Five beer brewers tell you which beers to bring to Thanksgiving

The Nothing from Smog City Brewing, a strong imperial stout which the Smog City brewmaster likes instead of dessert.

The Nothing from Smog City Brewing, a strong imperial stout which the Smog City brewmaster likes instead of dessert.

(John Verive)

No matter what form your Thanksgiving holiday takes, craft beer can be a welcome addition to any feast. The array of flavors and styles available to modern beer lovers means there’s a fitting match or memorable foil for every part of the celebration.

We asked craft brewers from Los Angeles and beyond, how beer fits into their Thanksgiving meal. And their approaches were as diverse as the beers they brew.

Mitch Steele, brewmaster at Stone Brewing Co., incorporates beer into the whole day. “I cook the turkey in my house,” he says, “so I’m usually drinking beer throughout that whole process.” He brines the bird in a beer solution, and when the turkey hits the table, he turns to Belgian styles to complement the meal. “The spice character from the Belgian yeast just goes great with that meal.”

Look for a dry golden tripel or the sweet complexity of a quadruple. Either style will showcase the potpourri of esters that mesh so well with the Thanksgiving dishes, and they’re both strong enough to cut through rich food and bold flavors.


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Jonathan Porter, founder and brewmaster of Smog City Brewing in Torrance, also brines with a beer solution, and he recommends a malty red ale for a roast turkey, or a darker brew — such as Smog City’s Coffee Porter — if the bird is getting fried or smoked. Porter likes a light brew such as a hoppy pilsner during the long day of tending the smoker, and at the end of the meal he brings out the boozy and robust barrel-aged stouts instead of dessert.

Henry Nguyen, owner of Monkish Brewery, says the family that gathers for Thanksgiving all expect him to bring the beer. He prefers Belgian ales and tart wood-aged brews that find matches among the many dishes, and he also cooks with beer, basting the roasting turkey with beer throughout its time in the oven. Nguyen’s assistant brewer, Jennifer Treu, says that Thanksgiving is a great time to introduce her family to “the broad spectrum of beer flavors,” and that Feminist — the hibiscus-laiden tripel from Monkish — is revelatory for the drinkers used to American lagers.

Several brewers told us that they just want to relax on Thanksgiving and enjoy the rare day away from the brewery. Ron Jefferies, owner and Brewmaster at Michigan’s Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, is known for his complex and often sour wild ales, but on Turkey Day, he says the goal is to stay in his pajamas for as long as possible. “It’s a day for PJs and IPAs,” he quips.

Mark Carpenter has been making craft beer at Anchor Brewery in San Francisco for over 40 years, and Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday. Friends and family gather at his house where he debuts the yearly Anchor Christmas Ale — a dark and malty ale that balances spices with pungent hops.

From pilsner to IPAs, stouts to sour beers, just about every style can be welcomed to the feast. Take the brewer’s approach to Turkey Day and share some of your favorite beers with family and friends.


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