Perfect beers for a Thanksgiving feast

Courtesy of Derek Wolfgram
Lagers like Floodcraft Brewing’s Festbier complement rich food and oven-roasted fall feasts.

For a few years now, I’ve been projecting that craft lagers would be the “next big thing” in the beer world, something to dethrone hazy IPAs from their dominant place on brewery taplists everywhere.

It took a global pandemic to make it happen, but lagers seem to have moved into a more prominent spot, at least for the moment.

Taking time for fresh, fluffy pita bread

Pita Bread
Courtesy of Blanche Shaheen
Pair homemade pita bread with labne, za’atar and olives.

If there is one consistent item that has been missing from supermarket shelves during the lockdown, it’s yeast.

People have been buying yeast like never before, and social media has been saturated with home cooks posting warm and fuzzy photos of baguettes, pizzas and banana bread baked from scratch.

These longer baking projects have the extra bonus of permeating the home with beautiful scents and tapping into fond childhood memories.

Cheers: Where to find outdoor beer & a side of dinner

Freewheel brewing
Courtesy of Derek Wolfgram
Freewheel Brewing operates an outdoor beer garden in Redwood City.

As the cool fall weather rolls in and restrictions on indoor dining continue to be extended, a beer and a meal outdoors remains one of the simple pleasures still available in 2020.

Under state guidelines, breweries and beer bars can only serve beer on premises if it is accompanied by a “bona fide meal,” so locations that have a kitchen on-site have had a distinct advantage in remaining open, though many small breweries have had success with food truck partnerships to provide meals during the pandemic.

Column: Harvesting from loss, we see interconnectedness

Moore's Santa Rosa vineyard
Courtesy of Christine Moore
The Moore family’s vines, near Santa Rosa, lost their harvest this year.

As I write this, it’s foggy and autumnal outside. It’s been a week of normal fall days – morning mist giving way to sunny, blue skies. Yet what was once considered run-of-the-mill weather fills me with gratitude.

It has been an especially helpless-feeling fire season thus far. Poor air quality keeping us indoors has weighed heavy on our already fatigued emotions. The new habit of daily checks on PurpleAir tell us if we can run and play outside, and determine the masks to wear should we venture out of the house. The flames themselves have burned unprecedented amounts of acreage, taking with them lives, livelihoods and structures.

A citrus-and-spice flavor twist boosts desserts made with Angostura bitters

freewheel brewery

You may have noticed over time that I’m a big fan of Angostura aromatic bitters. Aside from being a mainstay in cocktails like Manhattans, bitters adds an amazing yet subtle flavor dimension to so many foods.

It was developed in Trinidad in 1824, and is used widely in foods throughout the Caribbean. Usage is similar to umami (the fifth taste – soy, mushrooms, red meats) in that it invigorates and boosts the flavor of many foods, adding another layer of flavor. The bitterness is not unlike that in bittersweet chocolate, dark-roast coffees and toasted nuts. Yum.

A tribute to the beer festivals that once showcased the region

Since 2010, the Opening Gala in San Francisco has been the traditional kickoff to SF Beer Week, featuring hundreds of beers crafted in the Bay Area. The event typically brings beer lovers from around the Bay Area, sometimes generating long lines to enter, then more lines inside for particular breweries with special releases.

At the other end of SF Beer Week is the annual Meet the Brewers festival in San Jose, which also started in 2010. Meet the Brewers is much more laid back, but it often features up-and-coming brewers before they are well known (such as Alvarado Street Brewery back in 2015).

We don’t know how long it will be until events on either scale can occur again in the Bay Area. While we’re all stuck sipping at home, here are some of the outstanding brews featured at this year’s events – and a memorial to waiting in line, tasting together and other pleasures that must be deferred for now.

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