California craft brewers are turning out some serious beers these days, and they are thankfully finding their way onto more and more dinner tables. This Thanksgiving, why not ditch the corkscrew and pick up your bottle opener? Your taste buds will thank you. Behold our suggestions for pairing your holiday meal with local craft beer:
Avant Garde (Port Brewing / The Lost Abbey)
Modeled after a French beer style known as bière de garde, its aromas and flavors are reminiscent of fresh baked biscuits and complement the turkey's delicate flavor without overpowering it. San Francisco's landmark beer, Anchor Steam, and Lost Abbey's Devotion Ale would also pair nicely.
Solidarity, or Manifesto (Eagle Rock Brewery)
Vegetable dishes can pair beautifully with many styles, but two of my favorites both come from nearby Eagle Rock Brewery: Manifesto, a Belgian-style witbier that’s flavored with coriander, dried lemon, and rose petals, or Solidarity, a black mild that packs all the same roasty, toasty flavors of a dark porter without being heavy on the palate.
Stone Smoked Porter (Stone Brewing Co.)
To balance the sweetness of maple- or honey-glazed hams, use a robust beer like Stone Smoked Porter. Before brewing, the malt is smoked over peat, a flavorful trick borrowed from the great brewers of Bamberg, Germany, famous for their smoked rauchbiers.
For pork roasts or smoked hams, a beer on the sweet side is best to accentuate the natural flavor of the pork. Try AleSmith Wee Heavy, a semisweet Scottish-style concoction. Ringing in at 10% ABV, the relatively strong alcohol content, malty caramel tones, and slight touch of hops add layers of complementary complexity to your slow-cooked labor of love. Hard ciders would also be good accompaniments to a hearty pork centerpiece.
Saison Rue (The Bruery)
Usually heavily seasoned and with a bold flavor profile of its own, lamb commands a beer with equally spicy qualities so as to not be overwhelmed by its ovine companion. Saison Rue is loaded with aromatics derived from the special yeast strains used and a touch of rye in the mash, perfect alongside any cut of lamb.
Aggressively hopped IPAs, like Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, Stone Ruination IPA, Firestone Walker Double Jack, and Lagunitas Maximus, help cut through the lamb’s fat and gaminess wonderfully.
Prime Rib or Brisket
Walker's Reserve Porter (Firestone Walker Brewing Co.)
This beer has excellent notes of caramel and toffee, with a strong enough roasted malt backbone to stand up to even the fattiest mound of prime rib or brisket. The Lost Abbey's Judgment Day Ale, brewed with the addition of raisins, or the aforementioned Stone Smoked Porter would be excellent selections as well.
Speedway Stout (AleSmith Brewing Co.)
By dessert time, you should have consumed enough beer to make your in-laws more tolerable, if only for one night. If you’re one of many who prefer a cup of java after your degustation, break out a bottle of AleSmith Speedway Stout; spiked with a goodly amounts of coffee beans and fermented to a noteworthy 12% ABV, this beer will change your life.
Other suggestions to reach for, perfect with pumpkin pie or otherwise: Port Brewing's Old Viscosity, a monstrous ale aged in bourbon barrels that pours like motor oil, Anchor Christmas Ale, Old Rasputin, or Old Stock from North Coast Brewing.
This article is an updated version of a work previously written by Randy Clemens for the former Edible Los Angeles magazine.