With Halloween less than two weeks away, the folks at Allagash Brewing Company might have the perfect treat to help forget about most of 2020’s tricks. But in a season often overrun with pumpkin efforts, this particular beer shies away from tons of nutmeg and turns the focus on the popular squash, while highlighting the Maine brewery’s unique brand of brewing flavorful beers.
Released at Allagash’s tasting room and in select nearby states, Ghoulschip is an 8.2 percent ABV spontaneously soured ale brewed with molasses and pumpkin – a lot of pumpkin. Each batch features about 350 pounds of pumpkin plus another 75 pounds of pumpkin seeds, all from nearby Pineland Farms.
That much pumpkin must be broken down into smaller pieces before it can be added, the perfect job for the brewery’s wood chipper which is only used once a year for Ghoulschip. The end result provides the perfect shredded consistency. On top of the pumpkin and molasses, Allagash uses a 2-row malted barley blend and aged whole leaf hops and only brews Ghoulschip on Halloween day, much the same way Michael Myers only came out on the holiday. But the process is far from finished after the brewing process is complete.
From there, the unfermented beer goes into what’s become a staple of Allagash’s brewing, the coolship. With the ability to hold 15 barrels of beer in the shed-like vessel, the piping hot beer is stored over Halloween night to cool with wild yeast and souring microbiota, allowing for the Maine air to work its way into Ghoulschip, and the end result is both an added tartness and more complex flavor profile. The biggest difference between the pumpkin beer and the brewery’s more traditional coolship efforts is house yeast is added to Ghoulschip and other coolship beers ferment only with wild yeast.
Once it has properly cooled, Ghoulschip is racked into oak barrels for aging purposes. It’s a combination of up to three-year aged beer and since each barrel holds 31 gallons, the batches are pretty small, which is why Ghoulschip doesn’t have a large distribution footprint upon release. The end result is a beer that Allagash touts as not retaining a ton of pumpkin flavor but is abundantly complex thanks to notes of butterscotch, frosting, burnt sugar, oak, stone fruit, lemon and funk. Yes, you read that correctly, funk – caused by the wild bacteria during the coolship sleepover. It’s light and golden, crisp and tart and acidic and earthy, a far cry from most other Fall efforts.
Ghoulschip isn’t a new release, in fact Allagash has brewed it for close to a decade. This year, the brewery is even releasing vintage three-packs with 2018, 2019, 2020 bottles and if you can’t get your fangs on some, one of the brewery’s other coolship beers might be more attainable. Or if you still want a Halloween-themed beer there’s always Allagash’s Haunted House, a hoppy dark ale that just so happens to have an ABV of 6.66 percent.