Not long ago I was asked what beers would be on my Thanksgiving table this year. 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. I started thinking about the flavors and what would truly work best with them. Below are my recommendations 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 bruschetta with tomatoes and basil.
Thanksgiving dinner proper begins with a salad in my family. 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 I like pair it with a Belgian White Ale like Blanche de Bruxelles. The wonderful balance of coriander and citrus in this brew enhances the sweet and tangy dressing marvelously without overpowering it with hops or malty sweetness. Try this beer with other similar, sweet salad dressings since the spices can hold up to the flavors of sweet lettuce, tomato, carrot, and cucumber.
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. 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 recently, 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.
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. You can even pick up a six-pack of Intuition Ale Works’ Jon Boat Coastal Ale at most local grocery stores.
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.
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