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Thankful for local beer on the table


Thanksgiving is just two weeks away and if you’re planning a full Thanksgiving dinner, you’ve got some decisions to make: How to cook the turkey? Sweet potatoes to go with the mashed? How many pies will be needed for dessert?

Oh, right — and what are we drinking?

Here’s a suggestion. Why don’t you skip the overly chilled bottle of chardonnay and track down a locally made beer to go with your bird?

Making the choice to serve beer isn’t hard; picking a specific beer or two, though, could feel a bit overwhelming. In the immediate area alone, there are dozens of breweries, each making multiple styles that would complement your feast. What’s the right choice to make?

Relax. This isn’t as complicated as it sounds. First off, it would be tough to come up with a wrong choice; personal preference counts for a lot in this case. But if you’re still struggling, let Meg Evans, Jake Voelker, Scott Smith, Steve Ilnicki, Michael Murphy and Andy Kwiatkowski — all pros at local craft beer businesses — give you a hand.

I asked each one for recommendations for a beer they brew or pour that would work well with a traditional Thanksgiving meal; I got responses ranging from a saison to a combination of spiced pumpkin beer and a sturdy stout. Why the picks? It might be a broad pairing with most of the dishes that will show up on your table; it might also be a notion that a hefty oatmeal stout would stand up to a smoked turkey breast.

(We asked our pros for another pick, one that they’re not responsible for making or selling; I’ll post those in a bonus video on the Beer Me Facebook page early next week.)

A bunch of choices. All available locally. I hope you can find a couple that would work on your Thanksgiving table.

The (craft beer) holidays have arrived


Don’t pay any attention to what the calendar says; the holidays are here.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. After all, we’ve been seeing pumpkin beer — the recently crowned staple of autumn craft beer drinking — in stores and at distributors for weeks.

But if you work in the business, what we’ll call Holiday Beer Creep gets started even earlier. Want to make sure your bar has its fair share of pumpkin beer this year? You’re placing orders in June and July. Don’t want your customers to be shut out of Troegs Mad Elf or Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale in December? You’ve got Christmas beer on your mind in August.

The autumn and winter seasons bring distinctive, spicy profiles to the coolers of your favorite bottle shops. In the fall, that means beer that’s part of a larger trend for pumpkin-flavored everything; if it tastes like pumpkin pie, it’s probably going to make customers happy.

(Note: This doesn’t include Oktoberfest beers, those malty German lagers meant to accompany the folk festival that started in Munich in 1810. Before you get too caught up in the pumpkin craze, be sure to give a couple of fest beers a try.)

The winter flavor profiles aren’t as confined, but a bunch are similar: clove, ginger, cinnamon, honey, and maybe with a kicked-up ABV to help keep us warm.

The more jaded among us tend to give a sideways glance at the fall and winter seasonals and, especially, how they seem to stretch the start of their seasons earlier and earlier. But as Chris Dilla, owner of Bocktown Beer and Grill restaurants in Robinson and Monaca who is pictured above, told me this week, there are new ones to try every season — and it would be a shame to miss them.