When most people think of Thanksgiving, they think of gastronomical overload starring turkey, a plethora of side dishes, and a glass of wine or six. Beer is an appropriate drink on this food forward holiday though. In fact, legend has it that the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, in large part, because they ran out of ale.
Thanksgiving flavors are bountiful, diverse, and at most tables-on the delicate side. Turkey, stuffing, and potatoes just can’t compete with a tongue bruising Double IPA or a dark and roast-y Imperial Stout. Brews like these would dominate the meal and take away from the holiday experience.
Many beers do complement the traditional feast though: Belgian Wits, Belgian Strong Ales, Blonde Ales, lighter red/amber & brown ales, and fruit beers are all excellent choices. The richer Old Ales, Wee Heavys, and similar big brews pair well with rich desserts like pecan pie.
Here are a few turkey day suds that will be enjoyed at our table.
Leinenkugel’s Fireside Nut Brown Lager: The moderately carbonated translucent brown lager smells of cocoa. Light chocolate greets the tongue first followed by sweet dark toffee and hazelnut. A coffee flavor lurks around in the background throughout where it‘s joined by burnt caramel on the finish. Smooth and clean, this 4.9% ABV masked macro (Miller-Coors) is best enjoyed with pre-meal (or post-meal) snacks like mixed nuts while watching some NFL football. Be sure to open a bottle or two for dinner, especially with sweet potato casserole.
Great Divide Wild Raspberry Ale: Blue-raspberry, bubble gum aromas rise from the medium-bodied pinkish-red 5.6% ABV Colorado ale. A little tart as it hits the lips but it really opens up with subtle raspberry flavors mid-sip. It finishes with some slight hop bitterness and a nicely balanced, tasty, raspberry aftertaste. This fruit beer is clean and crisp-and more importantly, not overly sweet. Fantastic for the style and not over-the-top. It will pair perfectly with turkey, and nicely with the whole meal particularly those holiday fruit pies.
Shipyard Old Thumper ESA: Maine’s famed microbrewery’s 5.6% ABV offering showcases the funky British Ringwood yeast strain. This copper-colored English style ESB comes complete with a thick, impressive, off-white head of foam. Buttery flavors (diacetyl) are noticeable initially followed closely by some subtle fruit. Billowy round malt and light caramel notes arrive mid-sip along with some butterscotch. A sweet malt finish with a hint of hop spice conclude the taste odyssey. It’s a thick and interesting brew with loads of character but yet it’s mild and drinkable. Pairs well with the entire meal, especially the mashed potatoes and stuffing, and it’s a great alternative to the Raspberry ale. In fact, I’ll be joined by a pint of each at the table.
Tommyknocker Imperial Nut Brown Ale: This 9% ABV high-octane Brown ale out of Colorado is brewed with pure maple syrup. It pours a dark auburn hue with a tan hat. Aromas of dark malt and mocha emanate from the pint glass. Sweet cacao meets the palate first followed by a mild maple flavor, molasses, and muted espresso. The medium-heavy bodied Imperial ale finishes a little boozy with more maple, a little raisin, and plenty of dark malts. Moderate hop bitterness is apparent throughout helping to balance this heavy brew. Although it’s chewy and thick, it never comes across as syrupy or cloying. The pure maple syrup and dark malts come across as more bitter than sweet and the Tommyknocker will pair perfectly with pecan pie and other desserts.
Happy Thanksgiving and may these suds and your holiday bird usher in an alcohol-Tryptophan after-dinner siesta!