intern for the Brewers Association. She is a Cicerone® Certified Beer Server, holds a BA in English, dabbles in homebrewing, and makes a mean quinoa salad. She hopes to continue her career somewhere in the distribution world, then someday open a sustainable beer bar in whatever city she decides to settle in!

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