Seasonal Sipping

Photo by Johnny Quirin

From the Grand Rapids Magazine November 2018 issue. Available on newsstands now or via subscription.

With the biggest meal of the year on the calendar this month, West Michigan brewers are ready to feast.

The past few years have seen a great increase in awareness of pairing beers with food, with some experts suggesting it might even be a better meal beverage than wine. With that in mind, I set out to find out what a few of the region’s best brewers will be munching on and drinking with their meals.

For Cedar Springs Brewing Co.’s David Ringler, a complete Thanksgiving meal is turkey, homemade noodles, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, paired with Cedar Springs’ Küsterer Dunkelweizen, as the dark German-style lager’s roasty yet fruity notes pair perfectly with all the savory food on the plate. For dessert, Ringler will go with a classic pumpkin pie — hold the whipped cream — with a Cedar Red Ale.

The complexity of Jolly Pumpkin’s beers make many of them perfect for a big meal, and founders Ron and Laurie Jefferies especially like the super light farmhouse ale Bam Bièrewith just about any meal. Jolly Pumpkin’s sour amber ale La Roja is a great companion for chocolaty desserts.

At the still massively buzzworthy Speciation Artisan Ales, Mitch Ermatinger will be celebrating full holiday flavor in two items: roasted Brussels sprouts and Gene Flow, a slightly tart, gose-style ale with cranberries, orange zest, hibiscus and cinnamon.

“Between the dish and the beer, you basically have the essence of the holidays in a single meal,” Ermatinger said.

On the south side of town, Railtown Brewing Co.’s Justin Buiter also will be chowing down on some vegetables, a green bean casserole to be exact. With it, he’ll be sipping on the superb Good Mooed Milk Stout.

“The earthy hops, roasty malts and light sweetness result in a perfect complement to the rich, savory notes of the mushrooms and onions in the casserole,” Buiter said.

Seth Rivard, co-founder of Rockford Brewing Co., which won last year’s Great American Beer Festival’s Small Brewpub of the Year, will chow down on his mom’s turkey liver stuffing, washing it down with Rogue River Brown, a Great American Beer Festival medal winner.

With his turkey, Muskegon’s Pigeon Hill Brewing co-founder Michael Brower will serve up Walter Blonde Ale, a light, bready ale. To cap off the meal, he’ll turn to pecan pie and a nightcap of Cinna-Mom on French Toast, a big stout full of maple, cinnamon and vanilla.

Pairing food and beverages can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. For starters, stick to what tastes good to you. Second, go for complementing flavors. If you’re still struggling, grab an easily accessible and nonaggressive Belgian-style beer, like Brewery Vivant’s Farmhand, and enjoy!

*Photo by Johnny Quirin

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