The Belgian classic is Saison Dupont from Brasserie Dupont. If you can find the corked bottles, it makes for a dramatic presentation, especially pulled from an ice bucket. But four-packs of 11-ounce bottles are readily available in package stores.
A Belgian-style American favorite is Hennepin from Brewery Ommegang. It’s spiced with coriander, ginger, orange peel and grains of paradise, and it’s also readily available in corked bottles or four-packs.
A British classic made a craft beer staple by American brewers, brown ale isn’t as popular as it once was, if it ever was. But I think it’s an underrated and very versatile malt-forward style, with many variations in sweetness, caramel character and medium to dry finish.
You can pair it with fish, poultry or beef. But why it works particularly well with the holiday feast is due to the similarity between the Maillard reaction in the roasted barley in brown ales and the flavors of roasted turkey and all the trimmings. Dressing, gravy and even sweet potatoes are all good to go with it, too.
Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale is a British classic, now available in cans, if you can believe it. The dark-amber color and deep malt flavors with a touch of nuttiness make it perfect with turkey or roasted duck, and Stilton after dinner.
From Tampa, Cigar City Maduro is described as a “Northern English-style Brown Ale with some American affectations.” It’s full of roasted and chocolate flavors and aromas and features a silky mouthfeel from the addition of oats.
While imperial stout is British in origin, American craft brewers have taken it up a notch in flavor and alcohol content, and more or less made it their own. Big beer lovers swoon over the roasted barley character that gives these strong stouts a bittersweet edge.
What’s especially nice is that they can be cellared and will develop some winy notes. But just-brewed or aged a bit imperial stouts are rich and dark with coffee and chocolate notes, making them the perfect dessert beer, especially with chocolate or strong cheese. If you’re thinking of pumpkin, sweet potato or pecan pie, though, go back to brown ale.
One of my favorite beers, period, North Coast Old Rasputin is a stellar example of an American craft brewery taking on a traditional old-world style in a big way. It’s at once malty, roasty and bittersweet, with notes of dark fruit, dark chocolate, and black coffee.
One of my all-time favorite seasonal beers, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, is lush with dark cacao aromas and flavors, and a pervasive bittersweet character. Best of all, at 10% alcohol, it ages beautifully, and makes a gift that keeps on giving.
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