Thanksgiving Beer Pairings, Part II: We still be all classy ‘n s$%t

It’s that time of year again: Awkward encounters with relatives you haven’t seen all year (for good reason), and spatchcocking your turkey. Of course, what you do with your turkey in the privacy of your own home is none of my business. But it’s not like awkward Thanksgivings are new.

Clearly, the first Thanksgiving wasn’t pleasant. First of all, after the brutal winter, there were only 4 Pilgrim chicks left to cook for like 140 people (who presumably got drunk and watched the Lions game instead of helping).

Second, eating over at the Pilgrims’ place was likely a bigger health crap-shoot than eating at the Moloka’i Jack in the Box. It’s well-documented that Pilgrims were so unsanitary that they smelled like the inside of a sweaty Wookie’s butthole. Further, the Pilgrims’ smallpoxy, plaguey, leptospirosisy explorer predecessors managed to wipe out 90 percent of the American Indian population with disease before the uptight, buckle-head Pilgrims even set foot on Plymouth Rock. So, undercooked meat and food-borne illness might have been the least of the problems.

Evidence suggests that American Indians phased-out handshake greetings in the early 17th century.

So, count your blessings and brighten your day with some solid beer choices. I had a comprehensive post last year that took into account many different food factors. You can reference it here. This year, however, I am keeping it simple and sharing the selections I am self-medicating with for Thanksgiving.

Saison Dupont – This is a Thanksgiving no-brainer. It’s earthy, crisp, grassy, slightly spicy, and ever-so-slightly reminiscent of a barn. It’s bubbly enough to cleanse your palate from the onslaught of the richest and biggest of Thanksgiving foods, and it finishes clean…instead of attention whoring it up and trying to upstage the food.

Stillwater Cellar Door – Another Saison/Farmhouse, but this one is a little more assertive. It’s got Sterling and Citra hops, which bring some spice and citrus character to the game. It has the always complex but subtle Stillwater farmhouse yeast character. And for the kicker: It’s brewed with white sage. This should go well with Thanksgiving dinner, because sage goes well with Thanksgiving dinner. (Note: If there is no sage in your feast, then you’re a communist. And nobody likes a communist. So, if nothing else, this beer will redeem you.)

Dogfish Head Bitches Brew – This is for dessert. It’s 2/3 imperial stout, plus 1/3 honey beer brewed with gesho root, which equals: Who the hell knows, but it’s 3/3 good. It’s got bittersweet chocolate, roast, coffee, and even more complexity as it warms up. It starts out sweet, but it is pretty well-carbonated and roasty, so it finishes almost dry. Which is good, because at this point in the program, the top button of my pants is undone, and I want something sweet but not huge and oppressive…otherwise I would have to take my pants off completely. And that’s not good.

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Beer and Spicy Food: Hoppy, Sweet, or Bubbly?

Another food and beer experiment: Beer and spicy food. Actually, this one almost didn’t even get off the ground. The following is a text exchange from me to the Haybag proposing a change in dinner plans:

Many of our exchanges follow this pattern.

Conventional wisdom dictates that hoppy beers go with spicy food. Although, I have seen some outright dismiss this as a myth, while others proclaim that high-ABV hoppy beers will actually make the heat worse. So, I decided to pair up some spicy Thai Drunken Noodle with Oskar Blues Deviant Dale’s (hoppy), Left Hand Milk Stout (sweet and malty), Saison Dupont (bubbly), and Steigl Grapefruit Radler (sweet and fruity).

The Thai restaurant near us is good, and they list their Pad Kee Mao on their menu as available on a one to three pepper heat scale. When pressed, they revealed they have two undisclosed levels of pain: (1) Four Peppers; and (2) “Five Pepper Thai Spicy”. The first red flag I ignored was when they asked me twice if I was sure I wanted Five Pepper Thai Spicy. The second was when they made me sign a waiver.

After coughing my way home from the airborne particulate pepper choking the air in my car, I psyched my digestive system up for the upcoming havoc (read: prophylactic antacid). Let’s do this:

Deviant Dale’s (Hoppy)
I am a big fan of Deviant Dale’s. It’s bitterness and dank, resinous Columbus hops go well with the spice and basil of the hell feast before me. From the first bite, my taste buds long for the flavor combo, but it seems to provide no more relief than would the fleeting respite of an uncaring glass of water. In fact, I think it might be making it angrier. It tastes great together, though. It’s pretty twisted.

Fortunately, Deviant Dale’s eventually starts working some tongue soothing magic. But not before my internal body temperature has apparently climbed several degrees:

Left Hand Milk Stout (Sweet and Malty)
This is a milk stout. So it has lactose, which is milk sugar. Milk sugar will generally not ferment, which adds body and leaves behind residual sugars for increased sweetness. This beer seems to fit the “Sweet Beats Heat” rule. Also, milk is a well-known counter-measure for spicy food.

This thing is nearly the opposite of Deviant Dale’s. My tongue yearns for the refuge of its creamy, full-bodied, sweet, chocolatey, malty goodness; but the flavor combo isn’t going to rock any worlds. Body temperature continues rising. Nose begins to run.

Saison Dupont (Bubbly)
Saison Dupont brings it with herbal, lightly lemon, funky hay and grass, and a little spiciness of its own. But the key is that this beer’s palate-cleansing carbonation could strip the chrome off a trailer hitch.

This might have been my all-around favorite. It was tasty with the Pad Kee Mao, and it did a good job of dousing flames. Interestingly, the carbonation is so prickly that if you prolong the interaction with the spice by holding the beer on your throbbing tongue, it feels like a masochist challenge. Saison Dupont doesn’t F around.

Stiegl Radler Grapefruit (Sweet and Fruity)
This crazy bastard is half Stiegl Goldbräu and half natural grapefruit soda. If you’re going to drink a Shandy or some other such beverage, it might as well be this stuff. At least the fruit tastes real. Although, the Haybag claims it tastes like a hobo drink.

Fancy hobo glass.

It is sweet, which can cut heat. And I thought the acids from the grapefruit juice might be able to cut through spice. It did an OK job.

Conclusion(s)
No more Five Pepper Pad Kee Mao. Indeed, the beers ultimately soothed my throbbing tongue, but they did nothing to preclude a full-body sweat. In fact, at one point I thought my eyeballs were going to melt like that Nazi at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I think I’ll go back to the Two or Three Pepper version with Deviant Dale’s (or I bet Troegs Perpetual IPA would be good, too). Dale has just enough sweetness, creaminess, bitterness, and complementary flavor to be perfect with reasonably hot Pad Kee Mao. Maybe I’ll throw more Saison Dupont in the mix when it starts coming in 16 oz. tall boys.

Thanksgiving Beer Pairings: We be all classy ‘n s$%t

As I mentioned, dangermenparenting sent out the bat signal to beerbecue to come up with some good beers for Thanksgiving. That’s right…I said beer for Thanksgiving. What? Do you think Pilgrims and Indians had a bunch of Chateau Lafite Rothschild Bordeaux at the first Thanksgiving? That’s not what I learned in grade school. They had beer, dammit….and this:I received several suggestions from friends on past successes. I will try to give credit to them where possible. So, here we go..

We need something that can hang with heartiness, but not overpower earthy comfort. So for Thanksgiving, beerbecue says: screw the hop bombs for one day out of the year, and go with earthy, sweet, lightly spicy or fruity, or a combination thereof. There are several beers that can fit this bill, and I will throw a couple variations for turkey prep differences, and some dessert selections.

Pretty safe, but very tasty: Latch on to the sweet, earthy, and caramel with a Dogfish Head Indian Brown, a Brooklyn Brown, or, as Tom suggested, a good German Marzen. Or even go a little darker with New Belgium’s 1554 Enlightened Black Ale.

A little more adventurous: Belgian Tripels. These little beauties have a light to moderate sweetness, some fruit (like apple, banana, pear, or oranges), earthiness, and sometimes a slight peppery, clovey, or spicey flavor from the Belgian yeast. The carbonation does a good job of clearing the palate, but the high carbonation can turn some off…like the Haybag. Also, they usually manage to mask their high ABV, even though they aren’t correspondingly heavy. And we all know high ABV can help in dealing with in-laws.

Try any of the following tripels: Allagash (a suggestion from Tony (not the DMP Tony) in the comments to the previous post); Unibroue La Fin Du Monde; Westmalle, St. Bernardus, or even New Belgium’s Trippel, which is now pretty easy to find in the DC-area. Also, some sweeter variations include Gouden Carolus, Weyerbacher Merry Monks, and Green Flash Trippel.

Perhaps even more adventurous: Although typically a Spring and Summer beer, the Saison/Farmhouse style would work. These will be dry, earthy, spicy, crisp, and light-bodied. You can try Saison Dupont (see the poetic description from Tony on Beer Advocate that says its all). Or I can also vouch for Ommegang’s Hennepin. The Dupont has a passing, but typical, barn funk (wet earth and hay), that is worth giving a shot. The Hennepin, on the other hand, lacks da funk.

What funk? I don

Smoked turkey curveball: I think the above suggestions work for roasted or fried turkey. But for smoked turkey (like the beerbecue residence) you might could go for something to stand-up to and compliment the smoke, like Founder’s Dirty Bastard or Oskar Blues Old Chub.

Additional curiosities: Tom suggested Troeg’s Mad Elf (cloves, honey, and cherries…not a bad Turkey Day combo). Ommegang’s Three Philosophers has dark fruit, cherries, and brown sugar (slight sourness from the cherries). Tony suggested Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse, which apparently paired very well with a thyme-roasted chicken his wife made (I imagine the Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen-Weisse would work well, too). And Chris suggested Guinness with a Jameson chaser, which gets the prize for most efficient.

Dessert: For dessert, you can go with Founder’s Breakfast Stout, Brooklyn Chocolate Stout, or any of Southern Tier’s Blackwater Series Imperial Stouts or their Backburner Barleywine. Alternatively, if you don’t want guests sleeping on your couch, you could try Tony’s “lighter” suggestions for dessert: Chimay Blue (fruit, spice, rich malt) or a Unibroue Noire de Chambly (fruits, spice, and slight chocolate).

Uncle Sal had the Chocolate Stout...and a Budweiser.

The Haybag: I give a thumbs up on those Browns. Also, even though ruling out hop bombs is blasphemy in this house, I think we are going to roll with Oskar Blues Old Chub to complement the smoked turkey. And I am cooking, so keep ’em coming, “Uncle Sal”.