Thanksgiving is the best holiday in existence, because pretty much all that's required of you is eating...and drinking. We asked Monk's Kettle cicerone and human beer encyclopedia Sayre Piotrkowski for his picks for the best seasonal brews (all with high-alcohol content! goodbye family awkwardness!) to pair with your turkey feast:
1. Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale from Kiuchi Brewery in Japan is brewed from, you guessed it, red rice and is "a tart beer, much like cranberry sauce, that can either be used during food prep or as a substitute to any spritzy, acidic wine," says Piotrkowski. "Its acidity also goes well with a fatty piece of meat like ham and really complements any cranberry sauce. If you're cooking any beer down in a recipe, choose beers that are yeast-driven instead of hops-driven, otherwise it will just taste like a really bad beer, like Budweiser."
2. There are a ton of beers that taste like sweet potato or yams. Midnight Sun in Anchorage, Alaska makes T.R.E.A.T (which stands for "The Royal Eccentric Ale Treatment") and is a high-alcohol black Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter brewed with pumpkin, cocoa nibs and baking spices. "It's a very on-the-nose type of beer that is very rich and a lot like pumpkin pie," says Piotrkowski. It complements both sweet and savory dishes, and can be reduced down and used to glaze meat.
3. CoHoHo, also by Midnight Sun, is a wintery Imperial IPA made with brown sugar (which boosts the alcohol content), juniper berries, and honey. Available at City Beer Store, according to Piotrkowski, "it's got a sticky sweetness and a bitterness that would go with a sweeter main course or a dessert." According to Beth Wathen of City Beer Store, CoHoHo is a "melting pot of flavors. The citrusy Centennial, Simcoe, and Cascade hops play off the rich malty character, and the delicate flavor of honey. Juniper berries act as an additional bittering agent and give it a woodsy flavor on the front, with a touch of caramelized brown sugar sweetening out the finish."
4. A beer you can buy around town in a 6-pack is Lagunitas' Brown Shugga, which was actually a failed attempt to make Lagunitas' OldGnarlyWine Ale over a decade ago. To rescue the batch, they added tons of brown sugar, which made the alcohol soar to about 10%. Says Piotrowski, "It has a broadness in taste from very sweet to very bitter and spicy, and it's good because we consume more sweet than savory courses than normal during the holidays. It's one of the best local beers."
5. "There's a new black IPA from Victory called Yakima Glory that's a fun beer with a meal," says Piotrkowski. Hitting the market right now, "it's a new trend. Essentially, you take an IPA recipe and turn it black by adding some black malt or roasted barley. You can taste a little bit of coffee and chocolate, and it has a charred character that goes with grilled meat and chicken skin." The beer's hoppy side will complement the spices in your stuffing.
6. Drake's Brewing in San Leandro makes a seasonal ale called Jolly Roger, which is an imperial brown brew only available from November until the New Year. Brown sugar, again, boosts the alcohol content, and "it's like big bittersweet treat. It goes well with pumpkin pie. It's another of the best local beers." It sells out quickly every year, so sip some while you can.
7. A beer that goes well with the caramelized nuts and sugars of pecan pies is Triple Exultation from Eel River Brewing Company in Fortuna, CA. It's an organic old bourbon barrel aged ale, which is in the English tradition and means it's rich, dark and sweet with molasses undertones. "It complements that boozy, whisky flavor people add to pecan pies," affirms Piotrkowski. "It has a sherry-like quality." This beer only gets better with age, and has been winning awards since 2004.
Monk's Kettle will be also serving many vintage versions of these beers on tap. "The hops taste falls out of the beer, so it gets sweeter and more balanced," says Piotrkowski. From now until the end of the year, the gastropub will have many more seasonal beers from local companies, as well as a slew of Belgian Christmas beers.
Monk's Kettle, 3141 16th Street, (415) 865-9523