Every year, we make a few suggestions about serving beer at the Thanksgiving table. While wine always still seems to be in the forefront of a fancy sit-down, lovers of beer know that the complex flavors of our favorite beverage are much better at complimenting/contrasting the tastes of the holiday season. (Let’s not forget that beer is also a wonderful burst of flavor in the cooking process, too.) Here are a few recommendations. Share with the family and do a full beer-pairing with your meal! We’re linking to BeerAdvocate ratings here, so you can read what others taste in the beer. Reviews help! And while you may experience completely different flavors on your palette, reading what others taste is helpful.
TURKEY: Even though it’s a bird, and most typically pair white wine with it, turkey actually is mostly dark meat (compared to chicken). This means a heftier brew will pair nicely with it, no matter how you prepare it. For roasted birds, we usually try to contrast the with the bird’s flavor. Try Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux (750ml), the winter Saison seasonal by Dupont, famous for resurrecting the Saison style with Saison Dupont (750ml, also a great pairing, but a little lighter on the palette). Avec Les Bons Voeux is lightly spiced with quite a bit of alcohol [9.5% abv]. Saisons are also known for their grassy, earthy flavors (Jason calls this “horse blanket”) that bring a certain organic “taste of the season” to the table. Another American craft that is available year-round, but particularly delicious with a holiday meal, is Dogfish Head Raison d’Etre. A darker selection than the prior recommendation, this Belgian-style brown ale [8.0% abv] has the taste of roasted malt and caramelized raisins. Finally, a craft beer that does the job right is the 2009 Allagash Fluxus (750ml). The recipe on Fluxus changes annually. This year’s release is pretty rare, even for a small-batch brew—a Belgian-style Saison made with sweet potatoes and black pepper [8.5% abv]. It carries the alcohol very well with the sweet, sinuous character of the potatoes followed by a lovely spiced black pepper finish on the back of the throat. Delicious! This one is VERY limited, so get it while you can!
SMOKED TURKEY/HAM: Smoking turkeys is a popular way of preparing the bird in the South. Also, many families prefer to serve ham at the table. For these stronger, smoky flavors, we suggest something that compliments the flavor. De Molen Pek and Veren (750ml) is a fantastic pairing for ham. This Dutch stout carries an [8.0% abv] and offers a unique twist from its peat-smoked malt. Smoked meats and cheeses pair very well with this beer. The Italian beer, Le Baladin Super Baladin (750ml), is a sour ale in the Flemish style, but lighter in color. The tartness—think sweet and sour cherries—is toned down by the smokiness of the meat, giving you a great balance of flavor. (Note: Flemish-style sour ales are often “gateway beers” for red wine drinkers.) Finally, a German recommendation: Weihenstephan Korbinian Doppelbock. A popular choice at Bruisin’ Ales, this doppelbock tastes of roasted, almost burnt, grain with hints of dark fruit and caramel.
OTHERS TO TRY:
The Bruery Black Orchard (750ml): This “black witbier” is like a witbier gone to the dark side. Just a bit more body (and balance) than a true white witbier with additional malt, this one has subtle spices of chamomile along side the traditional spices of coriander and citrus peel. Very refreshing and surprisingly light at [5.7% abv]. Dark does not necessarily mean a “heavy” beer!
Traquair Jacobite (12oz): This English ale is a traditional Wee-Heavy with a twist. Based on an 18th-century recipe, it has the addition of coriander and chocolate malt, adding hints of earthy biscuity flavors, brown sugar, cocoa and dark fruit. [8.0% abv]
Smuttynose Wheat Wine (22oz): Wheat wines from several breweries have made a big impact in 2009. By combining the characteristics of a traditional Barleywine with the bready, chewy mouthfeel of a wheat beer, these are perfect for the holiday table. Hefty, warming and sweeter than our other recommendations, Wheat Wines are actually very versatile. This one also has a pretty hefty dose of hops in it, making it a true American style. Nice combination of sweet up front and bitter on the finish. [10.5% abv]
Meantime London Porter (750ml): England is home to the true Porter style, and frankly, you can’t beat the real thing. Meantime’s is based on a recipe from 1750 and has no less than seven different types of malt used. Super roasty, smoky, and little sweet, this traditional porter gets its bite from the malts, although hops are used in the brewing process. [6.5% abv]
If you need a specific recommendation for your holiday table, don’t be afraid to ask us. Jason, Mike or I will be happy to assist you to find the perfect Thanksgiving beers for your table! Cheers!