Oct 30, 2011

Beer for Thanksgiving Dinner...

Although we still have a few weeks before the big feast, it’s never too early to starting thinking about what beer you should enjoy with your Thanksgiving dinner. Beer was almost certainly a major part of the very first Thanksgiving dinner as well. It has become almost common knowledge, that one of the reasons the Pilgrims stopped on Cape Cod and didn’t proceed further south as originally planned was because their supplies were severally lacking, “especially our beer” as we noted in one Pilgrim journal. There wasn’t likely an ample supply of wine in the new world until possibly years after they first landed, when in fact, one of the first structures constructed by the colony was a small brewery to supply beer to the settlement (some, made with Birch sap). So it makes sense we would celebrate the Thanksgiving Dinner with a beer or two. So here are a few suggestions and guidelines to consider when selecting a beer(s) to go with your meal.

Now, I always like to enjoy a beer as a sort of Aperitif, a sort of appetizer, something to kind of kick start your taste buds and get them ready for the impending chow down. However, you also don’t want to destroy your taste buds with something over powering, or so potent you will want to nap before the dinner is even served. I prefer something light, but a little more flavorful. A Sam Adams Boston Lager is just about perfect for this. Or maybe a nice Brown Ale, such as Sierra Nevada Tumbler. Even a nice crisp Pilsner works great as a nice pre-meal libation.

I know most families don’t normally have a hors d’voeruvre course of their meal, but if yours does, for this portion, try waking up your taste buds a little more with something more flavorful, but still not too heavy. I would suggest something on the hoppy side, but not quite an IPA. That might be too much this early in the meal. A hoppy Pale Ale, such as the one from Sierra Nevada works well, or, if I could give a shout out to a local brewery, San Tan Brewing's Devil Ale is a great option for anyone in Arizona.

One of my all time favorites!
Now, for the main course. To go with the traditional Thanksgiving fare, I would suggest a stronger (in both flavor and alcohol) brew. Belgian style Ales work perfect for this. Their complex flavor profiles, smooth drinkability and higher ABV fill all my needs for the main course. Belgian Triples are about as good as Belgian beers get if you ask me, so I like to drink them with this course. The greatest of these, actually being from Canada, in Unibroue’s La Fin De Monde, or a Westmalle Triple works great. Search out some of the great Belgian style breweries such as Ommegang or, my favorite, Allagash, and examine their line ups to find something that will work with your meal.

Now, dessert! This for me is sort of like the all star line up for beers. This is when you can select beers that really flex their muscle. When you think of strong beers, you think Stouts right away. However, this is a special occasion, so don’t just reach for any ol’ stout, however appealing they might be. Step it up a bit with a hearty, strong imperial stout. Ten Fidy or Old Rasputin comes to my mind immediately. Also, the great stouts from Great Divides Yeti series are among my favorites. Be it their standard Yeti, or one for Oak Aged variants with coffee, or chocolate, these will work well.

Now, why not end your feasting with a Digestif! This is when you should pick something strong enough to break through the beating your taste buds have already taking up to this point. They will want to rest, relax, and take a nap (as most of us do) so they aren’t going to be at their best. You need something that has enough flavor to ignore all this, and when someone asks me what style of beer I feel is strong, hoppy yet balances, and packs a punch, well, Barelywines are what you need to know! And when someone asks me for my favorite Barelywine, well, Bigfoot is my standard answer, and not only because of my fascination with all things cryptozooalogical, it’s also because it is a great example of this style. However, there are a lot of great barelywines to choose from. Stones Old Guardian, Avery’s Hog Heaven, and Anchor’s Old Foghorn come to mind. This is also a good time to take a chance and try something a little crazy that you normally wouldn’t try. Dogfish Heads 120 Minute or World Wide Stout might be a good fit as well, but be careful, after 4 or 5 courses with a beer, something that is 15 or 20% ABV might be a little much for a lot of people, especially if you have a long ride home.

So, there are my suggestions for beers to try with your Thanksgiving Feast. Don’t worry about anyone sitting around the table that might say “your going to have BEER with Thanksgiving Dinner?” like it’s a bad thing. I’ve learned long ago to not get upset, or even care about such statements. If it is going to add to your enjoyment of your meal, why not do it, and why feel bad about it? After all, as mentioned at the top of this post, beer was on the Pilgrims table, while accepted staples, such as turkey however, was very likely not, most likely they had duck, maybe goose. Wine was not on their table either, but people don’t seem to have issues having some wine with dinner. So just tell those people you want to appreciate a more tradition meal!

So, have a few beers, and enjoy your meal even more, and more importantly, enjoy your time with friends and family!

Bottoms up my friends!

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