Hello, beer friends. How are you? Is everything OK? Or are you at least willing to join me in pretending everything’s OK because we know that soon enough we can start the hard-earned holiday benders that will allow us to forget some of the things that maybe aren’t, technically speaking, OK? Yeah? That’s the spirit!
Thanksgiving is a fantastic holiday — especially if you don’t think it through too closely — but it’s not without potential peril. For instance, you may run into people with whom you disagree about certain trifling matters such as cranberry sauce or civil rights. Or perhaps the joy brought by your annual one-man mashed potato chugging contest will be somewhat diminished this year by the realization that you were raised by actual monsters. Maybe one of your cousins will say “spatchcock” a lot. It could happen.
So, yes, although Thanksgiving rules, there’s still room for some bullshit to creep in around the edges, no matter how vigilant or delusional you are. But don’t worry about it. It’s going to be fine. Everything’s going to be fine forever, because we have beer.
We usually intend these posts to be mere guidelines to get your beer brain pointed in the right direction before making your own individual drinking decisions. But times like these call for a stronger, more decisive, some may even say authoritarian brand of listicle. Therefore, I really must insist that each of you drink each of these eight beers on Thursday — even the ones that aren’t distributed in your state; even the one that isn’t a beer. It’s a tall order, but it’s the sort of unity we’re going to need to pull through this year.
Grimm Super Spruce; New York; 4.7% ABV
Modern American gose makers take quite a bit of liberty in interpreting the classic German salt-and-coriander wheat beer. This can be a problem, but Grimm can pretty much always be trusted. What we have here is a Chinook dry-hopped gose brewed with spruce tips. Super Spruce is on the tart side for the style, and the salt’s also a bit more aggressive than you’ll find in a lot of goses, but the strong pine and lighter grapefruit flavors still shine all the way through.
Allagash Tripel; Portland, ME; 9% ABV
I usually recommend Allagash Curieux for celebrations, but this year I’m going with its base beer. Tripel, which won gold in the 2016 Great American Beer Festival, is simply Curieux without the Jim Beam barrel-aging, so it’s 85 percent as good for half the price. This slight compromise will come in handy if 2016 happens to end in the best-case scenario (i.e., the world doesn’t actually end, in which case you’re going to want to have a couple bucks set aside for 2017 beer).
Cisco Cranberry Woods; Nantucket, MA; 5% ABV
What we have here, folks, is a recommendation for the post-fact world. You see, I’ve never actually tried this cranberry-spiked barrel-aged sour ale. In any other year this would disqualify it from consideration, particularly given that it costs north of $20 per 750 ml bottle. But it’s 2016, you see, which means that anything can be true, or at least “true,” if you want it to be. Also, beer research director Emily picked up a bottle on an alleged work trip to Nantucket and we’re going to have it with green beans on Thursday, and it damn well better be good. If it turns out to be otherwise, this recommendation will be rescinded in large print next week.
Brooklyn Brown Ale; New York; 5.6% ABV
Brooklyn brewmaster Garrett Oliver says saison’s the best beer to pair with a Thanksgiving feast, but what the hell does that guy know? I like brown ales with beige foods, and Brooklyn Brown is among my favorites. A lot of the better brown ales coming out these days are, of course, more heavily hopped than their predecessors; Brooklyn Brown’s been around for a couple dozen years and, while it may be a touch hoppier than traditional British versions, coffee and chocolate from the partially roasted malt star in this smooth show.
Von Trapp Golden Helles Lager; Stowe, VT; 4.9% ABV
I need to pay more attention to Vermont beer, given the fact that it is universally praised. This should be easy to do, since most maps agree that Vermont practically borders my home state of Massachusetts. The thing is, I never make it up and over there, and they tend not to export most of the fancier stuff. But this humble yet excellent pale lager from descendants of yes-that-von-Trapp family does make it across the border, providing a broader range of drinkers easy access to the perfect beer for a long afternoon of pretending to care about random NFL games.
Night Shift Pfaffenheck; Everett, MA; 5.2% ABV
This is another easy and approachable long-hauler from one of New England’s fastest-growing breweries. Night Shift works plenty of magic with hops and barrels, but this classic German-style pilsner more than holds its own alongside its flashier stablemates.
Wicked Weed Old Fashioned; Asheville, NC; 10% ABV
But then again, what if your Thanksgiving requires a firmer hand? You could resort to liquor, if you were looking to completely invalidate my life’s work, or you could opt for this fantastic bourbon-barrel-aged American strong ale with cherries and oranges. If you go the civilized route, you’ll be rewarded by strong vanilla and oak notes atop bright cherry and a slight tanginess from the orange.
Downeast Cranberry Cider; Boston, MA; 5% ABV
When we did the 16 Ideal Taps story, several thoughtful drinkers rightly pointed out that we should have made room for at least one cider. How about this one from a trio of cool young fellas in Boston? (Yes, this list is Mass.-heavy, but so was the first Thanksgiving, pal!) This off-dry number is fairly judicious with the cranberry, which comes through loud and clear but doesn’t smother the apples. This is perfect by itself, but it also does a really good job of stretching out a shot of dark rum, should you find yourself at that kind of party.