It’s the most wonderful time for a beer PART I: Thanksgiving

Disclaimer: There are roughly 234,405 (estimated/made-up) other articles about Thanksgiving beers that you can read. However, this one delivers you three choices with the following guarantee. If you do not like the beers I recommend as a compliment to your Thanksgiving dinner, you can give whatever remains to me at no additional charge.

Since pumpkin beers hit the shelves in August, it feels like we have two months of Halloween directly followed by two months of Christmas. The trimester that is referred to as the “Holiday Season” brings a parade of reasons to be in the company of fermented beverages. A bit of thoughtful consideration and preparation regarding your drink selection will ensure an enjoyable experience regardless of whether you relish or dread the gatherings to come. For me, this week is among the best times on the beer-drinking calendar. If you have had your fill of the earlier fall offerings (fest beers, gourd juice, and harvest ales), you will be pleased to see a plethora of elves in various moods and references to the impending weather dressing seasonal beer bottles and cans. That said, this time of transition coupled with the ever increasing options from great brewers may leave you wondering what to choose.

I have been slowly accumulating beers to share with my family during Thanksgiving dinner for the past month. My two brothers and sister-in-law have also been prepping which means I may have the most epic tasting of my life in a few days. The funny thing is that the beers we will be sharing are not particularly geared toward the meal to be consumed. Probably because the meal itself has been the subject of debate among our clan for some time. The traditional “turkey and other things with gravy on them” menu is slightly tainted due to a history of food temperature issues. By the time my aunt (who pulled off an amazing feat to serve a crew of our size) corralled the way too many people and prayers were heard, the turkey on our plates had always dried out and somehow cooled to below room temp. This didn’t bother me as much since I am liberal with the gravy and mostly there for the mashed potatoes and fine company.

One year, my brother and I ended up stopping for Chinese on the way home. I think the restaurant’s heating was broken because the cook was in a Gortex vest and you could see your breath in the place. A fine memory and source of much fun re-telling, but hardly the type that leaves you craving turkey. In recent years, we have splintered to smaller gatherings for giving thanks. Though this has improved turkey temperature and juiciness, my brother continues to fight for an alternate menu. Perhaps my great suggestions for pairing will win him over to drop the fight in the coming years.

I have read other lists enumerating beers for each individual menu item. I am going to make it easy on you and select three styles, provide a specific recommendation for each, and some alternatives to make sure you don’t have to chase geese as the saying goes.

  1. SAISONs are always a safe bet regardless of menu or company—but safe is not to say boring. There are countless, great variations on the style but I recommend Tank 7 from Boulevard Brewing. If this is difficult to find, opt for the classic and fantastic Saison Dupont or Hennepin from Ommegang. If you have been there / done that and need something new, Crooked Stave Surette will swing dance with your food. Allagash Interlude is also classified as a Saison and well, it rules.
  2. IPAs are generally considered to dominate the palate and therefore best served with bold, flavorful foods. I think this categorization neglects the spectrum of hop flavors available. Some beers bring sweet and citrus flavors that either complement or pleasantly contrast depending on the dish. So I am recommending Founders Mosaic Promise. It is just simple and delicious juice. Alternatively, I wish you a great evening with Bell’s Two Hearted or a Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye.
  3. SCHWARZBIER is not a style that you will see getting a line around the block for a limited release. Compared to other styles, I have tasted fewer examples. Last week, sitting in Hoboken train station’s finest bar, I had Insulated from Brooklyn Brewery. As much as I love all the adventurous experiments, hop bombs, and pseudo-rustic beers (I just perused my Untappd history to confirm this love), it was nice to have a clean and flavorful dark lager. I am going to cheat on alternatives since it may be difficult to find another in this style. Look for a dopplebock like Ayinger Celebrator or Troegs Troegenator.

Please be join me in being thankful because any other state is not worth your time. Hopefully the beers recommend are not only worth your time, but great enhancements to it.

Footnote: Beers consumed while considering and writing this post included Mosaic Promise from Founders and Citrus Ninja Exchange from Westbrook.

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