Our favorite food-centered holiday, Thanksgiving, is quickly approaching. You might already be brining. In a few days, the turkey will be ready to be carved (maybe a free-range one this year?), the stuffing will be stuffed... then unstuffed, and the gravy boat will sail off into the sunset. What better way to celebrate, than with a selection of fine beers?
Bill Sysak, Certified Cicerone and Beverage Supervisor for the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, says that he will "simply cover the table with a selection of food-friendly beers: bières de gardes, Saisons, and winter warmers."
That may be some good advice, but which beers of the potentially hundreds available should you pick up?
Check out these picks from myself and a few local beer experts, Ian Salzberg (certified Cicerone and champion of the Drink Like A Local program), Julian Seigel (owner of craft beer destination The Riverside Market), and Bobby Gordash (craft beer alchemist at Florida Beer Company):
Go big or go home. Dupont Brewery in the beer-centric country of Belgium puts out this farmhouse saison, fermented with a proprietary house strain that develops some wine-like qualities in the beer. The flavor is packed with fruit aromas, flowers and spices coming out, and a dry and effervescent quality to compliment the sometimes varied and complex flavors of a multi-course Thanksgiving dinner.
This beer, available in 750ml bottles, is easily found at bottle shops and other such beer-centric establishments.
The American answer to good Belgian style beer, Hennepin is another saison style beer bursting with delicious flower flavors. It pours out harvest gold with a thick white head, displaying aromas of grass, lemon and apple, and flavors of peppery spice, yeast, and more of the apple.
Hennepin is available in 750ml as well as 12oz 4 packs.
When it's time for dessert, look no further than a slice of pie and a glass of Good Gourd. This imperial pumpkin beer is a knock-out in the flavor department, showcasing the included spices of Ceylon cinnamon, Jamaican all-spice, Zanzibar cloves and nutmeg. The nose is highly aromatic, with vanilla and cinnamon really coming out in addition to a general aroma of sweetness. Good Gourd, if you can find it or held on to a bottle during its late summer release, is available in 750ml bottles. And yes, we've seen a few still in the wild, so it might just take some sleuthing.
This local offering will pair nicely with basically everything on your plate. It has the body to hold up to the myriad of flavors present in a Thanksgiving meal, and enough malty sweetness and just enough spice flavor to complement.
Sweet Potato Casserole is available on draft at the Oakland Park brewery, and also available for take-away growlers on Tuesday the 26th. Just try not to open them until turkey day, ok?
Ian Salzberg, who spearheads the Drink Like A Local campaign, suggests this behemoth of a beer. At 10%, it's a sipper, and will help to fill any yam flavor void that may have somehow been left. Expect a lot of the sweeter yam flavors to be present, and a bit of alcohol bite at the end.
Autumn Maple is available in 750ml bottles.
Ian also thinks that we should be drinking something American on this holiday, in the form of an American style Belgian tripel, especially the one from Victory in Pennsylvania. Golden Monkey holds herbs and spices with a grassy cleanliness in the aroma and taste, and will hold up well to the herbs of the stuffing or the crispness of the vegetables.
Golden Monkey is available in 12oz 4-packs or, more uncommonly, in 750ml bottles.
Riverside Market owner and noted purveyor of fine brews Julian Seigel recommends this delicious IPA that contains underpinnings of hop sweetness in the form of orange and lemon character. It's a balanced and non-aggressive India pale ale, having been wet hopped from fresh hops of the growing season, which lend a freshness and bely its 70 IBUs and 7.6% abv.
Harvest ale can be found in a convenient 12oz 6-pack.
Julian shared this low alcohol secret with us. The Pumpkin Lambicus is a unique meeting of a lambic and a pumpkin beer. It has a distinct pumpkin flavor but with an added tartness that brings this beer to another level. This could fare well with a heaping of cranberry sauce covered turkey, or just by itself as an apertif while waiting for everything to finish cooking. It clocks in at 4% abv, which is high for lambics, but probably lower than most beers on this list. "You can't go wrong with a pumpkin beer for Thanksgiving," Julian said. "[This] and the Founders beer are all part of the harvest season. It just works."
Pumpkin Lambicus can be purchased in 750ml bottles.
Bobby Gordash, craft beer alchemist for Florida Beer Company of Cape Canaveral, recommends this beer blend for anyone looking for a complete pumpkin beer experience. "You'll get the pumpkin pie spices as well as a flavor reminiscent of spiced cookies," he said. As a note, we tried this combination, and agree with Bobby's statements. Try this one at the table and give your guests a little show with their dinner.
You can find both of these beers in 22oz bombers.
- Dogfish Head Kvasir, a tart offering from the Ancient Ales series. Brewed with lingonberries, cranberries, birch syrup and herbs.
- Samuel Smith Organic Chocolate Stout, a rich and very chocolaty English stout.
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