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
Reviews: 185 | Ratings: 321
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 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.

 834 characters

Photo of rfgetz
3.55/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Initially confused by the name Halloween Ale and subsequently confused by its listing as an ESB... Pours a rusty amber color with minimal head and lacing. Scent is a light touch of buttery caramel, earthy and herbally hop notes, light musty and damp earth, a bit of watery fruit and a faint kiss of peppery spice. Taste follows scent, faintly bitter with a definite presence of english hops its star attraction, the apple fruitiness throws the taste off a touch. Lighter side of medium bodied, smooth and maybe a touch to caramelly. A decent brew, but nothing stands out.

 571 characters

Photo of stonermouse
3.61/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a Sam Adams glass.

Pours a very pretty and bright auburn- nice fall-like color here. Slight film of suds at the top, with little lacing and moderate carb.

A bit of an earthy aroma, yet clean and bright. A mellow, malty brew awaits.

The flavor has a rye-like bite to it, but is very clean and crisp. It cleans up nicely, but leaves a bit of an oniony flavor behind. Tangy and bright overall.

Mouthfeel is solid. It's not too sticky, and the flavors come and go quickly.

Decent brew here, although the autumn color is really the nicest part.

 557 characters

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.

 608 characters

Photo of 57md
3.58/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours brown with some orange hue. There was about a finger of light tan head that dissipated quickly. There is the light smell of caramel along with a whiff of alcohol (which is a surprise considering the ABV is not terribly high). The taste has nuts, bread and caramel in it with a slight alcohol finish (not unpleasant or cidery at all). This is a solid brew, but I'd be more apt to call it an aggressive brown ale, not an ESB.

 429 characters

Photo of Doshkin
3.53/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

had this from a 12 oz, 22 oz, and on tap

a - deep copper, mild and consistent lacing

s - pretty mild spiced earthy smell

t - matches the smell. bitter with mild spices. mild lingering bite

m - sharp bubbly mouthfeel to start, flavors quickly mellow out and spread over the tongue and the finish is clean

o - i've had this brew plenty of times. i recommend the 22 oz the most. for some reason it never ends up coming out as good on tap, which i know is odd. maybe i'm just unlucky.

 485 characters

Photo of tzieser
4.04/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

poured from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass.

a: pours a dark amber color with a pretty thick white head. the beer itself looks cool, but the label...well, don't get me started. i used to think the old label art was pretty cool looking. it reminded me of what halloween used to be. this new one though, looks like it was made in Photoshop in about an hour. i typically dont care about art on the beer, but this new one sucks compared to what they had. gotta take a point off for that.

s: sweet, malty aroma with a subtle grassy hop note. nothing crazy here, but its good.

t: sweet, bready malts quickly balanced by mild earthy hop bitterness. well balanced yet has a nice sweet character to it that kind of reminds me of candy corn. i like the yeast they used. adds a very unique aspect to the beer.

m: good mouthfeel.

i reviewed this before, but it seemed to have disappeared. i look forward to getting this beer every year. very drinkable. recommended.

 959 characters

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

Poured into a pint glass. This pours amber with about an inch of biege head that retains nicely leaving some sticky lace.

Toffee and caramel in the aroma with a bit of toast and some ripe fruit in the background. Lots of malt on the pallet with a smokey caramel flavor. A little bit of soft floral hops in the background.

The body is medium and the carbonation is soft. Gives off a lingering sweetness on the back of the tongue. Overall not to bad. I tend to grab a sixer of this at some point in the season.

 510 characters

Photo of soccerman7
3.98/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a SA perfect pint glass. Thanks to baconsausage for this one.

A - Really great appearance. 1/4 head that is dense and creamy, with a garnet hue.

S - Nose is full of bread, toast, and malty sweetness. Hops are present with a spicy note.

T - A great ESB. Has wonderful balance of malt and bitterness, toast and malts are all over with the hops giving a herbal spiciness. Brown sugar / toffee notes are there along with an almost nutmeg spiciness. Slight roasty character.

M - A bit thick for an ESB. Coats the palate as you work your way through the pint.

D - Very good and easy drinking. Wish I had more than just a bottle. A great example of a well balanced ESB.

 683 characters

Photo of KTCamm
4.12/5  rDev +9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bomber purchased at the Freeport brewery on a roadtrip from CT to Maine. Pint glass.

Pours reddish amber color with light foam. Sticky lacing.

Smells of cinammon and nutmeg. Malty.

Spiced malt taste with subtle hop back. Pumpkin hints. Firm but well balanced carbonation. Some residual after taste.

Tastes like autumn. Quite drinkable.

 345 characters

Photo of JMD
3.95/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours a dark amber with a frothy off-white head that fades slowly. Leaves a nice amount of lacing on the glass.

S: Sweet aroma of carmel and candied fruits. Some light bready malt as well.

T: Nice malt backbone. Carmel, roasted malt, some light chocolate and hints of sweet ripe fruit. Nicely balanced with some bittering hops and peppery spice as it finishes.

M: Medium bodied with ample carbonation that coats your mouth.

D: This is a flavorful and very drinkable ale. Not sure if it's a good example of an ESB, but a solid offering nonetheless.

 558 characters

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

Review from BeerAdvocate Magazine Issue #33 (Oct 2009):

Inviting dark amber clarity with an ample lacing. Fruity, taffy-like, perhaps a little peppery and malty in the nose. Solid malt base lets the smoothness of the carbonation roll right through it. Malt is king of the hill here, though it struggles to stay on top with complexi- ties coming from all directions. Hops dial in with a low-key bitterness but bigger herbal and woody flavors. Taffy? Ripe fruit jumps up with a quick flash of estery alcohol and the yeast throws down a musty flavor to show its uniqueness from other yeasts. Everything seems to work together though, leading to balance in the finish.

A masterpiece that we'll miss soon enough--all good seasonals seems to be that way ... every day can't be Halloween either. Hands down one of our most favorite ESBs ever.

 837 characters

Photo of EgadBananas
4.14/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served in a tulip

Dark mahogany/red, light tan finger of head. No lacing.

Sweet candied sugar, with a rather floral bouquet of hops and bitterness. There is an almost sweettart aroma.

Taste is very dry, slightly bitter, and malty. There is a tad bit of citrus too. Candied granny smith apples on the finish.

A bit stingy with the carbonation, upper light, and creamy in body.

Interesting take on the style. I think this works very well overall, still slightly traditional, while at the same time, being nicely adventurous.

 529 characters

Photo of SnowGoon99
3.67/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Serving type: bottle into a Stella Artois glass

Pours a dark, deep amber color with a white head that dissipates fairly quickly but doesn't completely disappear. Aroma is incredible! Very spicy with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg as well as toasty and roasty notes from the malts. Absolutely killer aroma.

Taste was slightly more disappointing. Toastiness was there but the spices disappeared in favor of the malts. Definitely could've used a better body as well for being on the higher end of the alcohol scale. Also was very surprising given the base style of an ESB. If it really was trying to be an ESB it was definitely missing some bitterness and hop flavor and aroma. But i'm not so sure it was trying to be that. Was fairly drinkable. But since it was slightly out of balance do to the body and type of beer it certainly could've been more drinkable.

Overall not a terrible beer just disappointing after such a great first impression. Tasting experience needs to match the aroma experience.

 999 characters

Photo of Bouleboubier
4.13/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Somewhat surprised to see a cask of this in Philly. I thought casks have but a short life span. Guess I'm wrong. This was a pretty stand up ESB. I have no idea where the "special spices" (phrase used in the description on the beer menu) came into play. This drank like a straight-up bitter. Nothing fancy, without any subtle unique twist. Pours with an excellent thick creamy head, leaving picture-perfect sheets of lacing. The color is a blandish coppery hue - which I suppose is dead-on with a real English bitter from my experience. Round fruitiness and a touch of hoppy bitterness in the aroma. Delicious fruity, moderately malty flavor. In the immediate background, a wonderfully balanced bitterness against the other flavors. Drinks a little thicker than a real low gravity session ale, but to my American palette, it was superb. If it's 6%, I'd be hard-pressed to notice. I hope this is around Philly more often - really enjoyed it.

 939 characters

Photo of phantomwyse
3.47/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours out a generally red colored body that touches on a lighter, cream soda hue at times. This head leaves trails around the top of the beer.

S: Sweet and malty. Caramel, brown sugar with a certain fruitiness, figs and raisins.

T:Caramel malts, toffee, and then twisted fruits, fermented plum, dark berries, maybe a hint at some red apple.

M: A little on the thin side. For an Autumn seasonal, I'f like to see this beer be a bit more hearty. The ingredients are there, the composition just isn't.

D: A nice, enjoyable beer - something that can be enjoyed with food or on its own.

 588 characters

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.

 504 characters

Photo of DMXLOX22
4.2/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Saw this sitting on the shelf and I just had to check it out just by the label alone. Here we go.

Appearance: Dark, eerie, mysterious just like Halloween. Frothy head that actually disappeared quickly which was surprising. Dark brown which is good to see.

Smell: dark roasting and somewhat sweet aronoma. I can also sense some caramal.

Taste: Bit of a rush of roasted malts and almost earthy-like tones. Finishes sweet and with soft hints of caramal. Something that is actually good.

Mouthfeel: Medium crisp flavoring and has a strong body of flavor that dissipates quickly. Delicious in fact

Drinkability: The spicy and dark roasted malts keep me coming back for me after every sip. I kept this review short and sweet, but I did enjoy this brew. Cheers!

 759 characters

Photo of zoso1967
4.01/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a gorgeous deep rusty amber with a frothy parchment head. This beer is nice and clear and the head is very whipped looking and has retention that is matched only by its lacing.

The aroma is nicely malty with some nice buttery Ringwood character that is unfortunately, a bit overpowering. The malt is rich and toasty with notes of caramel and a bit of fruitiness.

The flavor is also malt forward, but there is a fairly decent dose of earthy herbal hops in this beer. The malt character is just as rich as in the nose with caramel, toasted bread, walnut and some very faint cocoa like flavors. There are also the same buttery notes that I noticed in the aroma, but they are much more subdued in the flavor.

The body is medium and wonderfully smooth. It has a bit of chewiness to it, and is fairly dry despite the beers somewhat malty character. This beer coats the mouth well and leaves a pleasant malty aftertaste.

This is very drinkable and a tasty ESB. Props to Gritty's for making an ESB fall seasonal in a sea of Marzen and pumpkin beers.

 1,051 characters

Photo of SamuelJackson45
3.94/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- A dark orange color.

S- Smell Brown sugar and pumpkin and spices.

T- spices and brown sugar with hops in the back ground.

M- gritty full of silk texture with spices and sweetness of the brown sugar lingering through out the sip.

D- very good Halloween ale from not a typical pumpkin beer. Tryu it.


 315 characters

Photo of JerzDevl2000
3.85/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Picked this up in Totowa since the fall beers are out now and this is one of the few available by me that I had yet to try. I'm not a huge fan of the ESB style but I like 'em now and then as a change from the more heavily hopped and unbalanced beers.

This had a good pour to it - a decent head, a good almond hue and almost no lacing to be found. Balanced? This fits the bill as both the mouthfeel and the taste are right in the middle. Not too thick or thin, hoppy or malty, light or heavy. This goes down pretty nicely and what stood out to me was the pumpernickel-type bread taste of this. Just a hint of spice and to go with the doughy undernotes to this, that lingers in the aftertaste. The bitter taste is so mellow that it fits in well with the overall taste, showing how nicely crafted this beer is.

The ABV% was a tad higher that I would have been led to believe, but that doesn't mean that a few of these couldn't be downed in a sitting. While it's not as bold or smoky as the other seasonals that are out now, this would be great for the slightly more experienced beer drinker that wants something fitting for this time of the year. Mine will be long gone by Halloween.

 1,183 characters

Photo of ToasterChef
3.28/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured from a chilled bottle into my Gritty's Halloween pint glass. The beer is colored brows, with some copper highlights when the light hits it. The head is small, tan, and made of small bubbles. The liquid is clear, and I can see plenty of carbonation rising to the top. I've had warmer bottles, and I recall the head's being more impressive, so perhaps the low serving temperature has a negative effect on the appearance. I'll let another bottle warm a bit before pouring and adjust my review as needed.

The nose has some good malts; mainly sweet caramel. I can also detect some toasted grains.

Again, the flavor is made up of good malts. Despite the name, nothing scary here. I can taste a bit of the alcohol and a little diacetyl in the finish. The bitterness is low--well-balanced with the malt profile. It tastes like an enjoyable autumn beer.

The beer has a medium body. Despite all the carbonation I could see, it doesn't feel too strongly carbonated. There is a noticeable coat that leaves some flavor to linger. Each sip goes down well enough. I find the effects of the Ringwood yeast to be lesser than in other beers that use this yeast. I would drink a few of these in a night, but probably only if it was all that's available in my fridge. Otherwise, I think I would mix it up with some of Gritty's other beers if I were at one of their pubs (Halloween, stout, bitter, Halloween, etc.). I do think it would be quite good on cask. All in all, worth trying if you are not a drinker who immediately writes off all Ringwood beers.

 1,544 characters

Photo of Yoonisaykul
3.55/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Brought from Maine by girlfriend. Interesting bottle. First taste of Gritty's. 12oz bottle into tulip.

A- A tiny bit cloudy. A weird brown. Looks a bit like iced tea. Hold it up to the light and red-amber comes out. Finger of beige head lasts a good while but dies down to a ring thinning out towards the center into a large patch.

S- Smell seems layered. Sweet strawberry and grape jelly under crushed barley and alcohol.

T- Never had a Halloween brew but this seems like a good one. The sweet grape reminds me of candy and the type of bitterness and hop taste reminds me of the smell of dried leaf piles. Reminds me of Au Maitre Brasseur (AMB)'s Mad River but with less peanut. Not incredibly bitter but it is a bitterness that sticks around for a while.

M- Good body. Pretty dry and astringent finish. Medium to high carbonation.

D- Good. Especially if it's Halloween. It tastes good enough, is consistent enough so you feel like you're drinking beer but light enough to drink many.

I'd drink a 6-pack of this on Halloween. I guess half the reason would be because of the label though.

 1,097 characters

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

Clear, deep mahogony with nicely structured thick tan head. Aromatic nutty toastiness, overlays of sweet caramel/butterscoth. Rich spicy, toasty malt start, followed by a slick butterness/diacetyl, finishes with a nice bitterness towards the back of the throat. Nice little alcohol warmth afterwards. Overall a fine complex brew from Maine.

 340 characters

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.