Thanksgiving is America's most food-centric holiday, but don't forget to dedicate a bit of brain-time in deciding what beers to drink to guarantee a truly memorable meal. In my case, that could mean a fresh can of New England-style IPA (to learn more about this cultish craze in craft beer, hop on the 'gram and start with these three hashtags: #freshie, #juicy, #hazefordays) to complement my colorblind mother's inedible green bean casserole. Later in the day, an imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels to soothe the tragedy of my two delinquent second cousins stealing the turkey for a fiendish game of fowl football.
Whatever the impetus for my, err, your imbibing of beer this Thanksgiving, one thing is certain: with three breweries based in the Bronx, there are plenty of great locally made options to invite over (in place of those delinquent second cousins) for the holiday. In fact, I recently asked the head brewers of each producer—Chris Prout, of Gun Hill Brewing Co.; Mark Szmaida, of Chelsea Craft Brewing Co.; and Damian Brown, of The Bronx Brewery—to recommend two beers versatile enough to pair with any part of a typical feast: one of their own, and one from another brewer (holiday spirit!).
Before we dive into them, though, I have one question for you: Who's inviting me to drink this Thanksgiving? If you do, I'll bring along some of my mother's green bean casserole; it's fantastic!
Gun Hill Brewing
as told by Chris Prout, head brewer
Gun Hill Brewery, Spirit 76 | 4.8% ABV
"Our easy-drinking American pilsner, one of our newer beers, is something you can drink all Turkey Day. We use local pilsner malt from New York Craft Malt. The Liberty and Saphir hops give a floral and herbal aroma with light spicy hop notes. There's a mineral-like yeast and a crisp crackery malt character with a clean bready finish."
Greenpoint Beer & Ale, Flannel Shirt | 6.8% ABV
"My homies in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where I cut my teeth as a pro brewer, make this awesome old-school red IPA with Pacific Northwest hop varieties like Chinook and Columbus. A great fall beer, and perfect for post-supper sipping. Layers of toasted, caramel malt support dense woody, piney, dank, and herbaceous hops."
The Bronx Brewery
as told by Damian Brown, head brewer
Bronx Brewery, Bog Smash | 7.0% ABV
"We make a pale ale in the fall with cranberries from upstate New York that celebrates the season perfectly and makes for a great Thanksgiving beer. It's brilliantly red with a touch of malty sweetness. That's balanced by woody hop aromas and a fruity yet refreshingly tart cranberry finish. Each sip refreshes and balances the palette with anything you'll be eating."
Blackberry Farm Brewery, Fall Saison | 5.7% ABV
"It's not local, but it's great. Being very brown sugary, spicy, effervescent, and punchy, it should cleanse the palette and complement the rich flavors and textures of a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Blackberry Farm distributes here in New York City, so people should definitely grab some."
Chelsea Craft Brewing
as told by Mark Szmaida
Chelsea Craft Brewing, Pumpkin Pie Ale | 5.2% ABV
"With the base of a wheat ale, we add pumpkin and honey and spice it with nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. It has an aroma that conjures up fresh-baked pumpkin pie, so definitely great for dessert. But its lightness won't crowd out the dinner feast either."
Defiant Brewing, Catskills Hop Harvest Ale | 6.8% ABV
"A great beer with a Bronx connection. So, Chris Sheehan brewed with Gun Hill before heading to Defiant, and before that he brewed with me at the old Chelsea in Chelsea Piers; we worked together for 13 years. During that time we made a beer called Catskill Hop Harvest Ale that uses hops grown upstate on his mom's property. Chris has continued that longstanding tradition at Defiant where during the annual hop harvest he goes to his mom's property and picks the fresh local hops, then returns the next day and makes a pale ale with them. The hops are mostly of unknown origin but believed to be classic American varieties like Centennial and Columbus. Being fresh, the hop character is grassy and herbal. I think this is a good Thanksgiving beer as a celebration of the harvest and the way it incorporates family and friends. Great with the feast too."