With Turkey Day right around the corner, now is the time to start thinking about what beers you’ll be enjoying on the greatest feast day of the year.
Instead of just focusing on what to serve alongside your turkey (or deep-fried turducken if you’re Don), let’s break it down to three distinct courses: Before Dinner, Dinner, and Dessert after the big meal. Or as I like to call them Football, let’s hurry up there’s Football on, and yay more Football!
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Jim, that means I’ll have to drink THREE OR MORE BEERS on Thanksgiving!” I know it’s a hardship ;) but if you’re reading this blog, I’m assuming it was going to happen anyway.
The important thing is to have a separate strategy for each part of your day, as each has a distinct set of functions and flavors associated with it.
At my house, we really don’t do appetizers before the big meal. Instead we let our bellies rumble in anticipation of tearing into the turkey and stuffing that are perfuming the air. So, I really have no need to think about flavor pairings, just function. I look for a beer that won’t get me hammered, but has good flavor that gets me in the mood for the feast to come. I also like beers that come in 12oz. bottles here, so I don’t have to commit to 750ml’s of beer on an empty stomach. Here are some suggestions:
- Victory Prima Pils: Light, crisp and full-flavored, this spicy pilsner tingles the taste buds and gets them ready for the main event.
- Dales’ Pale Ale: It’s like the family dog at my house, always there when you need it. Its strong but not overpowering hop flavor and a pleasant earthiness are the perfect warm up for what’s to come.
- Sam Adam’s Oktoberfest: Its seasonality, earthy sweet flavor and lower ABV make it a natural fit here. Plus it’s a brand that your non-beer-geek guests will be comfortable with. Save the fireworks for the dinner table!
Now for dinner, I want a beer that pairs well with what were having and has a certain elegance about it. It is a fancy feast after all (but not the cat food kind). I tend to lean towards Belgian Dubbels and Quads here, as well as beers brewed with autumnal flavors. Here’s what I’m thinking:
- The Bruery’s Autumn Maple: A 10% ABV ale brewed with yams, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla molasses and maple syrup.
- St. Bernardus Abt 12: a 10.5% ABV Belgian Quad that tastes of cloves and candied malt. Let it warm for maximum flavor.
- Chimay Premiere (Red): At 7% ABV, this is the quintessential Belgian Dubbel, with tastes of dark fruits and caramel. A classic.
Whether or not you’re having pumpkin pie, apple pie or just stumbling to the couch to unbuckle your pants, there’s always room for beer! Here’s where you’ll want something with big, rich flavors and a higher ABV to team up with that tryptophan and send you into a delightful post-turkey coma. Or, if you’re not a caveman, maybe just a nice sipping companion for post-dinner chit chat. Either way, it’s time for the big boys!
- Schlafly’s 2008 Reserve Imperial Stout: This 10.5% ABV barrel-aged delight is rich and delicious and a bit boozy, with dark fruits, cocoa and caramel dancing together in perfect harmony.
- Southern Tier Pumking: Forget the pie and go for the goblet. This 9% ABV pumpkin ale is pumpkin pie in a bottle, with great spice notes and a satisfying finish. Got vanilla ice cream on hand? Make a Pumkin float!
- Southern Tier Choklat or Mokah: Yes, I’m double dipping on Southern Tier here, but they do big, smooth, sweet flavors better than anyone. Choklat is an 11% ABV Imperial Stout that is gushing with pure milk chocolate goodness. It’s like drinking a chocolate pie. If you prefer a little coffee with your chocolate pie, grab a Southern Tier Mokah. This 11% ABV stout will definitely make your toes curl with pleasure.
Thanksgiving is an awesome day to celebrate your love of great beer. Take advantage of it. Whatever you decide to drink, make sure to share, to enjoy, and to be grateful that there are so many wonderful beers out there to choose from. I’ve said it before – this is the Golden Age of craft beer, and I’m very, very thankful for that.