5 Brews for the Festivities

As house chef and head of culinary programming, Andrew Gerson manages Brooklyn Brewery’s participation in beer dinners, festivals and other special events across the world (e.g., Brooklyn Brewery Mash, an annual traveling series of parties, pop-up dinners and more in collaboration with local chefs, artists and musicians). Thanksgiving is widely considered to be the year’s biggest meal, for which Gerson recommended these five of Brooklyn’s finest—one for each stage of the feastathon (according to his telling). Cheers, homeslices (of turkey)!

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STARTER: American Ale, 4.5%
This is a perfect beer to crack open at the start of the first football game. It’s interesting, but not overpowering. A nice, light, refreshing pale ale that you can have a couple of without passing out before dinner. The malt character and nuanced hop flavor goes great with pretzels or chips.

APPS: Sorachi Ace, 7.6%
At my wedding we toasted with Sorachi Ace. It’s a great beer to celebrate a special occasion. This hoppy saison is effervescent with a beautiful lemon-verbena aroma that’s really refreshing. There’s also a hint of dill. It can handle appetizers like a cheeseboard or hummus and crudités. And the alcohol level packs a little punch to get you ready to sit down for a big meal.

DINNER: Discreet Charm of the Framboise, 7.3%
The Thanksgiving meal is often rich and heavy, so you need something that’s going to cut right through it. For that job I’d go with one of our newest beers, a Belgian-style sour ale we aged in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels with fresh raspberries. There’s lovely fruit character here, and the funk of the wild yeast and tartness from the raspberries slice right through foods like turkey, stuffing and my favorite dish, marshmallow-topped yams. I also love the idea of Framboise being in a bigger bottle. Thanksgiving is all about family and community, the idea of sharing and “breaking bread” with your neighbor. This a beautiful beer to do just that.

DESSERT: Black Chocolate Stout, 10%
This is an easy-drinking stout packed with all the classic dessert flavors of chocolate and coffee. There’s a semblance of sweetness but it’s not cloying. It’s super dry. The great thing about Black Chocolate Stout is its versatility. You don’t need to pair it with a dessert that has a specific tasting note, like chocolate ice cream or a coffee panettone. It works great with everything from pecan pie with whipped cream on top to a bowl of fresh berries.

FINISH: Improved Old Fashioned, 12.8%
This is an Old Fashioned cocktail in beer form, thus “Improved.” It’s a blend of three different rye malts and some interesting ingredients, from nutmeg and lemon peel to coriander and bitter gentian root. Then we aged it in WhistlePig Rye whiskey barrels. Much like its inspiration, it’s a complex drink best enjoyed with slow sips.

It makes a great choice for a digestif, a nice way to settle the stomach after the marathon day of Thanksgiving eating.

(631) 464-4646, Amityville
Year opened: 2015
Beers available: 60

John and Helen Corry, the owners of Corry’s Ale House in Wantagh, have partnered with another couple, Bruno and Daisy Surace, to bring good beer—some of which is made on premises—to an area still largely plagued by mass-market, light-lager monotony. A varied selection of drafts is poured from behind Amity Ales’ 28-foot-long bar, which is adjacent to a smattering of leather-upholstered booths in the front area and one of many components of the rustic, clean-lined space fashioned from reclaimed barn wood.

Another component is a sliding door that opens to the airy dining room, where old black-and-white photos of Amityville and murals depicting bygone saloon scenes painted by artist Kevin Clark adorn the walls. Guinness is the only permanent beer among the pub’s 16-tap lineup. It’s no surprise given that both John and Helen hail from Ireland. Other taps constantly rotate and always include a few seasonal options. There are also offerings from two or more local breweries at all times, one of which makes its beer in the restaurant, and in small batches: Bunker Ales, helmed by a longtime local brewer Peter Yustat.

Yustat started making beer in his garage as a hobby more than two decades ago, and John and Bruno often joined him. “Some guys play golf when they’re off of work. We make beer,” Bruno said. Once an amateur operation, Bunker Ales is now a licensed brewery—and Amity Ales’ kitchen is its production facility. The brewers work on weekend mornings and disassemble their equipment before the staff arrives, all to make around 30 gallons at a time. It’s a lot of labor to yield so little liquid, Yustat admitted, especially since some batches don’t last more than a few days. Bunker’s pumpkin beer, It’s the Great Pumpkin Ale, is one particular example. “The first year it was gone before I got to try it! But I guess that’s not the worst problem to have. People seem to like what we’ve been making. The pumpkin is probably our most popular beer. But we’ve sold every drop of everything we’ve made,” he said.

Yustat aims to design all of Bunker’s beers to pair with the well-done pub fare at Amity. He recommended ordering the Over The Top—a delightful mess of a sandwich comprising pulled pork, macaroni and cheese, cheddar and barbecue sauce, all of which is attempting to escape two slices of Texas Toast—coupled with the brewery’s namesake beer. “It’s our flagship, a little hoppier than Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and really, really crushable,” he said. In addition to Bunker Ale, there are several beers named for items in his garage. “There’s Chainsaw IPA, Lawnmower Ale, Snow Blower Ale…We haven’t forgotten where we came from,” he laughed.

niko krommydas

Niko Krommydas has written for Tasting Table, BeerAdvocate, Munchies, and First We Feast. He is editor of Craft Beer New York, an app for the iPhone, and a columnist for Yankee Brew News. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.