‘Tis the season for Friendsgiving celebrations, holiday parties and family gatherings, and as any good guest knows, it’s rude to show up empty-handed. A bottle of wine is a no-brainer, but what do you do if your host prefers hops to grapes?
One of the biggest misconceptions about beer is that it’s not as elegant as wine or spirits. But as any craft beer aficionado can tell you, beer can be just as complex, refined and, of course, delicious as more traditional dinner-party fare. You already know that multiple people will be showing up with some boring bottle of wine they picked up on their way over; why not change things up a bit and impress your host with an outstanding bottle of beer?
With Thanksgiving coming up, we asked some of our favorite beer industry professionals what their go-to bottle to gift the host at a fancy dinner party or holiday gathering is. Their answers run the gamut from 2.5% ABV to 10.2%, so whether you’re looking for something big and boozy to get everyone feeling festive or something light to bring to a more relaxed affair, you’ve got plenty of options. Check out what they had to say below.
Isaac Koski, Denver pilot lead brewer at New Belgium Brewing Company
Drie Fonteinen Cuvée Armand & Gaston
The beer I would bring to a fancy dinner party would be Drie Fonteinen’s Cuvée Armand & Gaston. This blend of spontaneously fermented Lambic from Belgium brings minerality, funk and complexity. The flavor profile is complemented by a pleasant acidity which captures the true essence of the Lambic producing region of Beersel. No beer (or wine) aficionado can refute the depth and pureness of this bottle-conditioned expression of the 134-year-old Drie Fonteinen brewery. If you want to up the ante, show up with the 1.5L version and you will truly be the hero of the party!
Steve Gonzalez, senior manager of brewing and innovation at Stone Brewing
Samuel Smith Imperial Stout
Style: Imperial stout
A true classic, perfect after-dinner beer and I think it pairs great with walnuts and chocolate. Yeah, it’s a filling beer, but you don’t need a whole lot of it. A few ounces each shared between friends and family is all you need.
Matt Brynildson, brewmaster at Firestone Walker Beer
Boon Brouwerij Kriek Mariage Parfait
I love bringing authentic fruited Belgian Lambics to parties — it’s brewer’s champagne in my book! Popping a 750ml cork-finished bottle of fruited bubbles is a great starter. If large formats are not available, an arrangement of smaller cork-finished 375ml bottles can be just as fun and provide some variety. A favorite of mine is Boon Brouwerij Kriek Mariage Parfait — this beer showcases incredible integration between well-aged, spontaneously fermented Lambic and wild cherries. It’s strong by Lambic standards at 8% ABV, but not too tart and funky, so as a result, it’s a crowd-pleaser. Frank Boon is one for the most respected brewers of these beers in the world, and he is passing his magical brewery onto his two sons Jos and Karel, who are every bit as passionate and connected with the process as their father.
Cantillon Lou Pepe Framboise
Another fruited Lambic that will please a beer-loving gathering is Cantillon Lou Pepe Framboise. It’s a beautiful example of raspberry Lambic with a little more funk but loads of delicious fruit character lifted by natural bottle conditioned-derived bubbles. If you ever visit this working brewery museum, which is within the city of Brussels, you can’t help but fall in love with the beers.
Jason Santamaria, co-founder at Second Self Beer Co.
Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux
Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux is the higher-end version of Saison Dupont, and it always has a place at my Thanksgiving table. The beer’s name literally means “good wishes,” and there is no better way to showcase that sentiment than at Thanksgiving. It’s a traditional Belgian saison that is a little more funky and flavorful than the base Saison Dupont. The beer is flavorful enough to stand up to big sides like dressing, mac and cheese and sweet potatoes, yet light enough to not make you feel overly full.
Stephen Hale, founding brewer at Schlafly Beer
Call me a traditionalist, but I’m a big fan of some classic beers. And when it comes time to choose one to bring to a friend’s party, especially those who know and appreciate good beer, it’s always a challenge. There are nearly endless choices out there that would be welcomed at a fancy dinner or beer tasting, so although there’s no wrong answer here, I would be happy to bring a bottle of Lindeman’s Framboise to the soiree. Although it may not be the most mind-blowing choice for some, this beer is easy to pair with a big main course or a fine dessert, or simply to enjoy on its own. Fruity, not too tart, slightly earthy, this is one of the classics, and still so impressive after all these years. Salute!
Kevin McGee, CEO of Anderson Valley Brewing Company
My go-to holiday beer gift is Allagash’s Curieux. They’ve been making this bourbon barrel-aged Tripel for over 15 years, and it is epic. It’s a beer with plenty of provenance and industry credibility to satisfy any beer-geek’s discerning sensibilities and is unrelentingly delicious — in case your host is kind enough to open it while you’re there. It’s particularly well-suited to the holiday season as it pairs extremely well with a broad range of food and is ideal for sipping while standing over a cheese plate. So much good stuff here.
Eric Warner, head brewmaster at Karbach Brewing Co.
Bosteels Tripel Karmeliet
Looking to impress your hosts with a fancy beer? Look no further than the Tripel Karmeliet from the Bosteels Brewery in Belgium. This classic Tripel style has the effervescence of champagne and will pour with a rich head and deep golden color in a glass. Expect a lovely balance of honey, ripe apple, pear, citrus, spice and delicate floral hop notes in the aroma. On the palate, sweet notes up front give way to a clean finish that is only mildly bitter.
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