By: Benjamin Welton
Seasons are magical, and no season has more mystery than autumn. Up here in New England, fall comes like a long awaited saint. New Englanders not only worship the colorful leaves like the pagans their ancestors tried to eradicate, but they also deeply understand that fall is one of the few reasons why outsiders care at all about the six states on the tip of America’s Atlantic wall. “Leaf peepers” from across the U.S. and Canada flock to places like Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine in order to see foliage in action. For the rest of us (and yes I am speaking as a New England transplant who has plenty of bad things to say about his adoptive region), the fall mostly means more people in the way and more cars on the road.
Just south of Vermont is Massachusetts – a state that gets its fair share of October tourists. Some of those tourists come for the leaves, but some of them come for the witches. As with descending bits of orange and red palmate-veined botany, New England is also synonymous with haunted houses, witch hunts, ghosts and goblins. From the Pyncheon house that leaked blood to family-friendly hocus pocus, New England is decorated with spooky destinations. Most people know about Salem, but few know about Woodstock, Vermont – the sight of a “real” vampire case from the nineteenth century. The brewers at Magic Hat, a South Burlington-based company, know better than most Vermont’s spectral legacy, and their latests concoction reflects this. The Séance Saison from Magic Hat reeks of wraithlike charm, and its inky black presentation is perfect for the Halloween season or the witching hour.
First Impression: There’s a lot going on with this label. From the artwork, which presents a collage of folkloric images (an owl, a corpse’s hand rising from out of the earth, candles, and a chalice) done in earth tones to the catchphrase of “A liquid dance through life’s trance,” the Séance Saison is like the Haunted Mansion of beers. The Séance Saison comes in your basic 12 fl. oz. bottle with amber glass. Overall, the Séance Saison delineates itself immediately as a seasonal craft brew, which means that its aesthetic presentation took more time to produce than the usual year-round batch.
Pour: This beer is one that comes to (un)life immediately. Its head, which is foamy and thick, sits splendidly atop a pitch black body. Like engine oil, sludge, molasses, and dark chocolate, this beer does not allow too much light to pass through when it is held beside a lamp or a flashlight. Given this beer’s packaging, the pour reminds one of Raymond Chandler’s quote about “dark with something more then night.”
Taste: Tart and smokey, the Séance Saison is a beer for those who like rich, arid wines. If you don’t like wine, then the Séance Saison can be best compared to a cigar, especially one with a madoro wrapper. As such, this beer should be enjoyed in slow sips by the fire, whether indoors or out of them. Going light on the food would also be suggested, for this beer is filling. Its combination of Golding and Hallertaur hops, cherry wood smoke, and victory, carafa, and flaked oats make this beer feel Central European, possibly even Scandinavian. Speaking of the Nordland, the owl centerpiece of this beer’s label makes me think that Kvelertak, that hard rocking band from Stavanger, Norway who have as their official mascot a menacing owl, would be the perfect background music for a night’s festivities spent with Magic Hat’s Séance Saison. Drink up, ya ghouls!
ABV: 4.4 %