Yesterday I was asked what beers would be on my Thanksgiving table tomorrow. While I had a quick answer at the time, I started thinking about what would really be good with the different foods that are part of a traditional Thanksgiving meal. So, I my dissection of the many familiar dishes, I started thinking about the flavors and what would truly work with them. Below is my list of beers to try with the various courses of your Thanksgiving meal.
Thanksgiving feasting in my family begins the moment you walk through the front door. Generally there are platters of cheese, crackers, and other salty, savory snacks. These types of snacks are perfect for a well-hopped Pale Ale. Locally, here in Jacksonville, a perfect choice for this is Intuition Ale Works’ People’s Pale Ale. For those out of the area looking for a good Pale Ale try Dales Pale Ale or the granddaddy of all Pale Ales: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. These beers will also pair well with appetizers like shrimp cocktail or bruchetta with tomatoes and basil. And, for those go the chips and salsa route, a good Pale Ale is perfect with them as well.
Often Thanksgiving dinner proper begins with a salad at my parents’ home. My mother has a favorite oriental style salad she makes with a sesame seed oil and vinegar dressing and dry Ramen Noodles crumbled into it that is a hit with our gang. The sweet salad dressing deserves a beer that will not over-power it so my first thought is to pair it with a Belgian White Ale like Blanche de Bruxelles. The wonderful balance of coriander and citrus of this brew should enhance the sweet and tangy dressing. Try this beer with other similar salad dressings since the spices can hold up to the vegetable flavors – sweet lettuce, tomato, carrot, and cucumber — in the salad and most lighter dressings.
For the main course of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, yams, cranberry sauce, and so on. You have to decide a direction to go. I have always aimed for a beer that would take a middle road through all of these flavors, enhancing them without distracting from them. Many beer connoisseurs will point you towards a toasty, malty beer like a Brown Ale. And I don’t disagree with that in theory, but for my taste – and I think a lot of other folk’s if they have the where-with-all to save it – Oktoberfest Marzen works wonderfully. Oktoberfest-style beers have many of the characteristics of Brown Ales, but tend to have a cleaner finish. To me that is important. I want a beer that is going to refresh and cleanse my palate between bites, not leave a lingering malty flavor. One of my favorite Oktoberfest beers is Ayinger Oktoberfest. You may still be able to find some at your local beer store, so hurry on out for it. If Ayinger is not available try others like Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest of Flying Fish Oktoberfish.
At the end of the turkey gorging, there are always all those wonderful desserts. In our family that means pumpkin pie, apple pie, and rich chocolate cake. But, I have also seen families who serve mouth-watering desserts such as trifles and carrot cake. What you want here is a beer that can add its own spiced, sweet flavors while still allowing the delicious desserts to shine. In my recommendation yesterday, I suggested Southern Tier Pumking to pair with pumpkin, sweet potato, or pecan pie. The pumpkin spices in this brew are marvelous and will enhance your enjoyment of the pies. For chocolate desserts I have a bit of a wild idea: chocolate chili beers. You may have to look a bit for one of these but if you can find them try, Samuel Adams The Vixen a Bock beer brewed with dark cocoa nibs, cinnamon, and chilies; or try Cigar City Hunahpu an Imperial Brown Ale brewed with Peruvian cacao nibs, ancho and pasilla chilies, Madagasgar vanilla beans, and cinnamon; finally check out the Terrapin/Schmaltz collaboration Reunion 2011 brewed with chocolate, cocoa nibs, vanilla, and chili peppers.
At the end of the meal, while you are lying on the sofa in all your stuffed majesty, watching the football games a good easy-drinker would probably hit the spot. What you probably want after all that food is a lighter, lower-alcohol brew to relax with. Again, for those who think ahead, grab your growler and head to one of the many great breweries in Jacksonville. At Green Room pick up a fill of Helles Yeah a tasty interpretation of the German Helles-style beer. At Mile Marker in St. Augustine pick up some Mile Marker Zero Kolsch-style brew. Or at Bold City Brewery, try a growler of Fritz Hefeweizen to quench your post-turkey thirst. Outside of the Jacksonville area, look for Tire Bite Golden Ale from Flying Dog Brewery or Weihenstephaner Original.
But, no matter what beers you decide to serve with your Thanksgiving meal, it is my sincere wish that you have a safe and happy day with your family and friends. I also hope that you will take a moment to think about all that we have to be thankful for, in particular, please take a moment to think about the many United States Service Members who are away from their families – whether over-seas or domestically – that proudly protect our rights and freedoms. I am the proud father of a United States Army Soldier and hope that he and his family have the most wonderful of days tomorrow.
This evening, on Thanksgiving Eve, if you are an active service member and introduce yourself to me at the Intuition Ale Works Tap Room, I will proudly purchase you a beer. It’s just my little way of honoring you and your sacrifices.
Until next time,
Long Live the Brewers!