By now you’ve probably read more than a handful of posts on other blogs about what beers to pair with your Thanksgiving Day dinner. After all, why go through the trouble of spending all that time creating a culinary masterpiece only to end up pairing it with the wrong beer (wrong beer? Is there such a thing?). I wanted to touch on this subject as well, but don’t think I can add anything more to the plethora of articles already out there. So, as I tend to do in these occasions, I’ll turn the idiot amp up to 11, and present my choices of beers that you can use to REPLACE dishes at your Thanksgiving Day meal.
MAIN COURSE :
Ever since The Saturday Evening Post published Norman Rockwell’s iconic “Freedom From Want” in 1943, the traditional guest of honor at most people’s T-Day dinner has been the turkey. However, from an historical perspective the turkey is actually quiet new to the holiday’s festivities. Seafood, fowl (of the non-meleagris gallopavo variety) and venison topped the bill at the first Thanksgiving dinner and since I love a the occasional nod to historical tradition, I’m choosing to go with venison.
Admittedly, venison is very hard one to pull off from a libation stand point. Nobody brews a “deer beer” (nor do I encourage anyone to do so), however with a nod to the spirits of the five deer the American Indians brought to that preliminary pilgrim pot luck, I would suggest Ghost Deer, by Brewdog. This blonde ale is fermented using a variety of yeast strains to a whopping 28% and then aged for six months in a combination of whisky, bourbon, rum and sherry barrels. What makes this beer worthy of our main course? The beer was only served in one place, Brewdog’s pub in Edinburgh, and the tap and faucet were built into the taxidermied head of a deer. I’m not making that up. I couldn’t. I can’t think of any better way to pay tribute to the deer that gave their lives for those early settlers and their guests. Also, at 28%, the buzz from a few of these will easily substitute for your yearly tryptophan coma.
Seafood is a little easier. Clams where go-to food back in those times and were indeed present on the dinner table that day. I’ll slide over the bivalve family tree and recommend Fordham’s Rosie Parker Oyster Stout. A beer with a nice palette of roasted grains combined with a slight brininess contributed from oyster shells. Another fine choice would be Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout, brewed with local oysters, which is now offered year round by Flying Dog Brewery.
I’m including stuffing in with the main course because, well I love stuffing. This bread ball, turkey butt filler comes in many forms, but my favorite is sausage and of course, sausage beer is very common. What? No? Ok, but what turns ordinary pork meat into the culinary chef d’oeuvre that is sausage is nothing more than a collection of spices and herbs; of which some of the more common ones are parsley, rosemary, thyme and sage. To recreate that savory mixture on your T-Day table I suggest any of the Saison du BUFF’s from either Stone, Victory or Dogfish Breweries. These saison style ales contain a mixture of the aforementioned herbs and even though all three beers were brewed to the same recipe, each beer highlights a different herb in the forefront. I would recommend getting all three just to cover all of the bases. After all, you don’t have anywhere to go on Friday do you?
Let’s start with an old staple of many a T-Day table, the sweet potato casserole. When you were young, many of you probably eyed this orange clump of spiced spuds with great suspicion. After all, why would mom feel the need to hide it under a layer of lightly roasted marshmallows if there wasn’t anything insidious hiding on the inside? I offer instead The Bruery’s Autumn Maple, a beer brewed with 17lbs of yams in every barrel (yes I know, yams <> sweat potatoes, work with me here) and brewed with spices, some of which are not uncommon in the sweet potato casserole world; namely cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, molasses, and maple syrup.
Green beans you say? Hmmmm, that’s a tough call. But luckily I just happen to be holding a “switch-a-veggie” card in my hand and use it to nullify the green bean attack and play an asparagus card. Cheat? Hey, neither one of these two are historically accurate, and you were probably just going to slap the green beans together in another casserole concoction anyway, so I feel I’m justified here. But I know what you’re thinking, “You couldn’t find a green bean beer, but you found an asparagus beer?” Yeah, I know! Insane! But here it is! Every year Stockton California has its annual Asparagus Festival (naturally), and every year, Valley Brewing Company brews an Asparagus Wheat Ale, which is really just their wheat ale with asparagus juice mixed in. The beer is apparently quite a hit, and is served with a asparagus stalk in every glass. Yummy.
I’m not sure how many families have carrots on their T-Day table, but in my house it was a constant – mainly because it was one of the few vegetables I’d eat until they were gone. For this dish I’m dialing in Microbrasserie du Lièvre’s, La Carotte du Lièvre, an ale that clocks in at 5.0% and is of course (as the name would suggest) brewed with carrots. Of course, this Belgian beer may be hard to find, so feel free to replace it with Cody Brewing Company’s Carrot Cake Porter, brewed with carrots and spices. Of course, this might do better for desert, but for me, a pie is a much more traditional ending to a T-Day dinner.
As you might expect, corn played a major role in the first Thanksgiving and still maintains a popular place on the table today. Corn however, does not maintain such a popular position in the craft beer world but Peace Tree Brewing put all that “pure barley” snobbery aside and is ready to come to dinner with their Cornucopia, a Belgian style farmhouse ale brewed with local Iowa sweet corn. Or we could go with Ipswich Brewing’s Five Mile Corn Bock, brewed with local Massachusetts corn.
Another farmhouse, Almanac Brewery’s, Autumn 2011 Farmhouse Pale covers another staple from that first holiday meal. Brewed with 1000lbs of local, organic plums; this beer fills a place on our table that would have been taken by plums and grapes.
Of course no T-Day dinner table would be complete with out cranberries, whether it’s an artfully made cranberry dipping sauce a-la Alton Brown, or a firm, gelatinous mass that came from a can. Of course, we’re no strangers to cranberries in the craft beer world, there are no shortage of choices here. But I think I’ll go with Harpoon Brewery’s Grateful Harvest; one, because I think the name is seasonally appropriate, and two, because 1$ from every six pack is donated to local food banks.
Pumpkin BEERS!!! Yeah, let’s not do that. Still, if we remove the obvious from our options there are still many directions we could go in. Since I like the traditional pie scenario, let’s go with Magic Hat’s Apple Pie Ale. Brewed with vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and fresh Vermont apples, this beer is sure to remind you of mom’s apple pie; if mom’s apple pie clocked in at 5.8% ABV that is.
So there we have it; venison, oysters, stuffing, asparagus, carrots, corn, plums, cranberries and apple pie. A bountiful Thanksgiving Day dinner with a nod to both family traditions and history. And we didn’t even have to turn on the oven, or scrub a roasting pan. Which is good, because at this point we probably can’t get off the couch anyway.
Time for another beer.