I love Halloween. You dress up in a silly or scary costume, then eat a bunch of candy. It’s hard to beat that.
As a kid, I loved trick or treating. One year I went dressed as George H.W. Bush just before Election Day, shaking hands, doing a terrible “kid as George Bush” impression, and raking in massive amounts of candy. When I was a bit older, my friend and I would make a haunted house on the long walkway to his front door. We judged our success by how many kids screamed on their way to get candy.
Now I have kids of my own, and trick or treating—particularly in the age of the Great COVID Scare—just isn’t the same. Halloween is a little trickier of a holiday to celebrate in the bare-shelf Biden era.
Since we were locked down last year, I had my kids help me decorate all the doorways in our house. Then they trick-or-treated from door to door and I gave them candy at each one. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked, and there was a lot of leftover Twix for yours truly.
We might hit a few houses this year, but I’m not sure trick or treating will ever be like it was when I was a kid, and the entire neighborhood was full of kids going door to door from dusk until bedtime.
On Halloween I also love to watch a movie. Now, if you ask people what’s their favorite movie to watch on Halloween, they’ll probably say something like “The Exorcist,” or “Nightmare on Elm Street,” or even “Halloween.” But for me, the ultimate Halloween movie is something different: “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.” This film came at the peak Steven Spielberg era, and it’s hard to argue that there’s a better movie from that part of his career than “E.T.”
To start, it’s a movie about a boy getting a friend. Eliot sometimes struggles to deal with his older brother and younger sister, and the entire family is dealing with their parents’ recent divorce. He stumbles upon a friendly alien, who wants to get home to his own family, but for a while joins Eliot’s. Which of us can’t identify with that?
Then there’s the film’s score. It’s easy to come up with a list of best movie soundtracks that is almost entirely populated with the works of John Williams. He’s the maestro. He’s the “secret sauce” of Star Wars, according to George Lucas, and those sweeping tones made the moment you first saw dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park” all the more memorable.
I think it’s in “E.T.” that he does his finest work. Not only is the music an essential element of the film, but it drives your emotions like a Mack Truck barreling down the freeway. If you can get through the final scene of the movie where Eliot says goodbye to E.T. without crying, your heart is made of stone.
Those French horns get me every time.
I don’t know if it’s because they take E.T. trick or treating in that hilarious ghost costume with the clown shoes, or the fact that they encounter a 1980s-style Yoda along the street of their suburban California neighborhood (a costume I’m pretty sure I once owned), but this movie just is Halloween to me.
So now that you have the perfect Halloween movie to watch, what shall we drink? For that answer, we can also turn to “E.T.” Beer!
In what is perhaps one of the funniest scenes in the entire film, while Eliot is at school, E.T. raids the fridge and finds beer. He drinks several Coors, gets fall-down drunk, and because he and Eliot are connected, so does Eliot. In the middle of a frog dissection.
So if you want to be truly authentic to E.T.’s experience, have a Coors or two, but if you want something that excites your tastebuds in the way that a young Erika Eleniak excited Eliot in his biology class, then here are a few options for some great Halloween beers.
Many specialty beers at this time of year feature the flavors of fall—pumpkins, sweeter malts, maybe even some cinnamon and spice. It’s a great time of year to go digging through that “pick a six-pack” section of your local grocery store.
One of my favorite Halloween beers this year is a hearty stout, as dark as the Halloween night. When you sit down to enjoy this beer, you immediately get hit with the molasses, cloves, ginger, and other “pumpkin pie” spices in this beer. You also get a bit of caramel in this stout and a pinch of cinnamon. This beer is incredibly drinkable, which can be dangerous, because hidden behind all that amazing flavor is a serious ABV of more than 12 percent.
From the gang at the Dallas-Fort Worth-area Tupps Brewery, this is one of my favorite reasons to drink beers in the fall. Full-Grown Jack screams fall, like it’s coming from the mouth of a finely carved Jack-O-Lantern.
This dark stout takes a different tack than Jack did. If Jack is the treat of Halloween, then Ed is the trick, and it’s a good one. This beer from the gang at Lone Pint Brewery just outside Houston is a porter kicked up with chili peppers. It definitely has more bitter notes than a lot of other beers of the season, but those notes work well with the spice, roasty malts, and dark chocolate.
This is beer best served towards the end of the night as you start digging into the leftover candy the trick-or-treaters left behind. It takes you by surprise, but that tingly punch from the spice becomes strangely addictive.
Finally, from the folks at Delaware’s Dogfish Head Brewing is a different take on Halloween beer, the Punkin Ale, so named to honor the hilariously American “Punkin Chunkin” event each fall, which must be seen to be believed.
If you’re looking for a lighter beer that still has all the fall flavors you can get with Halloween beers, this one is your answer. Not as thick and heavy as the previous two, this is a solid amber ale full of cinnamon and spice, with a hint of brown sugar. This is a very drinkable beer, and if you’re serving it along with one of its darker cousins, drink this one first, maybe with a cheese course, or chips and dip.
I know much of America drinks Pumpkin Spice Lattes at this time of year, but here’s my advice: throw that crap out and grab a Halloween beer instead. Whether you want your palate to be tricked or treated this fall season, there is a beer with your name on it waiting in the cold case of your local grocer.