The best beers for Thanksgiving
This particular day of observance prays for a beer, and U.S. has many to offer
Where would you find, under one roof, truly great beers (not just mass-market badge brews), from the Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, Britain and the United States? The only place I know in Britain with such a selection is the "Sloaney Pony," as it is sometimes derisively dubbed: the White Horse pub, in Parson's Green, Fulham, London. It has recently been closed for refurbishment and expansion. I hope that it does not suffer for having broken its trot. Let bigger be better.
Why would anyone want such a selection? When bar keepers ask me that question as they constantly do, I refer them to their local supermarket. I can find not only far bigger ranges but also much more interesting beers in my local London Tescos, in Brook Green or Warwick Road, and in almost any Oddbins, than I can in any bar in Mayfair, Soho or the Garden. I am not the only person who wants those beers. Tesco does not donate shelf-space to products that don't sell.
Shouldn't the bars' beers be as cosmopolitan as their cocktails, their clientele, their decor and dingaling?
Not wishing to spend whole evenings in Tesco (despite their high standard of unattached women customers) or Oddbins (where singles tend to mean malts), I am currently exercising my thirst and my platinum card at the Gingerman, in mid-town Manhattan and two bars in Greenwich Village: the Blind Tiger and DBA ("Doing Business As..."). They are three of my favourites. Check them out if you are in the area. Or if you are strictly a clubber, try Toronado, in San Francisco.
Why do I spend so much time in the United States? This week, I crossed the Atlantic three times, which is perhaps excessive, but I do it for the beer.
Why do I spend so much time in the United States? This week, I crossed the Atlantic three times, which is perhaps excessive, but I do it for the beer. Few of my friends believe me, but I can find a better selection of great beers in New York, Chicago (the Clark Street Ale House), Seattle (the Red Door) or even Tokyo (Popeye, near the sumo stadium), than I can in Prague, Munich or even Brussels.
Many of these great beers are American. Not light lagers but tasty Dortmunders, wheat or rye beers, abbey-style ales. Porters and Imperial Stouts. The U.S. had fewer than 50 brewing companies a couple of decades ago; today, it has more than 1,500 - more even than Germany.
People are forever telling me that they travel to the U.S. and can't find a decent beer. I used to tell them it was their fault for choosing philistine Florida, but that state can now boast the rare distinction of a brewery in an airport (at Orlando). Wherever you go, if you ask only for "a beer," you will get something as anonymous as you deserve. If you demand a local micro-brew, your tastebuds may well be awakened from their slumbers. I have found beery treats in every state in the Union, even Mississippi, the only one without a brewery. How else would I determine the best beers for Thanksgiving?
Not that I need an excuse for an American beer, but it never hurts. In today's Global Village, anyone's national celebration justifies a toast, and the drink should rise to the occasion. There must be more to Thanksgiving than a frozen "light beer" and a sullen server squeaking out: "Have a nice day."
This particular day of observance prays for a beer. The Pilgrim Fathers came from Plymouth and Leiden, but they did not have a remotely good time (by Puritan standards) until they reached Massachusetts. They landed there, instead of Virginia, because they had run out of beer and had to stop and brew some more. Why else did you think they thanked God each year for the bension of their new homeland?
Golden lagers were first made by the Czechs, but Hop Pocket Pils, from a brewery near Washington DC is the most aromatically appetising I know.
Golden lagers were first made by the Czechs, but Hop Pocket Pils, from a brewery near Washington DC is the most aromatically appetising I know. It is even more hoppy than the authentic version of Samuel Adams Boston Lager (as opposed to the blander nitro product they created for Britain). Those are possibilities before the Thanksgiving dinner. Unless I opt for a more-bitter-than-British ale, like Snake Dog, from Colorado, or Anchor Liberty, from California. A sweeter, maltier, Vienna-style lager would go better with the turkey. There is a touch of Vienna maltiness to Brooklyn Lager and more to Rogue Artisan, from Oregon. Rogue's Honey Cream Ale with the pecan pie? I think I would prefer the same brewery's Hazelnut Brown. There are lots of pumpkin ales in the U.S...maybe Tesco or Oddbins has one.
In Manhattan, I would just go to the Gingerman. I shan't be looking in Mayfair, though.
Published Online: AUG 24, 2000
Published in Print: NOV 1, 1999
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