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Being a good Jew, I was reminded that I should be in the Hanukkah mood for many reasons: my parents asking me how the holidays were going; the latkes I ate for dinner on Friday; me Googling “hanukkah dates 2009” to find that, yes, it already started, and shouldn’t I buy my brothers gifts or something? So here, because my mother guilted me into it, is my gift to you: a beer guide to the foods of Hanukkah.

Latkes – Latkes’ ability to soak up oil seems to defy physics; each crispy pancake manages to soak up enough lipids to fuel a menorah fit for Times Square. For a dish this greasy, I turn to crisp, lighter beers such as Reissdorf Kolsch, Victory Prima Pils, or Terrapin Rye Pale Ale. The problem is that there are two latke camps, sour cream and applesauce, and during Hannukah I have a 1-cup daily quota for sour cream. So to get my apple fix, I’ve been drinking J.K.’s Solstice Hard Cider, a seasonal version of J.K.’s Scrumpy, amped up with maple syrup and vanilla for a mulled, warming flavor.

Jelly doughnuts – Just two courses in, and we’re already approaching State Fair levels of fried-food saturation. As kids, my brothers and I knew these sufganiyot were the real entree, eating just a token latke before making neat, surgeon-like incisions into a dozen different doughnuts in search of our preferred jellies. Of course, they were all neon red. The insta-call for this dessert is Troegs Mad Elf, a spiced holiday beer brewed with cherries and honey — and a sweetness rivaling neon jelly. If you prefer coffee with your doughnuts, Peak Organic Espresso Amber Ale has more coffee flavor than any beer I’ve tried, buoyed by the light body of an amber ale.

Gelt – Unless you’re 6 years old, you should not consume these chalky, metallic chocolate impostors, which manage to taste even worse than Hershey’s Kisses. Stouts and porters abound with chocolaty flavors, from Duck Rabbit Milk Stout to Rogue Shakespeare Stout to Fullers London Porter. On the lighter side, dark lagers such as Samuel Adams Black Lager and Magic Hat Howl do the trick with less than 5% abv. Keep the gold stuff for playing dreidel.

Given the content of this post, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention He’Brew, which I can say with some certainty is the only Jewish-schtick-based microbrewery in the country. This year they celebrate their bar mitzvah (that means 13th birthday, gentiles) with their Jewbelation Bar Mitzvah 13th Anniversary Ale, a monster beer with 13 types of hops, 13 types of malt, and 13% abv. Congratulations, He’Brew, here is the gift certificate my mom wrote for you; now let’s all dance to “YMCA.”

Photo by slgckgc via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution License