Monday, November 25, 2013

Open thread: What beer do you pair with Thanksgiving?

Southern Tier Pumking with Thanksgiving 2010.
I’m never quite sure what beer pairs best with Thanksgiving. I’m not a foodie, so I’m not good at getting complementary or contrasting pairings right. I often find drinking with a meal distracts me from savoring the beer. Then it just becomes a utilitarian function of quenching my thirst and washing down food. The exception being beer dinners, of course.

In my family we always have the traditional Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, squash, biscuits, gravy, corn, cranberry sauce, etc. As much as I enjoy the meal and the experience, I find that none of the food items served for Thanksgiving are highly flavorful, robust, or complex. That’s not to say it’s bland – just simple. It’s difficult for me to find a beer that truly enhances the holiday experience.

Pumpkin beers would seem to be a natural choice because they can be either sweet or spicy depending on the beer and thus make for good contrasting pairings. But if you’re going to have pumpkin pie for dessert then it’s rather redundant. There’s also Oktoberfestbiers – seasonal and slightly more flavorful than the average fizzy yellow lager – but again, they’re utilitarian. Imperial IPAs and stouts and big Belgian beers tend to be flavorful enough for the food, but are just too heavy and dense. Sure, it’ll taste great – but you’ll be hurting for the rest of the day. Last year I tried a standard porter, but I found the flavors to be distracting.
Southern Tier Choklat with chocolate cream pie – an obvious, but delicious pairing!

This year I’m going out on a limb by pairing my Albany Ale homebrew with Thanksgiving. It think it just might work and here’s why: It’s sweet from all the sugar in it, plus it’s slightly twangy/rustic from the extract, along with some spicy hop bitterness. There’s also a distinct corn flavor which would seem to complement the meal. I’ll let you know how it goes.
  • So what beers are you having this Thanksgiving?
  • Do you have separate beers for the meal and dessert?
  • Will you be drinking something special for Thanksgiving meal, but switch to something common for football-watching?
  • Is Thanksgiving a good opportunity to get relatives, friends, and guests to expand their palate, or do you find people don’t like to experiment?
  • Have you ever cooked with beer for Thanksgiving?
  • In general, do you prefer beers that complement or contrast the food?