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Whether you're hosting friends and family for dinner or have been tasked with bringing beverages to your parents' house, skip the wine and drink craft beer instead. The beverage is incredibly versatile and we talked to Chicago's best bartenders, beverage directors and beer buyers to find out which Midwest beers you should drink with each course of the holiday feast.
Flywheel, Metropolitan Brewing (Chicago, IL)
Start the festivities with a session beer, like Metropolitan’s Flywheel, which “won't fill you up or slow you down as you juggle the barrage of oven timers, snack trays and touchdowns,” says Chris Coons, former beer manager at Jerry’s Wicker Park. Coons says that Flywheel is “light-bodied with a bready sweetness from the malt and a clean crisp noble hop finish [and] achieves a delicate balance few of its counterparts can equal.” Flywheel is available in 6-packs at local craft beer stores.
Matilda, Goose Island Beer Co. (Chicago, IL)
This Belgian Pale Ale with Brettanomyces (wild yeast) is a great complement for roasted fowl and rich food, according to Goose Island Clybourn Brewpub’s executive chef, Andrew Hroza: “It has white wine characteristics that make for a great palate cleanser with the crisp hop balance. It is a beer that makes non-beer drinkers reconsider their stance. The Brett acts as an interesting flavor that plays well with dishes that have tons of different spice components and harmoniously brings Midwest side dishes together for a cohesive meal.” Matilda is available in 4-packs at local craft beer stores.
Woodside, Perennial Artisan Ales (St. Louis, MO)
This Belgian-style Tripel ale, brewed with honey, is just begging to be served with dinner. “The aroma is floral and fruity, the body is big and rich with a touch of sweetness, but tempered by a bright carbonation that helps keep it balanced,” says Adam Vavrick, former beer manager at Binny’s Lincoln Park. “Smother your turkey, and everything else for that matter, in gravy and then sip this to clear your palate.” Woodside is available in a 750mL bottle at local craft beer stores.
La Roja, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales (Dexter, Michigan)
When it comes to the perfect complement for stuffing and cranberry sauce, Vavrick recommends Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja, which he described as a “cross between an American Amber Ale and a Flanders Red Ale. It's a rich toasty amber that then sits in oak barrels for a good period of time, adding a vinous background and hints of pitted cherries.” La Roja is available in a 750mL bottle at your local craft beer stores.
Scurry, Off Color Brewing (Chicago, IL)
Scurry, a locally made German-style Kotbusser beer, is a favorite of Seth Feldman, bartender at Bar Deville, for pairing with rich sides, like sweet potato casserole. “Scurry is fermented with honey, molasses and oats, giving it a great malty base without being too sweet,” he says. “It has a lot of earthy overtones that will bring out some of the other flavors present in the casserole, such as raisins and spices.” Scurry is available in 6-packs at local craft beer stores.
Breakfast Stout, Founders Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids, MI)
Not just for breakfast anymore, this Imperial Stout works very well with desserts. Drew Larson, former beer manager at Hopleaf and founding co-owner of Leaders Beverage Consulting, describes Founders’ Breakfast Stout as “harmonizing perfectly with chocolate desserts while complementing pumpkin and apple flavors. The bitterness of the intense coffee flavors is great at refreshing the palate from the intensity of American desserts.” Breakfast Stout was just released in six-packs but you’ll have to act quickly to secure a few bottles—it’s a favorite in Chicago.
Christmas Ale, Great Lakes Brewing (Cleveland, OH)
Once the dinner plates are cleared and the desserts start coming out, pour yourself a glass of this winter warmer. Coons likes this “medium-bodied treat” for its flavors of “ginger, cinnamon, toffee and vanilla that will pair wonderfully with bread pudding, pecan pie or perhaps a raspberry tart.” Christmas Ale is available in six-packs at local craft beer stores in November.
Malevolence, Spiteful Brewing (Chicago, IL)
Rich, spiced desserts like pumpkin pie can handle a big, dark beer, Melani Domingues, owner of the Green Lady, says. She recommends Spiteful Brewing’s massive Russian Imperial Stout, Malevolence. “With notes of dark chocolate, roasted coffee and dark fruit, it accentuates and brings out the flavors and aroma of the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove in the pie,” Domingues says. Malevolence is available in 650 mL bottles at local craft beer stores.