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

very good
321 Ratings
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

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Reviews: 185 | Ratings: 321
Photo of StonedTrippin
3.42/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

not a pumpkin beer, but a fall spiced English bitter type. orange copper in color, looks the part, but again from grittys, where is the head? no foam at all, this beer looks entirely flat. it smells like an esb, with some brown ale type of malts and a touch of amber sweetness. gentle but definite clove and allspice notes, and perhaps vanilla or honey sweetness on the closing. not extremely complex or unique, but a plenty palatable heap of flavors thrown together here. like all of their beers at grittys, it needs a lot more carbonation and texture to it, this feels like a glass of water. with a better feel, this beer could do it for me, but for now there are so many other higher quality fall seasonals that I will not be revisiting this one for awhile. maybe a good brew for those new to spiced ales, as the flavors are quite relaxed on that front.

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Photo of Knapp85
3.65/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

From a personal perspective I wasn't able to pick up on much of the autumn flavors like I expected in this beer. The seemed to be just like any other ESB to me. With that being said the beer pours with a nice healthy amber color with an off white head. The smells I was hoping for would be spices and just got malts. The taste goes along for the same ride as the aroma. The beer itself wasn't bad at all, I just feel that for an Autumn brew it should have some additional spices thrown into the mix and what not. As a regular EBS this beer is fine, this just wasn't what I had hoped for.

Revised review: I'm not sure what happened the last time but I found the flavor to be much better this time around. It's got a spicy caramel flavor to it with a creamy medium body. Overall I think this beer is pretty good the second time around.

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Photo of metter98
3.8/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On-tap at Barcade, Jersey City, NJ

A: The beer is clear and very dark amber in color and has no visible carbonation. It poured with a thin off white that gradually faded away, leaving a collar around the edge of the glass.
S: There are light to moderate aromas of grassy malts, toffee and spices in the nose.
T: The taste has flavors of malts and grassy hops along with some notes of spices towards the finish.
M: It feels on the lighter side of being medium-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer is a nice change of pace fall beer if you are looking for something seasonal but don't want a pumpkin ale or a märzen. It is also rather easy to drink.

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Photo of oriolesfan4
3.5/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This is an interesting beer for sure. It's a fall seasonal, but isn't an octoberfest or a pumpkin ale... what do we have on our hands then? I detected almost a hybrid, it has the pumpkin ale spices but the maltiness and mouthfeel of an octoberfest. I thought it was lacking a bit on the body as it was a bit too thin but I enjoyed it overall.

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Photo of brentk56
3.73/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pours a clear burnt sienna, with a massive ecru head that leaves a spooky pattern of lace

Smell: Caramel and apples with a woodsy yeast and earthy hop edge

Taste: Caramel and apple dunkin', at the outset, with a phenolic edge that develops by mid-palate that relates to both the Ringwood and the English hop bill; apple flavors come through strong into the finish, though there is also the caramel as well as the persistent yeast and hop elements

Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate carbonation

Overall: A full-flavored beer, though I wouldn't call it an ESB; Halloween Ale describes it perfectly as it had the caramel apple and the woodsy Autumn flavors nailed; interesting, though not something I would likely seek out again

Thanks, Bendurgin, for the opportunity

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Photo of oberon
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Straight 4's on this offering,had this first at a restaurant in Kennebunkport and found it very appetizing.Pours a burnt orange color with light rocky head,aroma is caramelly and fruity,the flavor of this beer is alot like a marzen it made me wonder about the style.A sweet malty brew with strong hints of caramel and lightly bready with very little bittering.A real good beer but is it an ESB?

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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.

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Photo of Kegatron
3.68/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle into a pint glass.

Pours a clear amber with a big foamy light tan head. Great head retetion and lacing that left big swatchs of thick foam down the sides of the glass. Aroma is sweet caramel notes with some faint spicy floral fuit in the background.

The taste is mostly sweet and buttery up front, maybe a little more than I would have liked. Finishes with a mix of spice and nice hop bitterness that lingers. The mouthfeel is medium bodied and imparts a nice, creamy mouthfull.

I'm usually not a huge fan of ESBs but this one was all right. The spice addition definitely kept it interesting and drinkable and made for a nice Fall beer, even as I sit here drinking it in January.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.68/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

It’s Halloween, so I almost feel obligated to review a Halloween beer. Poured from a 12oz. bottle into a US tumbler pint glass.

A: The beer is a bright reddish amber color, with a decent-sized foamy off-white head that fades slowly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is of caramelized malt, roasted nuts & spice.

T: The taste is malty & bready with flavors of nuts, honey, caramel and spices. There’s a little bit of a hops background, but the background is exactly where the hops stay. There’s some sweetness in there as well, which you wouldn’t expect from a beer in this style. The after-taste falls back to the heavy malt base.

M: Very smooth, medium body, medium carbonation, clean & dry finish.

D: This one was a little bit tastier than others I’ve had in this style. I found it slightly filling, but easy-to-drink. I imagine this beer would be a good pounder at a Halloween party and going well with food. One of the better ESB’s that I’ve had.

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Photo of dbrauneis
3.9/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Served on tap at Barcade in Jersey City, NJ

A: Pours a clear very dark amber in color. The beer has a quarter finger tall creamy light beige head that slowly reduces to a thick film covering the entire surface of the beer with a medium sized thicker patch and a thicker ring at the edges of the glass. Moderate to significant amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate aromas of bready malts with some light hints of toffee sweetness and grassy hops. Light notes of spices - cinnamon and nutmeg.

T: Very similar to the smell, there are flavors of bready malts with some toffee sweetness. After that, there are light notes of bitterness from the grassy hops and some light flavors of nutmeg.

M: Slightly heavier than light bodied with moderate amounts of carbonation. Smooth.

O: Enjoyable and definitely a unique take on a Halloween beer - the lack of pumpkin and the style are quite unusual choices. Sessionable, easy to drink, and enjoyable. I would have another of these. Perfect for fall.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.03/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bronzed pumpkin with an eerie reddish glow. Well, it isn't really eerie, I just wanted to get in the mood. How about a bonfire glow? Great label by the way; one of the best that I've seen for a halloween beer. The pale ecru cap tells me that this is a quality ale. It's heavily creamy with a moonscape surface and is leaving scads of lace on the glass. This is a great, autumnal looking ESB.

Although the nose is more malt-focused than I would like, and more malt-focused than is probably appropriate for the style, I like it. Caramel leads the way, accompanied by a wonderfully earthy English hoppiness (Whitbread Goldings and East Kent Goldings). I hope the sour fruitiness that underlies the other aromas isn't quite as prominent on the palate.

I'll be better off if I don't think of Halloween Ale as an ESB at all, simply because it isn't bitter enough. It is good beer though, and I'll be damned if it doesn't taste like autumn. At least I don't think I'm being influenced by the bats and the guy holding his head at arm's length on the label. I'll say one thing, this is an interesting, original beer.

A moderately toasted, caramel malty sweetness glides along beneath what is an increasingly flavorful (with warming), earthy hoppiness. Those Goldings might be a bit short on bitter, but they aren't at all short on flavor. Interestingly, Halloween Ale is more than a little phenolic. Any more and I wouldn't like it. As is, it adds personality.

I probably shouldn't be too hard on the mouthfeel of a 6% ESB. I wouldn't expect it to be full, and probably wouldn't want it to be. Given all that, it matches up well with the rest of the beer's attributes. It's wonderfully smooth and is perfectly carbonated. I can't ask for much more than that.

Halloween Ale is my first Gritty McDuff's beer. I've been aware of it for several years, but have never had the opportunity to try a bottle until now. Thanks jrdegriselles. It's something of an offbeat ESB that isn't really an ESB at all. It's more of a Scottish ale, thanks to the spicy phenols that remind me of Islay Scotch whisky. Whatever one decides to call it, call it good beer.

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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.

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Photo of Jason
4.05/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

22 oz bomber with no freshness date. Freaky looking label. Reddish amber colour with a fine clarity and a thick off white lace that sticks quite well.

Buttery caramel, faint alcoholic esters, rustic hop leaf and a toasted grain in the aroma. Very fresh and aromatic with that Ringwood yeast flair.

Smooth and creamy with a medium to full body, big malty flavours of toasted and caramel. Fruity with ripe pear and faint apple juice. Buttery diacetyl is a touch musty, hops round the corner with a more than ample bitterness that is lightly pungent. Hops linger with an earthy woody flavour. Toasted malt flavours survive as well as some diacetyl and faded hop. Finishes a bit sweet also.

A masterful brew that is not only a great rendition of the ESB style but a perfect change up from the onslaught of Oktoberfest beers during the fall.

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Photo of woodychandler
3.5/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

And you wonder why I travel ... I had this on cask while in Maine for the annual Brewers' Festival.

My server brought it to me with a light dusting of off-tan head that hung around as wisps throughout. Color was a deep, rich, coppery-amber with NE-quality clarity. Nose had cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, like Halloween at a lot of places. Mouthfeel was thin-to-medium with a lightly musty, spicy taste on the tongue. Finish was mildly spicy and pumpkin pie-ish, but a) I've had better "Halloween Ales" and b) Gritty's offers much better beers. I'll have one of those next!

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Photo of johnnnniee
3.5/5  rDev -7.4%

Bottle from Harvest Market
Pours a deep amber/copper color with a good sized off white head that persists for quite a while. Aromas of rich caramel malt with a bit of a mineral/sulfur edge, light earthy hop aroma. The flavor is rich caramelized malt sugars with lots of toffee. Light fruit, earthy hop, light mineral flavor. Medium body moderate carbonation. Decent brew.

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Photo of jwc215
3.96/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Best before September '08:

Pours a beautiful deep amber with a thick, foamy off-white head that towers a bit before descends to a lasting cover, leaving trailing lace.

The smell is of carmelized grain with an earthy, fruity background.

The taste is of caramelish, grainy sweetness immediately balanced out by a spicy bitterness - earthy and fruity notes intermingle with the sweetness throughout. Buttery diacetyl and Ringwood yeast mix in well and are well-controlled. Balanced sweetness and a touch of spiciness in the finish.

Very nice texture and mild carbonation with a fuller side of medium body to it.

This is a good interpretation of the style. Balanced and tasty with a nice body. I could see this as a year-round brew, though the spiciness, body and mild warmth do make this an appropriate autumn/Halloween beer - ushering in the cold months ahead.

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Photo of GarthDanielson
3.71/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle into a mug, the beer is a vibrant, rich ruby coloring that starts with a thin, quarter-inch head of off-white, foamy, froth that quickly settles into a ring. The nose is rich with crystal malt, and there is a slight grain richness to it, also. The beer is light and crisp in mouth, and the flavors are a roasted caramel sweetness and bitter bite of hops at the end. The light body and increased carbonation makes the end flavors sharp and clean, leaving an aftertaste of rich nut and caramel. The finish is neat and quick, with a slight tang left bouncing around the palate. Decent brew.

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Photo of Gavage
3.41/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: clear amber in color sporting a one finger head that falls to a thin surface foam that lasts quite a while.

Smell: very mild caramel aroma is all I can pick up by the nose.

Taste: this beer has an earthy and slighty grainy quality I didn't expect. Caramel, soft spicy notes, mild bitterness, and a soft buttery flavor creeps up near the finish.

Mouthfeel: lightly crisp throughout. Medium bodied beer. Very short aftertaste as the flavors disappear from the tongue quickly.

Drinkability: this beer just didn't do it for me. Worth a try, but I remember this being better on tap at the brewpub than in the bottle.

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Photo of Gueuzedude
3.08/5  rDev -18.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Best by date of April 2005, Sampled December 2004
Pours a pretty red color that is brilliantly clear. It is topped by a fluffy light tan head. The aroma smells of thin grain, a hint of butterscotch, and caramel. The aroma is lightly sweet, yet light and crisp. There seems to be some subtle spicing going on here. Most notably I get some astringency towards the end and in the finish. Perhaps I get some notes of nutmeg. This beer is quite light on the palate. I am not quite sure what to think about this beer. It is quite light and does not have as much flavor as I was expecting. I think that the spices have died down quite a bit, and all that is left is a bit of spicy astringency in the finish.

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Photo of puboflyons
3.88/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2009 batch with an expiration date of October 2010. Sampled on November 5, 2009. It poured a good looking brown with tinges of ruby red and mahogany. The head is thin but the overall appearance is of great clarity. Sweet malts and fresher hops balance out the aroma but they balance each other quite well. The mouthfeel is medium to heavy and full of substance. The taste sports a bit of caramel along with bitterness, roasted malts, and hops. If I had not seen the label and tasted it blindly I might have thought it was an English Strong Ale rather than an autumn or pumpkin spice ale. It has a slightly dry finish.

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Photo of jdhilt
3.06/5  rDev -19%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a three-finger cream head that fades slowly leaving a good lace. Clear amber color. Hoppy spicy nose. Medium carbonation and medium bodied. Flavor is indeed like an ESB earthy, hoppy but some sweetness with hoppy finish. Lingering bitter aftertaste. 12oz bottle $1.50 from Capitol Convenience Concord, NH.

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Photo of beerthulhu
3.2/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A: Poured a clear, apple red with a 2 finger frothy, medium tan head that was mostly lasting. Visible carbonation was light.

S: The aroma was very light in nature with ripe apples, caramel, and nutmeg.

T: The initial flavor was sweet, malty caramel apple fruitiness with some spicings (nutmeg) as well some fresh pumpkin flavor.There was a fruity cider and light warm burbon alcohol presence detected on the fade. Overall lightly spiced with no real character standing out and coming off one dimensional flavor wise.

M: light-medium, smooth, creamy with a soft tingly carbonation factor. A gentle fade of spicy, dry alcohol fusels is experienced after the swallow.

D: A gentle burbon, boozy alcohol fade is pretty much the only redeeming quality this beer has to offer and not worthy of a recommend. Average at best drinkability and enjoyment and would of never have guessed this to be an ESB.

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Photo of corby112
3.98/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep ruby red mahogany/copper color with some dark golden orange/amber hues when held to a light source and a two finger frothy off white head. Excellent retention, slowly fading into a lasting cap that coats the glass with rings of soapy lacing.

Slightly spicy aroma with a good balance of biscuit malt, floral hops, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, brown sugar and nutmeg. These spices are pretty subtle but are a nice addition to the toasty malts and floral hop notes. I thought that it was odd that a Halloween beer would be classified as an ESB but it makes sense in this case. It smells like an amped up version of the style with subtle hints of pumpkin beer/oktoberfest/marzen styles.

Medium body with a good bit of spiciness up front with some subtle hop notes. I'm picking up some cinnamon and brown sugar as well as some subtle clove and vanilla. There is a nice toasty, biscuit maltiness that provides nice body and very subtle dry bitterness from the hops. Based on the aroma I was expecting a lot more hops but the maltiness and autumnal pumpkin pie spices dominate the flavor of this beer. The ABV is very well masked and theexcellent balance make this brew very drinkable.

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Photo of VelvetExtract
3.88/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

A-Pours a clear reddish copper color. Thin, off white head. Lots of droopy lacing

S-Really nice nose that is stylistically accurate. Tea-like hops and a big caramel covered apple aroma. Mostly sweet. Decadent.

T-Apples and overly steeped tea. Caramel and hard toffee candies. A bit of spicy hoppiness.

M-A bit sticky and the carbonation is a little soft. It still drinks easy enough,

O/D-Really gotta respect their Fall seasonal is an ESB. I think more brewers should experiment with this style. Enjoyable beer and it's been around for quite a whole too. Surprised it's taken me this long to try.

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Photo of tigg924
3.23/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Had on tap at Wachusett Apple Fest

Appearance: amber in color, 1/2 inch head, high carbonation, clear

Smell: wood and grain

Taste: wood, grain, and a slightly soapy/hoppy aftertaste

Mouthfeel: high carbonation, light bodied, sweet start with a bitter end

Drinkability: I could have a couple of these, not more. Refreshing and different, the bitterness at the end that comes from the hops doesn't do it for me. That being said, this is a nice alternative to other seasonal beers at this time of year.

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Gritty McDuff's Halloween Ale from Gritty McDuff's Brewing Company
3.78 out of 5 based on 321 ratings.
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