Beerman for Sept. 20, 2012

Oktoberfest concoction shaking things up

For Weekly SurgeSeptember 18, 2012 

Last Saturday, I tried a milkshake made with beer.

This was not an obvious move for me. I realize my passion for beer can be silly, stupid, and even downright corny – but a milkshake made with beer had me skeptical. I’m all about love for beer, but I’m not going to drag it into just any possible ménage à trios.

Then again, sometimes, one gets curious.

I had read about milkshakes made with Guinness before I went to try the beershake at Myrtle Beach’s Red Robin, an outparcel at Coastal Grand Mall. The Guinness shakes appear every year around Saint Patrick’s Day. Yet even that sounded more reasonable than what I was about to try: a milkshake made with Samuel Adams Oktoberfest beer – seemingly more of a stretch than Guinness, which could at least call to mind coffee and cream.

My wife Kristi and I were greeted and seated by one of my freshmen students at Coastal Carolina University, who said she hadn’t yet tried the beer milkshake. I made the relatively meaningless observation that she’s probably not allowed to try it. This was met with a quick blend of snort and laugh.

Once seated, the drink order was quick and easy: I told the server, a young fellow, I wanted the beer milkshake. He said he hadn’t tried it either, but considering how young he looked, I didn’t belabor the obvious.

The beershake was delivered in a Samuel Adams glass with whipped cream and a caramel swirl on top.

To my surprise, Samuel Adams Oktoberfest complemented the milkshake’s caramel and sweet cream. I still think the recipe sounds weird, but it tastes like an exotic gourmet milkshake.

The Samuel Adams Oktoberfest milkshake, priced at $4.59, is part of a limited-time menu. The Oktoberfest burger, topped with ham and German-style mustard, quickly disappeared in front of me, too.

Halloween beers

I’ve only tried a couple of beers brewed with pumpkin. I’m not a fan, but I would keep pumpkin-beer art on my walls at home. The labels evoke all the childhood fun of Halloween while holding an elixir of adulthood.

I’m not being a beer snob here. Some people consider a good pumpkin-brewed craft beer worthy of special occasions. For her first post-pregnancy beer, the wife of my cousin chose Dogfish Head Punkin Ale (yes, that’s “punkin”). Besides, if Dogfish Head makes it, I respect it, and that does it. Furthermore, when I mentioned pumpkin ales on my Facebook page, I received a comment asking where to find the Dogfish Head variety. Here’s the word – you can get a 4-pack at the Piggly Wiggly at The Market Common for $8.49.

The Dogfish Head Punkin Ale doesn’t have the most exciting label, but the art of some pumpkin beers is too cool.

Consider Southern Tier’s Imperial Pumpking Ale. The Pumpking is a Jack-o’-lantern wearing a crown. He’s carved with the jagged edges of Halloween lore. A few bats flutter above his head.

Better yet, take a look at the Samuel Adams Fat Jack Double Pumpkin Ale, available in a 22-ounce bottle. On the label, Fat Jack is a rumpled, rural Jack-o’-lantern. He looks a bit cushy yet sinister.

That’s a far cry from the packaging of Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale, a limited release with cozy, non-threatening, non-carved pumpkins on its six-pack packaging. Same company, different concepts.

Like the Harvest Pumpkin Ale, Shock Top has un-carved pumpkins on the packaging of its seasonal pumpkin wheat beer. Instead of a Jack-o’-lantern, however, Shock Top’s usual Mohawked orange slice dominates a field of pumpkins.

Of course, pumpkins aren’t the only freaky things going on beer labels right now. The non-pumpkin packaging of Coney Island Freaktoberfest from Shmaltz Brewing Co. might just count as the scariest out there. Slightly unsettling, too, is Southern Tier’s Imperial Helles Lager called Krampus, allegedly named after a devilish Christmas-season beast who beats naughty boys and girls while Saint Nick rewards the goodie-two-shoes.

Anyway, I’m not saying that pumpkin beers are terrible. It’s not like they’re Natural Light. I’m also not saying Oktoberfest beers and pumpkin ales would help a father survive trick-or-treating with young children. Nor am I saying I would secure a plastic red Solo cup for a neighborhood stroll on Halloween. No. Halloween needs an element of surprise.

Contact Colin Burch at and visit his blog at

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