Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Liquid tricks and treats

SOME SPOOKY BEVERAGES dressed up in Halloween-themed bottles and labels

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Even if you don't have a sweet tooth, Halloween can be a fun chance for grown-ups to enjoy a few frights and chills as well as a couple of treats of our own. Whether it be horror-themed beer or creepy, ghoulish wine, there are plenty of sippables out there that simply scream Halloween...


VAMPIRE 2011 CABERNET SAUVIGNON (California -- $14.17, Liquor Marts and beyond)

The Vampire wines used to be made from actual grapes from actual vines in Transylvania. These days they're from decidedly-less-scary California. Cassis, milk chocolate, raspberry, mint and light anise and earth notes on the nose are pretty typical New World Cabernet Sauvignon. It's soft and juicy, with ripe cassis flavours as well as milk chocolate and raspberry on the medium-bodied palate. There's a hint of tannin to this wine, but this wine lacks bite. 2 1/2 / 5


WYCHWOOD BREWERY HOBGOBLIN (Oxfordshire, England -- $3.91/500ml bottle, Liquor Marts)

Brown in colour (think iced tea), the Hobgoblin has a fairly intense note of toffee, raisin, date and dark chocolate. There's a hint of sweetness to this medium-bodied "ruby beer" which brings out the raisin notes and kicks the toffee into high gear. The chocolatey note lingers the longest -- overall it's a frighteningly good brew for cooler temperatures. Their website ( is fun too. 3 / 5


GREAT LAKES BREWERY 666 DEVIL'S PALE ALE (Toronto -- $2.97/473ml can, Liquor Marts)

The numbers don't lie: 666 kilograms of malt, 6.66 kilos of hops, 66.6 minutes of boiling and six per cent alcohol. Medium brown with a light beige head, the Devil's Pale Ale is much darker than the Ghost Ship, and brings intense aromatics of biscuit, toasted malt, almond and a hint of raisin. Soft effervescence and some creaminess on the palate make this a devilishly smooth sip, with modest bitter hops that add backbone and work well with delicious dark chocolate, espresso and toffee notes. 3 1/2 / 5


ROGUE DEAD GUY ALE (Newport, Ore. -- $8.86/650ml bottle, Liquor Marts)

This hazy brew in the bigger bottle is pale copper in colour, with intense malt and yeast notes on the nose and hints of dried fruit and Tootsie Roll. That intensity carries through on the palate, with complex candied malt, caramel, raisin and toffee notes without much sweetness. There's certainly some kick here, which may spook novice beer drinkers, but overall it's an in-your-face beer that will rattle your bones. 4 / 5


ADNAMS GHOST SHIP PALE ALE (Suffolk, England -- 3.13/440ml can, Liquor Marts)

This "ghostly pale ale" takes its name from a 600-year-old pub in the area that's said to be haunted. There's some up-front herbal/pine-like hops on the nose, with grassy and toasted nut notes in there as well. It's crisp on the palate, with those bright hops nicely balanced with the malt and toasted nut notes. If you dig IPAs but find them a bit too ghastly in the hops department, the Ghost Ship is for you. 3 / 5


FORT GARRY HAPPY JACK PUMPKIN ALE (Winnipeg -- $6.32/650ml bottle, Liquor Marts)

Suffering from pumpkin beer overkill, I swore I wouldn't drink any this year. But since it's topical and local, I broke my vow just this once (Half Pints didn't make their Punk'n Ale this year). Made with real pumpkins and with some oak treatment, the Happy Jack is deep copper in colour. On the nose there's plenty of pumpkin, with some clove/spice notes as well as vanilla and toasted malt. There's just a touch of sweetness to the Happy Jack on the crisp palate, with plenty of pumpkin and spice goodness to satisfy anyone who didn't get enough pumpkin pie for Halloween. It never gets too spice-driven or cloying sweet -- a very good thing. 3 1/2 / 5


PUERTA ANCONA 2010 ALMA NEGRA M BLEND (Mendoza, Argentina -- around $27, private wine stores)

"Alma Negra" translates into "dark soul," and the spooky, brooding label is creepy foreshadowing of the depth of this Argentine red. A blend of Bonarda and Malbec grapes, the Alma Negra shows earth, black pepper, blackberry, ripe cherry and a hint of barnyard on the nose. It's a big, full-bodied red that packs blackberry, tart cherry, black pepper and espresso flavours, as well as medium tannin and a splash of acidity for a long, haunting finish. 4 / 5

Twitter: @bensigurdson

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 26, 2013 D14


Updated on Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 5:17 PM CDT: Fixes formatting, cutlines.

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