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”.

Beer Review: A bevy of pumpkin ales, part 1

I don’t typically like gourds in my beer. One exception: pumpkins. So, I thought we could sort through the cluttered pumpkin beer market. By “we”, I mean the Haybag (my wife) and me. And by “pumpkin ales”, I mean:

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
New Holland Ichabod Pumpkin Ale
Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin
Schlafly Pumpkin Ale
Heavy Seas Great’er Pumpkin
Saranac Pumpkin Ale
Southern Tier Pumking

As an initial disclosure, the Haybag and I like pumpkin pie in a glass pumpkin ales…but it’s gotta taste like beer, too.  Otherwise, it’s not like we’re drinking beer, and we might as well just chase a can of pie mix with some bourbon instead (hmmm, note to self…).

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Me: I remember liking this beer.  At first sip, I remember why: Spices galore, with a hefty, but pleasant, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg flavor. Oh yeah, and some pumpkin. But what the hell is that lurking flavor…like a zippy ginger?  Whatever memory my brain is trying to retrieve, it is not in the happy file cabinet. Egad!  It’s cardamom!  My brain flashes back to this dirty, gingery bastard:

We meet again, old foe.

Ahhh, the Mule. We engaged in a pitched battle one night. You were on special, and I was a student. We’ll call it a draw, even though I didn’t make it home until 10am the next morning. And now Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin is forever tainted by whatever neural alleyway those umpteen Mules reside in…probably in a cardboard box.

The Haybag: How’s that my problem? The pumpkin might take a backseat to the spices, but this is damn good. We’re getting it again.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

Me: It pours deep amber and clear, with a small head.  It actually tastes like a beer, maybe because the base beer is a brown ale.  It has a nice malt character, and I can taste the brown sugar, nutmeg, and pumpkin.  There’s something ever so slightly off, however, that keeps it from being my favorite.  I can’t place it, but the Haybag thinks she knows, and she has been claiming this for years…

The Haybag: It’s OK.  But dammit, Sam (Calagione), your Punkin beer tastes like pumpkin-scented soap.  This doesn’t hold a pumpkin-scented candle to Pumking.

New Holland Ichabod Pumpkin Ale

Me: Unremarkable all-around. New Holland mailed this one in like Hugh Grant in a romantic mismatch comedy. Maybe a hint of cinnamon. Where the hell is the pumpkin?  Only redeeming quality: bad ass label. It’s unfortunate. I like some New Holland beers.

The Haybag: Bleck.  This sucks…

Me: …like a Hugh Grant romantic mismatch comedy.

Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin

Me: This beer confused me more than that Dukes of Hazard season where Coy and Vance Duke suddenly show up while Bo and Luke Duke are apparently off racing NASCAR.

Straight off the bat, it poured a light copper/orange, much lighter than I expected. I could smell pumpkin and nutmeg…and significant hops (huh?). The taste was big, sweet, slightly pumpkiny, creamy, and hoppy, with a hint of nutmeg.  I applaud them for somehow managing to balance all of this reasonably well.  And at times it ended up tasting a bit like a pumpkin tripel, which is both fascinating and heretical.  But much like that ill-fated Dukes of Hazard season, this beer, although tolerable at times, was ultimately not good.

The Haybag: Sometimes it came off as a bad barleywine. Are we even reviewing this one?  Who are Coy and Vance Duke?

To be continued…Part 2 will include Schlafly Pumpkin Ale, Heavy Seas Great’er Pumpkin, Saranac Pumpkin Ale, and Southern Tier Pumking.  And I promise to start posting actual pictures of the beer from now on, instead of greedily slamming it then lazily finding a picture of the label on the Intertubes later.