A brewers' Thanksgiving

Craft Pittsburgh beer would go great with Thanksgiving dinner

What would go really great with Thanksgiving dinner? 

Plenty of people, including me, would say “craft beer.”

But perhaps a better answer would be “a craft brewer,” and not just because that person could be responsible for bringing the brews.

Craft brewers are used to beer duty, but many also are passionate, creative and accomplished cooks -- as well as ambitious eaters. While it may be too late to invite them to your holiday feed, several local brewers were happy to share some of their Thanksgiving food traditions and recipes. And they’d be happy to sell you some beer and help you pair it with what you’re serving. 

Last Thanksgiving, Zach and Erika Shumaker started a new tradition: They invited their family for Thanksgiving at their newly opened ShuBrew brewpub on Main Street in Zelienople. 

But along with two turkeys (one roasted, one deep-fried) and all the trimmings, they had to have Brussels sprouts cooked with beer and bacon that Zach has been making for years from “The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.” cookbook. Only he made them with a hoppy pale ale of his own. 

This year, the family’s gathering elsewhere, but Ms. Shumaker says they’d like to gather every other year or so at the pub, where they have a new beer that will be good with the Brussels and Thanksgiving dinner: an imperial India pale ale they’ve dubbed Boot Camp. (They’re also soon releasing a kolsh named Baby It’s Kolsch Outside.) 

(On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 29, PA Brew Tours is running a “That Voodoo ShuBrew Tour” that leaves from Station Square in the morning to Meadville’s Voodoo Brewery and then to ShuBrew and then back that evening. Cost is $55 or two for $100. Get details and tickets at http://pabrewtours.com.)

By the way, when I asked Voodoo’s Matt Allyn about his Thanksgiving, he sent me this email:

“I do turducken. Why, cuz it is awesome!

“My wife does deep-fried turkey.

“I win every year.”

Turducken -- deboned chicken in a duck inside a turkey -- is on the bucket list of Matt Gouwens of Hop Farm Brewing Co. in Lawrenceville. He says that cooking as a kid alongside his Polish mother is what led to his interest in brewing and he still cooks his family of five two meals a week. For Thanksgiving? He usually makes Jalapeno-Lime Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Risotto topped with bacon. This year, he’s also brewed Cranberry Sauce, which he describes as “a sour, dry, cranberry beer fit for any turkey!” Look for it starting this weekend.

Steve and Dyana Sloan, his neighbors at Lawrenceville’s Roundabout Brewery, love being together for his favorite holiday, for which he usually smokes their brined-the-night-before turkey. “I just check the turkey occasionally and watch the [Detroit] Lions struggle,” he says.

Notes his wife: “He gets to drink Cranberry Margaritas all day.” She makes sides including Bourbon Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Pecans, Mushroom Dressing and homemade cranberry sauce with fennel and orange. Being from New Zealand, she adds, “I didn't grow up with pumpkin pie, so this year I've ordered a Rumkin Pie from Eliza's Oven” at the Pittsburgh Public Market.

Pies are something often made by Jason Lavery of Erie’s Lavery Brewing Co., because he loves to bake. He shared a recipe for bread for leftover turkey sandwiches.

Dan Woodske, proprietor of Beaver Brewing Co. in Beaver Falls, loves to cook and occasionally teaches a beer-and-food-pairing class at his brewpub. He shared recipes for no-cook holiday appetizers, including Apple Salsa, since he and his wife bring apps to the family feed. Of course, they always bring beer, and it’s always the one he releases the day before Thanksgiving: Pecan Pie Nut Brown, brewed with real nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon. “There are some things,” he says, “that just taste better at certain times of the year.” 

Tony Zamperini of Millvale’s Draai Laag Brewing Co. would agree. He likes to make his signature Sweet Potato Casserole  “while munchin’ on prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and drinking a La Pienture,” which Drai Laag’s website describes as “the world's first commercially available imperial, nitrogenated wild ale.” 

Like most people, brewers are traditionalists. Christian Simmons of Latrobe’s Four Season’s Brewing Co., who quips that “lately I've been in charge of bringing the refreshments,” always roasts Brussels sprouts tossed with olive oil and sea salt. 

Ryan Bove of Emsworth’s Aurochs Brewing Co., which makes gluten-free beer, says he tends to change up what he brings from year to year: “Last year I did a honey-thyme ham, homemade stuffing, and a red-wine gravy.”

Brandon McCarthy, who this fall started cooking special bites for customers at Brewer’s Table nights at Homestead’s Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, has long aspired to cook something for his family’s Thanksgiving meal, which he describes as very traditional “with a few specifically South Tyrol touches -- polenta with sage butter, sauerkraut with pork.” This year, he plans to make something for the day after: stuffing waffles with cranberry gravy and turkey rousong (Chinese-style dried, shredded meat with the texture of wool).   

If you’re looking for something really edgy, then meet Brandon Capps, who moved from Georgia to be head brewer at The Brew Gentlemen in Braddock. This past Friday, he reprised a brew that he first made last year with a big Southern-style Thanksgiving spread: A brown-ale base brewed with not only brown sugar and maple syrup and cranberry reduction but also sweet potato and smoked turkey “that encapsulated the flavors of Thanksgiving dinner.” 

Try it, if you dare, when a very limited amount is released at the brewery on the night before Thanksgiving -- Wednesday, Nov. 26. 


Stone Pale Ale and Garlic Stir-Fried Brussels Sprouts

1 pound Brussels sprouts (about 4 cups)

1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil

1/4 pound pancetta, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1½ cups (12 ounces) Stone Pale Ale

1/4 cup vegetable stock


Freshly ground black pepper

Finely diced tomato, for garnish

Shaved or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish

Set up a steamer with 1 to 2 inches of salted water and bring the water to a rolling boil. Put the brussels sprouts in the steamer, cover, and cook until slightly tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and immediately transfer the brussels sprouts to a large bowl of ice water to halt the cooking and preserve their bright green color. Let them cool in the ice water for about 1 minute, then drain. Lay them on a clean dish towel and pat dry. Cut them in half vertically, right through the core.

In a large wok or cast-iron skillet, heat the oil over high heat until it begins to shimmer. Turn the heat down to medium. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Turn the heat up to high, add the brussels sprouts, and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the beer and continue to cook over high heat until the liquid is mostly evaporated. Deglaze the pan by adding the vegetable stock, stirring and scraping up any browned bits that may be affixed to the pan.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with the tomato and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve immediately.

-- “The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.” by Greg Koch and Steve Wagner with Randy Clemens (Ten Speed, 2011)


3 pounds apples (half Macintosh for sweetness, half Granny Smith for tartness)

Juice of 1 to 2 limes

1 large red onion

2 to 3 jalapenos

1/3 cup fresh mint

1 pomegranate (arils only)

1/3 cup harrisa oil

1/4 cup cider vinegar

3 teaspoons sugar

2 to 5 teaspoons cinnamon

Dash of freshly ground nutmeg

Dice apples first and place in large serving bowl. Add the lime juice so they don't turn brown. Chop up the onion, jalapenos and mint; add them and pomegranate with oil, vinegar, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg to the apples. Toss well. A few grinds of salt and pepper to taste. I prefer to let set for about 8 hours so the flavors can mingle.

-- Dan Woodske, Beaver Brewing Co. 

Bourbon Pecan Smashed Sweet Potatoes

Roundabout Brewing’s Dyana Sloan says this is “mandatory” at her house at Thanksgiving. They’re thinking about making the recipe, from Rachel Ray, with local Maggie’s Farm Spiced Rum this year.

3 medium sweet potatoes peeled cut into chunks

3 tablespoons butter

Half cup chopped pecans

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 to 3 ounces bourbon

Half cup orange juice

1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper

Bring a medium pot of water to boil and cook sweet potatoes until very tender, then drain and set aside. Return pan to heat, add butter and nuts and toast nuts for 2 minutes. Add sugar and let bubble. Add bourbon and cook for a minute, then add orange juice and cooked sweet potatoes. Smash and add nutmeg and salt and pepper.

-- adapted from Rachel Ray


Jason Lavery says this bread, which he bakes the day after the holiday, “makes great leftover turkey sandwiches.” They’d go great with a smoked beer such as Lavery’s RauchLagerBier. 

4 packets dry yeast

2½ cups warm milk, divided

2 tablespoons salt

3 tablespoons sugar

6 cups flour, divided

3 tablespoons butter

Mix yeast and 1/2 cup warm milk.

Let rise for 5 minutes.

Mix salt, sugar, remaining milk and 3 cups flour in another bowl.

Mix in yeast/milk mixture.

Add the softened butter. Beat for 10 minutes until dough pulls away from the sides.

Turn dough into floured surface. Knead for 10 minutes (IMPORTANT).

Add flour to prevent stickiness

Lightly oil large bowl. Put dough in and let rise in a warm place (100 degrees) for 45 minutes.

Punch dough down and knead for 2 minutes. Add flour to prevent stickiness.

Put back in bowl and let rise for another hour.

Grease 2 9-by-5-inch loaf pans.

Divide dough in half and place in pans. Let rise another 30 minutes in pans.

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden.

Transfer to wire rack to cool.

-- Jason Lavery, Lavery Brewing Co. 


This pairs with turkey and Hop Farm Cranberry Sauce sour ale.

12-ounce bag (4 cups) cranberries

1 cup orange juice

1 cup sugar

1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely grated

1 to 2 tablespoons lime zest

2 tablespoons lime juice

Stir into a sauce pan cranberries, orange juice, sugar, grated jalapeno and lime zest and bring to a boil. Sauce will thicken and cranberries will burst after 10-to 15 minutes.

Mix in lime Juice and remove from heat, Sauce will thicken as it cools.

— Matt Gouwens, Hop Farm Brewing Co.


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