Thanksgiving Beer Pairings 2012

So it’s almost Thanksgiving which means another holiday of heavy eating and yes drinking.  So, as always you will need to pick the right beer to enhance your flavor experience.  I thought I’d provide some suggestions to make the day a little easier.  To start, one school of thought would be to drink what you feel most comfortable with, but it’s a special occasion so everyone should take this time to break out of the box and try something new.  I have no way of knowing exactly what you’re going to be eating but here are some general suggestions you can follow and tailor them to fit your own tastes.

Pre-Meal: Surprising amount of eating and football.

At my family’s house, there is a lot of rich food to eat, but there is always a lot of free time to watch the games and hang out.  I like to steer towards something rich and malty like a Winter Lager or some sort of Octoberfest if you have any of it leftover.  Its rich and filling and will go well with the cheese boards, dips, chips and general snack food most people have.  My favorite time of the day is usually standing out side with my dad waiting for the turkey to fry. This is always done outside AWAY FROM THE HOUSE in the driveway so a good strong pumpkin beer really keeps me warm.  Seriously, I don’t know how people could burn their houses down because of a turkey fry.  It’s gallons of oil, fire, propane, but sure let’s do it inside what could go wrong?  Never do this.  Also as always mind your consumption because the beers will get richer and stronger as the day progresses.

It’s a pumpkin beer AND an Octoberfest!

The Meal:

I have done a lot of reading and the ideal turkey meal beer is called the Bière de Garde.  It is a french style and means “beer to keep,” because it was made for farmers to keep for the warmer months.  This beer style is rich, malty and slightly hoppy with enough weight from the alcohol to hold up to the turkey, stuffing with sausage and oysters etc.  It also will be versatile enough to cleanse the palate from richer foods like gravy while not overwhelming sweet things like cranberry sauce (Yes, gravy is a food).  I think this beer is the best option to match the weight of the meal and combine well with all the traditional Thanksgiving food flavors.  I realize I am not giving you much brand direction, but many beer stores have varying offerings so it’s best to search for the style.

For those who can’t find this beer, I would recommend sticking to a nice Belgian Tripel or a Belgian Strong ale like a Delirium Tremens.  You want something crisp with a lot of carbonation because that will clean your palate.  This may be a confusing phrase.  Ideally, you would eat something, drink this beer and not taste the food from before when going to eat something else.  That’s the concept in a nutshell.  These styles offer a lot of spice and some subtle hop flavors that will enhance and blend with the Thanksgiving flavors.

Dessert:

Give your pie an upgrade

This one can be just as wide open as the pre-dinner beer choices because it depends on taste.  Some people want a beer that will be a dessert in and of itself, some people want something more like an after dinner drink , and some people want something mix with the pies.  If you just want a beer for dessert, Southern Tier Choklat would be a good example.  Rich and sweet and enough cocoa to pass for Ovaline.  Founders Breakfast Stout would work well giving a nice rich mix of coffee and cocoa.  Anything that fits into a coffee/mocha stout would work well if you just want a beer.  If you’re mixing with your food my one major recommendation would be to avoid mixing like with like.  Pumpkin beer and pumpkin pie will only serve to cancel out the flavors and make it difficult for you to taste anything.  Something fruity or nutty would be a great mix.  My personal favorite with pumpkin pie has been the Abita Pecan Harvest.  It adds a nice nuttiness to the pumpkin and really enhances the cinnamon, clove, all spice of most pumpkin pies.  For an after dinner drink, can’t go wrong with anything bourbon aged or Founders has a fantastic bourbon soaked beer aptly named Backwoods Bastard.  Its rich and warming with a ton of vanilla and dark fruit layered with the bourbon oak flavors.  Really tasty if you can find it.

It’s as much fun as it looks

My personal favorite is Samuel Adams Merry Mischief.  It’s a Gingerbread Stout that I just cannot stop enjoying.  I have had “cookie” beers that actually throw cookies into the brew kettle.  This one is fun because they have done the work to balance the ingredients of a good gingerbread cookie from the spicy ginger, to the nutmeg combined with the richness of the malt.  Every year I seem to find a beer that I just can’t get enough of, and this appears to be my holiday beer for 2012.   But that’s just me.
Anyway, hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving, cheers to all!

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