Tuesday, November 21, 2006

REWIND: Beer to go with your Thanksgiving meal.

Originally published on November 24, 2005.

At noon today, my wife, my mother, two aunts, one uncle, a cousin and the Curmudgeon gathered for a holiday buffet meal of turkey and the familiar fixings, served within the venerable confines of Tommy Lancaster’s Restaurant, a downtown New Albany institution that might have been considered a trendsetter during the Kennedy administration and hasn’t done much to alter this time-tested winning formula ever since.

But that’s all well and good, and not to be construed as criticism. Tommy’s does what it does, just like downtown New Albany’s other hoary survivor, the South Side Inn, and if Betty Crockery-style Imperial American 1950’s Era grub is what you seek, these are two prime practitioners of it will serve it up to you at a reasonable price, with paneled ambience to match.

During my second (and final) trip through the chow line, I noticed an elderly gentleman nursing a Miller Lite.

At first suppressing a shudder, it then occurred to me that matching bland beer to bland food seems perfectly reasonable in the context of sensory deprivation … but how would the true beer enthusiast – as opposed to America’s sadly ubiquitous Swillocrats – reckon the suitability of beer choices to accompany the ideal Thanksgiving feast?

When it comes to choosing wine for the Thanksgiving table, Bob Johnson writes:

Some - including my Wine Lines colleague, Glen Frederiksen - will tell you that a rich, buttery Chardonnay is the best white wine because it mirrors the rich flavors found in such holiday fare as mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing and, of course, turkey.

Others will proffer that the only red wine to choose is Pinot Noir, because its cherry, cranberry and spice notes so nicely complement the myriad side dishes found on the Turkey Day table.

And still others believe in the "anything goes" philosophy, basically inferring that because there are so many disparate flavors on the holiday table, it would be impossible for a single wine to provide total pairing pleasure.

The truth is that virtually all of the arguments have merit, and there is no single answer that trumps all others.

Beer, not wine?

I favor the full-flavored approach, one that resembles the Pinot Noir strategy of the wine lover. There are obvious Belgian parallels with the “cherry, cranberry and spice notes,” as is the case with McChouffe, Chimay Premiere (red) and Gouden Carolus Noel, to name just three.

From the German perspective, a fat mug of Doppelbock would hit the mark, especially if such a normally clean beer could be juiced with fruitiness – but wait, such a heavenly beer really does exist: Aventinus Wheat Doppelbock.

The hoppy American microbrews I love on an everyday basis just don’t strike me as good matches for the traditional dishes served at our stereotypical Beaver Cleaver Thanksgiving, but I’m betting that a Belgian-style Saison (Dupont, Glazen Toren, Hennepin) would be very compatible, with lightly hoppy dryness and peppery hints for accent.

For dessert? Perhaps an oversized Imperial Stout, designed to take the place of coffee, cream and pie (but not the after dinner cigar). At this moment in time, I’m enamored of Great Divide’s Oak-Aged Yeti and its creamy, vanilla-laced complexity.

Come to think of it, gotta run … there’s one in the fridge with the Curmudgeon’s name on it.


The New Albanian said...

Beers mentioned above should be available at Keg Liquors in Clarksville, and perhaps Bridge or Old Mill in New Albany.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads up. I visited Todd today at Keg and picked up a few bottles of the Oak Aged Yeti. I intend on pairing it with a dutch apple pie w/caramel icing for desert tomorrow followed up by a Gloria Cubana Serie R.

The New Albanian said...

You are going to enjoy it ... the cigar's a nice touch, indeed.

antzman said...

Keg Liquors does indeed have Oaked Arrogant Bastard in 6 packs (First time ever in this package, instead of the huge 3 liter bottle) and Double Arrogant Bastard in 22 oz bombers.

We were also hit hard by Stone as they mysteriously cut our distributors order by 60 cases for the whole state of Indiana, which in turn cuts down what we at Keg Liquors could receive. As such, we could only get 1 case of each product, so there are now 3 six packs of Oaked Bastard left, and 10 bottles of Double Arrogant Bastard left for retail. My point, if you want this stuff, you need to get in here quick before it is gone.

smoosh said...

I had no beer with the meal, but a nice nightcap of Southampton Pumpkin Ale. Not a great style, but a fine example.