Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

It’s time to give thanks.
(More images will be provided on "Black Friday." Stay tuned!)

For those that celebrate this holiday, Thanksgiving is one the best time to have friends and family in one place and enjoy some great times and create some amazing memories. The weather is cooler outside, enchanting aromas fill homes inside, and a feast is ready to be placed on the table. 

Time to eat! Should you bring out a Merlot, Pinot Noir or Burgundy? All of which should be fine choices, by the way. However, I prefer to take this time to showcase the versatility and power that beer has at the dinner table. What about before dinner? Or After dinner? Beer does the job there too, of course. 

So, what beers are perfect for a dinner such as this? Unfortunately (or fortunately for those optimistic type. Ha!), there is no right or wrong answer here. The website beeradvocate.com has a decent article about how to choose the correct beers for this meal (Click Here!). I use this article as a base (along with Garrett Oliver’s informative book, The Brewmaster’s Table) for my decisions on what beers to provide for this special meal.

The premise is simple:
1) Greet your guests with an enticing, vibrant beer (Apéritif)
2) Turn it up slightly and arouse the taste buds (Hors d'oeuvre Hour)
3) Follow this with an adaptable beer (Dinner)
4) Match flavor intensities (Dessert)
5) And finally, close-out the evening with wonderful display of power (Digestif)
With this premise in mind, here is my beer lineup for Thanksgiving 2013.

1) Apéritif (before dinner)
Noble Ale Works - Pistol Whip'd
The purpose of this beer is to loosen up the guests with a subtle, yet tasty treat. Something light and refreshing is usually works best since all I’m looking for is “something that will arouse appetites and slowly awaken the senses.”** Hoppy Pilsners and Pales are the best choices here. If hops don’t play well with our tongue, a tangy and vibrant Belgian-style Wit will suffice.
2) Hors d'oeuvre Hour (appetizer)
Rodenbach - Grand Cru

When it’s time for appetizers and finger foods, serve something with a bit more kick. Cheese and meats? Fruit? Array of finger-foods? Depending on what is served, you might want to stick with a hop theme (American Pales and IPA’s) or take a different route with a tangy sour (Flanders Red paired with tangy goad cheeses, for example). Either way, you don’t want to go over-the-top with the hops or sourness. Make sure you are familiar with the flavors of your chosen beers.

3) Dinner
Brasserie La Choulette - Les Bière Des Sans Culottes
The main event! The dinner-table might look intimidating for most wines and even some beers. However, I take the Garrett Oliver approach here. In his book, “The Brewmaster’s Table,” Oliver proclaims that Bière de Gardes are amazing with not just turkey, but with all the side dishes you can think of. You know what? He's absolutely right! I can't think of a clearer choice for this meal. Chances are this beer style will withstand it all!

Other beer styles that work well include Belgian Dubbles or Quads, Hoppy Pilsners, or even a spicy Saison if the table calls for it.
4) Dessert
Bootlegger's "Imperial Phoenix 2012"
As children, we looked forward to the sweet treats that awaited us for dessert. As adults, we can bring that feeling back with the right beer pairing. Imperial Russian Stouts (IRS) are quite possibly the best beers for dessert. Imperial Porters can stand up here, too. Even a crisp Doppelbock with enough chocolate notes will endure. However, IRS's are my first suggestion. There is wood aged, coffee/espresso, chocolate, imperial milk stouts, etc... so be sure to choose the variation that is right for your situation. The last thing you want to do is overpower the dessert with the beer or vice versa.

Interestingly, if you will have intensely rich chocolate desserts, then do yourself a favor and grab tart & tangy Framboise. Ignore the obvious chocolate flavors of an Imperial Porter or IRS. Trust me, your senses will thank you.

5) Digestif (after dinner)
The Bruery - Black Tuesday 2012
Sit back, relax, and as you wonder why/how you just ate so much food, grab a “big” beer to finish off the evening. My suggestion here is to grab a spirit barrel-aged variation of an Imperial Russian Stout, Barleywine, or any other high ABV beer. Standard (non barrel-aged) heavy beers work here, as well. If these style beers are not to your fancy, then perhaps a nice sour, such as a Flanders Brown, will be up your alley. Whatever is your preferred poison, be sure to enjoy the snake-bite.

When it’s all said and done, after dinner is the time I really think about how fortunate I am to be able to enjoy this little luxury. I know my readers agree with me when I say that we are lucky folks, aren’t we. Do not take your fortunes for granted and remember that there are some out there that are not as fortunate. Enjoy your time with your family and friends. That’s what it’s all about.

And with that, I want to wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving.


Gilbert “Charlie” Perez, Certified Cicerone®