A stout should be thick and hearty enough to be a meal in itself. Heart of Darkness serves as dessert, too, thanks to its chocolate aftertaste. It’s best from a tap, of course, poured by a barkeep who knows the importance of a frothy top-layer, thick enough so you can stand a pencil upright inside the glass. The beer is crafted by one of my favorite breweries, Magic Hat, which is a social and economic fixture in Vermont’s Champlain Valley. Turn off Route 7 near Shelburne and take what might be the best self-guided brewery tour in the country.
Highland Brewing in Asheville throws an annual party for its pre-Thanksgiving launch of the ever-popular, seasonal Cold Mountain Ale—and locals literally rush the grocery stores and bars to get their hands on some. Seriously, the beer is that good. On first taste you’ll notice the vanilla, which blends with the malt and hint of hops to create a warm, bold-but-not-overwhelming flavor. If you’re planning a trip to Asheville because of beer, make sure it’s in November or December so you don’t miss out on Cold Mountain Ale.
A tradition among the many adventure seekers who find their way to the wild northern reaches of the Adirondacks is to end an adrenaline-filled day over an Ubu Ale on the shore of Mirror Lake in downtown Lake Placid. This smooth English Strong Ale is red like an ember, with a smooth taste as inviting as the cozy mountain village where it’s brewed. Its whopping seven percent alcohol content means a little bit will go a long way.
You can sometimes find Ninja Porter in bottles at local markets, but they sell out fast—so the only place to be assured of securing some is at one of the Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company’s two locations. And this beer is worth the trip. It’s dark and full-flavored without being heavy, giving you soft hints of black coffee and chocolate. Bring a growler of this sweet, slightly hoppy brew to a party in Asheville and you’ll be a hero forever.
Oskar Blues, a fixture in the Rockies outside of Denver, recently came to its senses and opened a brewery in Western North Carolina shortly after Thanksgiving. Dale’s Pale Ale has always been one of my favorite cans to lug along for camping trips or to hide inside a coozie at the neighborhood swimming pool. (If you don’t know what a coozie is, you’ve clearly never been down South, or to a NASCAR race.) More amber than pale, Dale’s hoppy, somewhat citrusy ale also seems to possess near-magical restorative powers after mountain bike rides. Now, being brewed with Appalachian water, it should taste even better.