Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Beer for Thanksgiving? Why, yes. Someone fetch my slippers and growlers, please.

Earlier this morning, I was chatting about Thanksgiving food and drink pairings with my friend and former beer student, the esteemed local free lance writer Steve Coomes. One thing led to another, and at Steve’s suggestion, I now provide a brief digression on a theme of “Beer for Thanksgiving, not wine?” I posted it at his facebook page, and provide it here, too. As a template, I used a six-year-old posting; to my delight, I discovered that after all those years, I now completely disagree with myself. Well, mostly. Here's what I came up with, bearing in mind my intentional vagueness in citing style, not brand. 


From the top, it’s important to remember that classic beer style interpretations no longer are the exclusive province of faraway beer lands. Local and regional breweries are doing great things, and taking America as a whole, we’re the best and most diverse brewing nation in the world. Check your locals, and see what they have available in growlers, bottles or sometimes cans.

Considering the Norman Rockwell-issue Thanksgiving meal, I used to favor the full-flavored stylistic approach, one resembling the “big red” strategy of the wine lover.

There are obvious Belgian Strong Dark Ale parallels with cherry, cranberry and spice notes, so long as you remember that Stella Artois, while mass-manufactured in Belgium, is an insipid yellow abomination more suitable for use as pet shampoo than comparisons with the better ales of the genre. But why torture your mutt?

These days, it strikes me that medium-bodied, dry and spicy Belgian-style Saisons of numerous stripes are the sort of style, able to match turkey and dressing rather than overpower it. They’re simply versatile, adaptive food beers, as is the French style known as Biere de Garde.

From the German perspective, a fat mug of Doppelbock would hit the mark, but Marzen/Oktoberfest (amber lager) is less sweet, and perhaps a better meal-long quaffing choice. If you’re going solidly dark, Robust Porter’s your choice, because what could be better conceptually than the roasty, red-tinged black ale brewed by our Colonial-era forefathers like Washington and Jefferson?

For dessert? Perhaps an oversized Imperial Stout, designed to take the place of coffee, cream and pie, though not the after dinner cigar. You’ll probably be chased to the porch for that one.

As a final note: My annoyances are many and well-documented, but foremost among them is the recent trend to release craft-brewed Pumpkin Ales in mid-August, well before the mercury drops anywhere close to suitability for an autumnal libation, and months shy of their ideal application at the Thanksgiving dinner table. If you don’t think ahead to save a few, it might be hard finding them on store shelves now. The theory and practice of Pumpkin Ale are varied, and a little of it goes a long way, but as with Porter, their quintessential Americana-ish appeal should be self-evident.

I hope you all have a great day. Those of a counter-cultural bent should know that in early afternoon on Thursday, I’ll accompany my wife and a few close friends to Vietnam Kitchen for OUR traditional Thanksgiving meal. If you go there and spot me, say hello. I’ll be the one with his face in a bowl of K8.

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