How to Find the Right Local Craft Beer for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving-ready beers at Select Beer Store in Redondo BeachEXPAND
Thanksgiving-ready beers at Select Beer Store in Redondo Beach
Sarah Bennett

Thanksgiving is all about the food. But once the turkey and gravy and mashed potatoes are on the table, what should you drink?

Tradition tells us a good glass of wine (our suggestions for those are coming soon) is the way to go, but we'd love to first throw another pairing out there: beer. With craft beer's popularity reaching unprecedented new heights — and Los Angeles' brewing scene getting so big that there are now craft beer corridors — this year is as good a time as ever to bring a bottle of local brew to Thanksgiving dinner. 

We scoured local taprooms and liquor stores to see which bottles are on shelves and which beers are available to take home in growlers right now. Whether you're going to a Friendsgiving or a full-on family affair, here are some suggestions for every need — all brewed in L.A.  

For Pre-Gaming
So, you've arrived early. What do you crack open to get the visit going that won't get you drunk too soon (or wreck your palate)? Probably the same light, refreshing beers you'd drink on a warm summer day. Try Smog City's popular pilsner Little Bo Pils, one of the best easy-drinking beers in the whole region, which is available for growler fills at their Torrance tasting room; or L.A. Crema, a cream ale available in crowlers at Mumford Brewing in the Arts District. For bottles, try Three Weavers' clean Seafarer Kolsch, another light style, recently bottled by the Inglewood brewery. If you don't mind wrecking your palate, you might as well let Stone Cold Steve Austin wreck it for you and indulge in a bottle of Broken Skull IPA, made by El Segundo Brewing this season in collaboration with the wrestling star.

For Turning Wine Fans Into Beer Drinkers
At any dinner party where beer shows up, there's going to be that one wino who says: "I don't drink beer." Really, that just means "I haven't found a beer I like yet," so to get their palate going with something similar, feel free to pour them a glass of a Belgian-style saison or tripel, both of which are blonde in color, sweet and full-bodied like a good white wine. Monkish Brewing in Torrance — L.A.'s resident brewery specializing in Belgian styles — recently released bottles of Little Story, a saison that is full of flavor but light in alcohol content. Monkish also bottles a hibiscus tripel called Feminist that's more widely available and tastes halfway to a rosé. If you have time for growler fills, head to Ladyface Ale Companie in Agoura, where Trois Fille, a tripel, and La Grisette, a more complex saison brewed with wheat, are on draft. 

Some of MacLeod Ale Brewing Company's bottled beers pair well with holiday birds.
Some of MacLeod Ale Brewing Company's bottled beers pair well with holiday birds.

For Something That Actually Pairs With Turkey and Ham
If this was last year, Highland Park Brewery's experimental Ham Porter would top the suggestions for this one; it was brewed with an entire hunk of ham hanging out in the tank. But since there is no repeat of that umami intensity this time around, we defer to some more traditional pairings to go with your holiday roasts. Turkey pairs best with amber ales or Oktoberfest-style lagers, like Smog City's Sabre-Toothed Squirrel. If the turkey is smoked, hoppy brown ales, Scotch ales and porters — like MacLeod Ale's 3.8 percent ABV brown stout Jackie Tar or its 60 Shilling Scotch ale The King's Taxes, both available in bottles — work best. When eating ham, drink a dark lager such as Eagle Rock Brewery's black mild Solidarity (available in bottles) or newcomer Brewyard's Black Sunrise, available for growler fills at its Glendale taproom

For a Pumpkin Beer You'll Actually Want to Drink
Most L.A. breweries got the memo that pumpkin beers are as lame as Christmas cards. But there has been some defense of pumpkin beers lately, and a few breweries outside our coverage area still churn out seasonal releases that can't resist the urge to use the pumpkin's inherent residual sweetness as an excuse to add cinnamon, allspice and more. Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale is a spiced brown ale that doesn't veer too much into pumpkin pie territory. Locally, award-winning Beachwood BBQ and Brewing has redeveloped its winter warmer, Clear and Present Manger, to include flavor from real pumpkin. Available on draft now, it's a heftier option, clocking in at 9 percent ABV.

King Harbor's Abel Brown is a coffee brown ale you can drink with dessert.
King Harbor's Abel Brown is a coffee brown ale you can drink with dessert.
King Harbor

For After-Dinner Drinking
Some beers are so sweet, syrupy and decadent that they are dessert in liquid form. Bravery Brewing in Lancaster, for example, makes the Shroud, a Russian imperial stout aged in brandy barrels. If you're looking for beers to pair with dessert, though, try big, high-alcohol beers like chocolate stouts, barleywines or old ales. For growler fills, Sanctum in Pomona makes a barleywine called Too Big to Fail, and Wolf Creek in Valencia brews its nutmeg- and cinnamon-tinged seasonal Winter Wonderland. El Segundo bottles its imperial stout, Standard Crude, but you'll otherwise have to go out of range with Firestone Walker's Velvet Merlin or Lagunitas' Brown Shuggah. For coffee beers to top off the night, try Smog City's Groundwork Coffee Porter (brewed with local beans!) or King Harbor Brewing's Abel Brown, a cold-brew coffee brown ale, both easily found in bottles.

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