Gritty McDuff's Halloween Ale | Gritty McDuff's Brewing Company

very good
185 Reviews
Gritty McDuff's Halloween AleGritty McDuff's Halloween Ale

Brewed by:
Gritty McDuff's Brewing Company
Maine, United States

Style: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.00%

Availability: Fall

Notes / Commercial Description:
Every fall marks the return of our legendary Extra Special Bitter for the season, Halloween Ale – the beer so good, it's scary! From its humble beginnings in 1990 as a small-batch seasonal in our Portland Brew Pub, Halloween Ale has grown to be one of the year's most anticipated beer releases. This robust brew has a deep amber color, a bold, malty palate and a well-rounded hop finish. The perfect beer for a crisp autumn day!

Added by UncleJimbo on 08-29-2001

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 185 | Ratings: 321
Photo of MaineBeerMan
4.85/5  rDev +28.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Beautiful dark red-brown color with a big head of sticky, light beige foam that left a whole curtain of lace down the non-sipping side of the glass.
Nice aroma with some floral, slightly spicy hops (nutmeg or something, not really sure) and hints of caramel.
Very smooth mouthfeel, plenty of malty sweetness some fruity pear notes and a hint of that same strange spice in the aroma. Just enough hop bitterness to take the edge off the sweetness without truly balancing it out, the sweet flavors prevail in the end.
This is another local seasonal that I really wish I could get year round, very drinkable, you will always want more. This beer and Shipyard's Old Thumper are the reason ESB is the favorite in my profile, I might have given some other beers higher overall scores, but for everyday all-around drinkability, look no further.

 839 characters

Photo of neophilus
4.74/5  rDev +25.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pour is a deep amber color, nearly red with hints of orange. Quite appropriate for the season. Brilliantly clear, I can look through the glass and see the distinct yet lens-distorted image of the room around me as if looking through an amber colored funhouse window.

Smells of rich, earthy bread dough. Slightly spicy, fresh and clean. It tingles the nose while bringing images of flaky bread crust right out of the oven. The aroma is rather invigorating, the malty scent draws you in and begs for a first sip.

That sip brings smooth bitterness up front with a long and slow malt finish. Delicious flavor - earthy, savory without any hint of herbs. Full bodied, mildly spicy malt embraces the tongue while hints of hoppy bitterness dance on top, never overpowering but always stopping the brew from being cloying.

The body is full without feeling heavy. Creamy and smooth, but not sticky. It washes away cleanly leaving the pleasant memory of spicy malt behind - comforting and friendly as it disappears.

I love the idea of a Halloween Ale without spices. This beer conjures up scenes of fallen autumn leaves swirling in a cold breeze, freshly turned black soil destined for a hard winter freeze, spicy toast flavor like wood fired stoves mingling with a damp rain. Halloween in New England, indeed.

 1,305 characters

Photo of StevieW
4.7/5  rDev +24.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz. bomber bottle. Great label of a bartender holding up his own severed head instead of a pint. Cool. Murky amber to light brown color, with a full thick bubbly beige head. Head laced down the glass nicely. Aromas full of spices and slightly fruity. Definite nutmeg and cinnamon noticable. Tastes were sublte but very present. Murky earthy combination of nutmeg, spiced apples, and noticable hop presence. A rich, full bodied ESB, with an extra special blend of autumnal spices. I wish I had the courage to lug more than one of these beauties home from my summer trip to Maine. A beer I wouldn't get tired of easily. Please give it a try.

 642 characters

Photo of IntriqKen
4.57/5  rDev +20.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This is a remarkable ESB.
Pours a beautiful golden amber with a nice half finger head.

Aroma is a mix of softly sweet malts and ringwood yeast giving it some green apple and apricot...

Taste is again soft sweet amber malt...very light...with some fruit like touches to the yeast..mostly aplle and apricot...and then some very soft citrus hops making this ESB seem incredibly balanced.

Love the beer...somehow I also get a hint of pumpkin or pumpkin spice in it but don't know if that is really coming from the power of suggestion since it is a Halloween Ale or if it is something actually coming off of the ringwood yeast. Either way, it makes for a very drinkable beer.

 680 characters

Photo of bewareOFpenguin
4.55/5  rDev +20.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Amber colored, with a light head, I really enjoyed this beer. It had a full body, but not overwhelming. I did not leave you with a "full" feeling. The spices seemed to blend in harmony, like a good pumpkin pie. A delight.

 221 characters

Photo of BillyBrew
4.55/5  rDev +20.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I enjoyed this cask brew with lunch at Freeport Gritty's.

Half-inch head the whole way down. Super creamy. Tremendous cask smoothness. Earthier flavors.

Great got better!

 189 characters

Photo of UnionMade
4.53/5  rDev +19.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The beer is a cinnamon mahogany color, great clarity, topped with a frothy ivory head. Great retention, maintaining a quarter inch of foam all the way through the glass. Terrific lace, forming thick clumps of whitish foam all over the inside of the glass.
Aroma is dominated by a toasty caramel malt. Very sweet and estery, with hints of pear, apple, some melon, and a suggestion of starfruit, or something exotic like that. Some mild doughy breadiness, and moderate citric and herbal hopping. A touch of diacetyl butterscotch. Well balanced.
The flavor starts with a rich maltiness. Pale malt sweetness with lots of caramel and a bit of toastiness. Perhaps a little crytal malt. A pleasant estery fruitiness comes through almost immediately, with some cidery sweet apple, and hints of pear and melon. Caramel maltiness continues through, with a touch of breadiness. Moderate citric and herbal hopping, with a definite english feel, come through in the finish, blending seamlessly with the hops. Some buttery diacetyl carries through in the end, lingering in the finish with a sweet maltiness and a touch of yeast. Vague citric hop flavor lingers on your tongue for quite a while, well after the beer is finished.
A very hearty, well balanced ESB. A bit on the heavier side, full bodied, and more robust. Definitely a great beer.

 1,332 characters

Photo of littlebibs
4.5/5  rDev +19%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Couldn't help but notice this one(the picture on the label, yellows and purples with a man holding his head in his hands and behind him black bats on a fence that looks like jack daniels botttels with candles glowing. Very cool bottle! On my trip to Harringtons, Chelmsford,Ma. I ran into this one but I checked this BeerAdvocate site out first and it seems to be well liked. I bought a six pack and like Magic Hat's seasonal Jinx just can't get enough of this tastey brew. Its got so much going for it. Like Jinx I find it tastes best when I let it get some air for 10 mins or so then
the tastes just seem to drift out like ghosts from the past, haunting
me to drink more and more. Very unusal taste but well worth finding this. I find this beer perfect for this time of year.
This is a really nice seasonal beer with a great
creamy head down to the lacing, all the way through. Had some complexity to it, some hops
some caramel malts nice mix, some kind of spice hidden in there, It packs and scares for an ale
but its also somewhat heavy, not in the gee I'm full after a beer but
it has some balls and it tastes great. This is
very drinkable with some added spices for the fall season thrown in for good measure but it adds to this beer nothing about this is overbearing, I would say it does have
an Okotoberfest feel to it, but its a bit stronger (ESB) I Would recommend this beer no problem, full of character.

 1,425 characters

Photo of Sycodrummer
4.43/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Poured from the 12oz. bottle into an imperial nonic the beer was a caramel brown color with ruby highlights. A foamy two-finger head formed and retained throughout the sample leaving a fair amount of lace. Carbonation bubbles clung to the sides of the glass.

The nose is rich and malty. Some doughy notes (like fresh beer bread dough) and a slight flowery scent just barley detectable.

The taste has a nice sturdy malt backbone with a semi-sweet brown sugar like finish. Rich and doughy with accents of toffee and caramel. A bitterness finishes each sip, but very far from agressively hoppy. Well balanced with an ever so slight alcoholic presence in the finish. Bready and semi-sweet throughout.

Medium firm body, about average carbonation.

I thought this beer to be true to the style and near to what I view as a benchmark of the ESB style: Fullers. Exceptional balance with a firm malt body beginning each sip with a nice hop accent to finish. Sturdy and slighty warm, a great fall beer.

 1,002 characters

Photo of gotbeer
4.43/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

This is a beer that I have had many, many times over the years. It has always been a favorite, especially on tap. Last year I was afraid that it or my palate had changed, but this year's version has found the right magic again.

It pours a dark copper color with a quickly fading head that leaves only the slightest lacing on the glass. It smells like buttered bread.

The taste is impressive. Malty bread and some nice bitter hop balance. There is some diacetyl, but this is not a negative as it compliments the overall flavors and is an exceptional example of Ringwood yeast. There is some pear and apple flavors in the background.

The mouthfeel is smooth and soft, and the drinkablity is exceptional. This is a great alternative to all the Octoberfest brews that show up this time of the year. Definitely reccomended. A seasonal fall favorite for sure.

 863 characters

Photo of sponberg
4.42/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Big ol' bomber bottle (still too small), with one of the all-time great labels. I hope that Mr. Stebbins didn't remove his own head for the woodcarver. Deep reddish amber with a thin vanilla head that lasts.

Nose of Ringwood, fruit (apples? pears?), and toasty malt. Very appetizing. A full, round maltiness, with toast, toffee, butterscotch, fruit, and some mellowed hop spiciness - just so drinkable. Some alcohol and woody notes are there in the background, as well as a very firm bitterness. It finishes with a lingering (slightly bitter) toffee/fruity/Ringwood flavor. A good amount of body to this one - pumpkin used? Hmm... A fine, fine brew, and a new autumn favorite.

Many thanks to bennybrew for bringing these to the gathering, and for handing me a bottle.

 773 characters

Photo of caddybuyer
4.38/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Clear garnet amber with a light tan head which holds for a bit, then quick dissipates. This is a very attractive brew.

S- Bready malts, with a touch of hops and a bit of spice.

T- Starts with a hoppy bitterness that yields to a sweet malty caramel and fruity citrus-like finish. There is a bit of spice in the background that I cant quite place, but very nice taste overall.

M- Balanced with a tad bit more carbonation and a medium body

D- Extremely drinkable sweetheart of a brew...would love to try this on tap. A great seasonal beer.

Very cool Halloween label as well.

 580 characters

Photo of 86MonteSS
4.38/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I absolutely love Gritty's so you can either see this as biased or simply an affirmation of my faith. From the dark, ruby-mahogany body to the fine, silky head, it's just plain beautiful. The nutty-molases taste characteristic of most of Gritty's beers is there as expected, this time with it's bitter yet welcomed guest, Señor Aftertaste. This is a fine addition to the McDuff household and a beer that I'll put on my list of seasonal must-haves.

 448 characters

Photo of u2carew
4.33/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A bit late on this one but oh well...
12oz longneck.
A) Pours with a finger thick head with great retention - tight and creamy. Clear mahogany-ruby color. Head retention lasted until the end with sticky side lacing on the drink down.
S) Caramel malts. Subtle brown sugar and spices.
T) A pleasant sweet caramel and brown sugar. Hints of tree fruit - apple and plums. A subtle hop bite in the finish - mostly harmless.
M) Creamy. Medium light body. Dry in the finish.
O) A delicious brew. Could be renamed something else and kept on as a year long.

 547 characters

Photo of Bierman9
4.33/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to the irrepressible JohnnyP for the 2002 sample. I hope this wasn't one Mrs JohnnyP was supposed to have!! Love the label!! Had a very attractive dark-copper color, with some orange (pumpkin?) hues. Poured with a creamy, tan head..didn't last long....but with ok lacing. Nose was a good, toasty malt start, with some hops lurking about, too. Mouthfeel quite nice from start to finish. There was malt to start the flavor profile, but not for long. A bit of nuttiness is also lurking in the shadows! The maltiness, though, got scared away by the nice hop lineup here...reminded me a lot of an English style Bitter... the hops are pleasant but not real bitter, and kick around in the back of the tongue and throat for a bit. A hint of spiciness hit me, too! Verry pleasant bier! Much thanks to JohnnyP!!

overall: 4.35
appearance: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | mouthfeel: 4 | drinkability: 4.5


 903 characters

Photo of GeoffFromSJ
4.33/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Maybe the best ESB I've ever tasted not made by Fuller's.

This was just exceptional. First, with more discrete points I may have given the appearance a 4.25 or something. It has an exceptional color. Frankly, the color of an ESB is a very reliable indicator on how good an ESB you have. The darker deep reds to brown are usually the superior ones. Unfortunately, the head didn't stay around too long.

The taste had all the elements. Biscuity notes. Buttery notes. Incredibly well-balanced between malt and hops. Occasionally the tastes would be out of sync and then by the next sip they were in perfect harmony.

Just a fantastic ESB. Maybe the best American one I've ever tasted.

 682 characters

Photo of NeroFiddled
4.3/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a clear mahogany body topped by a frothy ivory head that holds quite well and leaves some very nice lace. The aroma is of a lightly roasty and caramel tinged malt with some herbal and mildly spicy character that does not appear to be from hops (but might be). The body is medium with a fine and moderate carbonation that's crisp in the mouth. The flavor is surprisingly complex with a sweet apple-like fruitiness (that later combines with the spiciness to really tie this beer together and make it interesting), a rich honeyish, lightly buttery and softly caramel-tinged maltiness, what appears to be nutmeg, and a spicy bitterness that allows the flavors to come through before appearing more solidly in the long lasting finish. Very nicely done. Exceptionally well balanced. Really full of flavor and character for a beer with such a light body and (I'm guessing) median alcohol content. Definitely worth trying.

 920 characters

Photo of flanmedic51
4.29/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bottle. Dark ruby color noted with 1-1/2" head that dissapated quickly but white lacing remained.

Smell of malt and roasted nuttiness.

Taste is full-bodied, malt hits you in the face with a hint of spice and dark roasted nutty flavor. Little hopiness but balances well. Little carbonation, kinda seems like a lager more so than an ESB. Aftertaste of spiciness and dark malty notes remain, very pleasant tho.

It's one of my absolute favorite Fall seasonals. It has such a great malty flavor yet light on the palate. So awesome on the cool Fall evenings, it's awesome...looking forward to having it off cask at the Gritty's in Freeport!

 652 characters

Photo of charlesw
4.28/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Go cask! Yeah cask!


Deep amber. Poured from the engine and brought to the table foaming - beautiful tiny bubbles... Head doesn't last long (a few minutes at best) while leaving a ring that won't quit. It's defnitely the service that rates the appearance so high - you've got to be in the pub on a slowish day and very near to the bar. But oh so beautiful!

Smells like caramel malts, man...

And it tastes very nice. Cask is the only way to go for this one... It's like it's like it's like... It's like an Old Thumper, you know? I mean, if you're not having it on cask, well, you're not having it. So, yeah, an ESB. You bet. A bitter... A nice one... As it warms the caramel malt comes out a bit more - the end of the glass has a tiny caramel bite to it! Always a teeny touch of bitterness just there... Very pleasant to drink... No lingering flavors (especially NOT off ones) to speak of.

Drinkability? Well, it's not my fault that I've had 7 pints of it in the past 2 days! I was forced! But, hey, I've got to enjoy it while I can - it is, after all, only seasonal!

 1,089 characters

Photo of okra
4.28/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I had this not-exactly on tap, but from a 5 liter mini keg... I later tasted a 12 ounce bottle and was surprised by the difference. A beautiful head, and nice amber ale, punctuated by a good amount of hops, enough to balance out the rich mouthfeel. The bottled version came off as somewhat thiner, thus the hops were more aggresive, a little harsher.

Beg anyone you know going through Maine to stop and get you some of this.... :)

 433 characters

Photo of brdc
4.23/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Small capped bottle, poured into a pint glass.
Thanks to TheManiacalOne.
Nice copper colored, with a light tan foamy head that laces the top of the beer all the way down.
Pleasant aroma, dark fruits, roasted malts, some earthy hoppiness.
Very well balanced taste, at times hoppy and bitter, at times malted and buttery, with layers of dark fruits, hints of coffee and alcohol.
Medium body, easy to drink - but not enough to be a session beer.
A very nice ESB, probably the best I had this side of the Atlantic.

 510 characters

Photo of smcolw
4.22/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Deep, dark amber--on the brownish side. Appears clear. Good lumpy and lasting head. Slippery lace.

Classic English caramel/toffee aroma. Very appealing. Very low hop.

Rich, full caramel flavor. It's sweet but there's enough hop to keep this from being coy. Full bodied and below average carbonation. The aftertaste is more bitter than the taste, but the sweetness remains. Toffee-ish.

 388 characters

Photo of beernut7
4.2/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

One of the tastier seasonal brews this year. The deep color is topped with a foamy head that sticks around. The lightly malty taste is well supported by a good body and a hint of autumn spice. Very tasty.

 207 characters

Photo of Bowdoinbeerboy
4.2/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A-Deep amber color, with a creamy off-white head that dissipates quickly to a thin layer of small bubbles. Warm looking.

S-Earthy, citrus smell, with hits of acidity.

T-Creamy fruity flavor with bit of fizziness that lingers on the tongue. After-taste of fruit basket.

M-Feels like a light cream, roughly the same as light milk.

D-Overall very drinkable, on the heavey side but this works well with the color, smell, and taste combination. Overal very good, but not a lighty.

 487 characters

Photo of thespaceman
4.2/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass:

Appearance: Pours a deep amber in color, red highlights, nice size head sizzles up the glass and slowly dissapates. Head retention is good and the lacing is soapy and sticks all around the glass.

Smell: Up front is alot of crystalized maltiness, very grain like and caramelish. Toasted maltiness leads into some darker fruits, not overpowering but evident. The malt profile is nutty and prevalent. I also get a bit of malt spice which is small but perfectly balanced.

Taste: Caramel malts are very bold and spicy, a bit of metallic twang hangs around but not enough to shy me away. A slight hop bitterness is paired towards the malt and balanced, but also makes it sweeter then other fall beers. Alot of malt spiciness is present and it's aligned nicely with the overall showing of this brew, the nutty aromas and the bread like maltiness adds depth to this fall offering.

Mourhfeel: Good carbonation, alot of extra bitterness hanging around from the hops, medium bodied and rich on the tongue.

Drinkability: Overall, I can see drinking Halloween Ale while scaring the crap out of trick or treaters or just hanging out on a cool, fall night. It's drinkable, interesting, and combines the perfect components for a good cool weather beer. I enjoyed it and reccommend you do to!

 1,325 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Gritty McDuff's Halloween Ale from Gritty McDuff's Brewing Company
3.78 out of 5 based on 321 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.