DRAFT PICKS: A Thanksgiving day feast ... with beer

Thanksgiving day is coming. The family table will be groaning with traditional foods. One thing that is generally lacking at the Thanksgiving table is ...beer. There are a lot of reasons folks don’t bring out the brew to a family Thanksgiving gathering, (most of which involve crazy Uncle Louie and that unpleasant incident with his suspenders!) Still, gentle readers, there is no reason in the world one cannot have a very civilized table laid with a festive, yet well-regulated serving of well-paired and carefully considered beers. And please, if the environment does not lend itself to serving beer at Thanksgiving ...DON’T! Nevertheless, in the distant history of this nation leading up to the first Thanksgiving we can find plenty of references to brewed beverages that would simply indicate that having a good, fortifying beer at the holiday supper was something not out of the ordinary - even for the Puritans! The Beer Institute notes on its website “When the Pilgrims sailed for America, they hoped to find a place to settle where the farmland would be rich and the climate congenial. Instead, they found themselves struggling with the stony soil and harsh winters of New England. And all because of a shortage of beer. “An entry in the diary of a Mayflower passenger explains the unplanned landing at Plymouth Rock: “We could not now take time for further search ...our victuals being much spent, especially our beer...” (NB: This quote is from Mourt’s Relation, 1622, and is most usually attributed to colonists William Bradford and Edward Winslow.) The report continues: “That may have been the last time America’s settlers ran short of beer. They soon learned from their Indian neighbors how to make beer from maize. Local breweries sprouted up throughout the colonies, and experienced brewmasters were eagerly recruited from London.” And so ...in the true and historic spirit of the holiday, I’d like to suggest a beer pairing menu for the Thanksgiving holiday. All are carefully tried and I believe are true to the spirit of the meal. All are available in the area. Give it a try, and Happy Thanksgiving.

This Week's Draft Picks

I’m planning this beer meal on three basic courses - appetizer, dinner, and dessert. APPETIZER For this appetizer course I’d suggest: Sofie Goose Island Beer Co. – Chicago Sofie is a Farmhouse Ale, Belgian in its roots and slightly ‘enhanced’ with a little citrus zest and other goodies. It is a light-colored beer and only 6.5 percent ABV, so folks sipping shouldn’t be worried about ruining the meal to come. I found the aroma to be complex, and even a little mysterious At first wash, this ale is a little tart which goes great with the appetizer finger foods and cheeses. It is a touch floral and doesn’t project the alcohol at all. I found it to be somewhat creamy while at the same time offering pronounced citrus fruitiness. There is also a bit of spice tucked away in the background. (It might be even a touch peppery to the real discerning palate.) Very, very nice, and holding nothing that would overwhelm the main course. Serve this with cream crackers and the stronger, more expressive cheeses such as a nicely aged Camembert, some pungent Gorgonzola, a really good Asiago, or for the meeker planner some extra sharp Cheddar. I always suggest cream crackers since they have little or no taste and are great ‘vehicles’ for cheeses and other dips.   MAIN COURSE With the traditional Thanksgiving Day main course, (I’m assuming turkey and all the trimmings), I’m going to suggest two brews - one for those who like ales and one for those who prefer lagers. Rogue American Amber Rogue Ales – Oregon As it’s name announces, this is an American Amber with a modest ABV of 5.60 percent. It is probably best served at the table in a pint glass. American Amber has a somewhat cloudy look, but is not heavy or thick in the least. When poured well, there is a decent head that stays a while but will not distract at the meal. It has a beautiful smell - mildly floral. Almost a complement to the cranberries or tart sauces on the table. This is a touch citrusy. Some may think it as leaning a bit bitter. I would disagree. American Amber is a fine fit for roasted foods. There is just enough maltiness to bring out the sweetish highlights. I find this well-balanced and an excellent table ale.   For those who prefer a lager, I’d suggest something from close to home - Kalamazoo. Bell’s Lager of the Lakes Bell’s Brewery – Kalamazoo Bell’s has turned out a very good American Pale Lager that at 5 percent ABV should also be most acceptable at any table. This brew pours a rich and welcoming clear golden cup. (To make things a little less complicated on the table, a pint glass will be fine. A pilsner glass would be better, but there’s no need to get too crazy over this stuff.) There is a light, aromatic head offering the refreshing scents of a fairly malty brew, with defined hints of hops tucked away in the background. This is a creamy, almost buttery brew, very suitable to the heavy traditional table at Thanksgiving time. Its modest, yet enthusiastic carbonation helps clear the palate between bites. This is a lager that really can enhance the meal. Note: Don’t serve this, (or the ale for that matter), too cold. Well chilled, but not frosty cold. None of those silly frosted glasses straight out of the freezer. You’re at a festive table, not sitting in the garage after mowing the lawn!   DESSERT This is a tough one. A lot of people simply don’t see beer as an after dinner drink. Try this, Midas Touch Dogfish Head Craft Brewery – Delaware Midas Touch is categorized as a Herbed or a Spiced Beer. It has a bit of a kick, (9 percent ABV), which is certainly OK following a heavier holiday meal. I love the Dogfish Head team. They are so creative and willing to step way outside the brewing box. Midas Touch pours a wonderful hazy yellow - liquid gold as per its name. There isn’t much head, but that’s OK. The unique aroma doesn’t need to much help to reach the surface and tickle your nose. There is a certain strange, somewhat exotic taste to Midas Touch. There is a very defined spiciness to this fine brew - even something of an herbal quality. It is not bitter, or at least very mildy so. Some may find it a bit tart, but it is not bitter. There’s a lot to discover in this wonderful drink. It is certainly a thinking person’s brew. I’d suggest serving this in a wide-brimmed glass, (a snifter?), that will allow it to breath well and release the subtleties of its distinguished recipe. There is a somewhat sweet, almost honey mead quality to the finish that will warm the soul - and tummy too! This would be great on its own, and I think lined up with a nice slice of pecan pie this could be a great end to the holiday feast.   Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout Bell’s Brewery – Kalamazoo Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout is what I consider to be a world-class American Stout. It pours creamy, looks creamy, smells and tastes creamy. While Midas Touch will certainly find both fans and detractors, Bell’s is simply a great stout that will appeal to everyone who likes anything even near this genre. This is a classic dessert drink. It pours black with little head. The hefty aroma wafts up and is filled with the scents of well roasted grains, coffee and espresso tones, and some hidden spiciness. It is very much a malt-forward brew. This is what could best be described as a bold stout - filled with coffee and deep dark chocolate. It is very, very creamy. I find it almost velvety. This would be just wonderful with a more cream-based dessert. If anyone is planning anything like a creme brulee to go along with this double Cream Stout, PLEASE! call my office. I’ll be over in a flash! That’s it. My 2012 Thanksgiving Day festive dinner pairings is complete. I hope you enjoy them, but more important, I hope everyone enjoys the company of dear family and great friends at this special celebration. Amen.