Food and Drink: The End of the World is here

Michael Jackson Celebrate Hallowe'en in appropriate style with Hobgoblin, Lucifer, Bloody Hell Fire and other fiendishly good brews. Illustration by Frazer Hudson

Who would have thought that the end of the the world would be so enjoyable? Yet here it is, spelled out in the French: La Fin du Monde is a Quebecois strong ale, with a near- lethal 9 per cent alcohol content. Strength apart, it is one of the most exciting beers ever to emerge from Canada, and certainly the best from that country to reach these shores.

La Fin du Monde is a highly aromatic beer, with a tempting, orange-flower bouquet, a complex, spicy palate and an appetising, sherbety finish. Its producers confirm that it does contain spices, but they like to keep the exact recipe secret. I would guess at lemon peel and a hefty dose of coriander, but other tasters have found aniseed and honey.

Its complexity also derives from no fewer than three encounters with yeast. In addition to primary and secondary fermentations in the tank, a third takes place in the bottle. The beer can thus be laid down to mature - ideally for between three and 18 months at a natural cellar temperature, during which time rose-like flavours will develop.

La Fin du Monde is produced near Montreal, by Unibroue. Despite its generic- sounding name, this is a very colourful brewery. One of its founders is the Quebecois rock singer Robert Charlebois, a supporter of the Canadian prime minister, Jean Chretien. The three of us once became rather festive together, sampling our way through their beers.

Perhaps its British stockists, Oddbins, could also be persuaded to bring in the Unibroue's more peppery strong ale Maudite ("Damned") or the spiced cherry ale Quelque Chose, which is intended to serve hot at Christmas, like a Gluhwein.

La Fin du Monde is in much the same style as the yet stronger (15 per cent) French beer Belzebuth (it might be necessary to cross the Channel for this); and such Belgian ales as the sweeter Judas, the notably hoppy Lucifer, and the maltier Satan, all at around 8 to 8.5 per cent. All of these were inspired by the Belgian classic, Duvel ("Devil").

Duvel was first brewed in 1970 by a Belgian producer of strong, dark ales who was facing competition in his local market from golden lagers like Stella. He made a test brew of a strong ale as pale in colour as a Pilsener.

"That's the devil of a beer!" a brewer-worker is said to have observed, thus providing a name for a world classic. There is no name for the style itself. "Belgian-style strong golden ales" is cumbersome. "Satanic beers", perhaps? Their names all suit Hallowe'en, though deal with the trick-or-treaters first, then settle down to an appropriate strong brew to calm the nerves.

Many local breweries in Britain have demonic beers. Here are 10 good examples:

Black Magic Stout A mere 4.5 per cent, but with a rich, smooth, smoky dryness. From the Oakhill Brewery, near Bath, Somerset.

Bloody Hell Fire A chocolatey, strong (6 per cent) draught. From the Barnfield Brewery, of Slaithwaite, near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

Bodysnatcher "No more bodies?" asks the text on the pump-clip of this draught ale, in a sideswipe at the cream of Manchester. This is a more flavoursome, malty ale, quite big-bodied for its 4.4 per cent. Made specially for Hallowe'en, by the B & T Brewery, of Shefford, Bedfordshire.

Devil's Water A malty, sweetish, complex ale of 4.1 per cent. From the Brooker family brewery, of Hexham, Northumberland.

Gravedigger A nutty mild ale, with plenty of body for a mere 3.8 per cent. From the appropriately named Church End Brewery, of Shustoke, Warwickshire.

Hobgoblin A medium-strong (5.5 per cent) ale, with suggestions of brown sugar in its flavours. From the Wychwood Brewery, of Witney, Oxfordshire.

Old Devil A malty but well-balanced brew of 4.7 per cent, with a fruity dryness in the finish. Also from Wychwood.

Old Nick A warming barley wine (7.2 per cent) with a suggestion of banana liqueur, from Young's of London.

Pendle Witches' Brew A modest 5 per cent, but with an intoxicating character behind its fruity innocence. Named after the witches that allegedly used to haunt Pendle Hill, near the Moorhouse's Brewery, at Burnley, Lancashire.

Wizard's Wonder A darkish, dry, fruity bitter made for Hallowe'en. From the Coach House Brewery, of Warrington, Cheshire.

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