A few weeks ago I was wandering the aisles of my local grocery store in a pre-coffee haze searching for the eggs, milk, and bacon that are the basis of pretty much any weekend breakfast at our house. At this point in the morning, most sounds are muddy, lights are too bright and everything seems to zoom around me. I was only up because our 9-month-old apparently doesn’t understand the concept of sleeping in on the weekend. As I was paying the cashier and nodding in agreement to whatever she just said, two words and a familiar melody from the speakers above pierced thru the muddle and speared into my brain: jingle bells.
Can it really be Christmas already? Halloween was three days ago? I was suddenly awake. And not too happy.
Events on the calendar seem to be creeping forward in time. It’s not all bad, of course. Creep is a mixed bag. It’s early November and I can go enjoy a bottle of Nutcracker or Sierra Nevada Celebration. Soon after the new year, we’ll be greeted with the spring seasonals. That’s not bad. Hearing “Jingle Bell Rock” on what I now know will be a two-month loop, however, is. It’s all part of the consumer culture of capitalism, and Christmas is the holiest consumer season on the capitalist calendar. The biggest victim of the ever-expanding Christmas season – beyond the psyche of anyone who doesn’t live for two months of caroling – is Thanksgiving. Which is a shame, because Thanksgiving is far too good be be overlooked.
With its copious spread of turkey, potatoes, dressing, gravy, green bean casserole, rolls, cranberry sauce, yams, desserts, seconds, leftovers, and everything in between, Thanksgiving is an eater’s paradise. As a happy eater and a real beer nerd, it can also be a beer pairing adventure. There are so many different foods on the table (and your plate) at any time, the right beer to truly enhance your meal can be hard to pinpoint. Since there are so many different flavors to play with, it can be daunting. But challenges are fun!
So, as a service, we are offering the inaugural KC Beer Scouts Guide to Thanksgiving Beer Pairing. We’ll break it into parts to cover the whole day: Before Dinner, With the Bird, and For Dessert. All the beers we suggest are available at many of the better liquor stores around town. None are too rare. Try Royal Liquors on 103rd and State Line, either of the two Lukas Liquors or any of the Gomer’s as a starting point.
As you prepare the Thanksgiving meal or maybe just catch whiffs of deliciousness wafting to you from the kitchen, you’ll probably want something to sip on. You don’t want anything at this point to be too filling, so it can’t be too heavy. (Did you notice all the hard work you/your spouse/your mother/your grandmother put into all this food?) As an aperitif, it ought to start up your appetite, not shut it down. There are a few routes we can take to this goal.
Light-Bodied Aperitifs with Some Bitterness
Lighter-bodied beers with solid bitterness is one way to approach appetite stimulation. Bitterness is a traditional ingredient in Italian aperitifs. Pilseners, Dortmunders, pale ales and extra special bitters fit this bill. Although be careful to avoid anything too bitter–tongue destroying IPAs can will ruin tastebuds for the main course. (Remember all that hard work going on in the kitchen!) Here are a few suggestions:
- DAB Original
- Ayinger Jahrhundert
- Pilsener Urquell
- Crown Valley Old School Pils
- Stone Levitation
- Schalfly APA
- Deschutes Red Chair NWPA
- Fuller’s London Pride
- Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery Pale Ale
Light-Bodied and Tart Aperitifs
Another approach to stimulating the palette would be to have something a little tart. It could be mildly sour to full-on puckering, but a little acidity will get your system ready for the cornucopia of calories that awaits. So, we’re looking at light-bodied, bright beers that have some sourness. Gueuze, faro (sweetened lambics), Flanders red, and Berliner weisse fit in here. Some examples are:
- Lindemans Cuvée Rene
- Tilquin Gueuze
- Lindemans Faro
- Zoetzuur Flemish Ale
- Petrus Aged Pale
- Boulevard Love Child #2 (You haven’t cellared any?)
- Bell’s Oarsman
If you’re family is like mine, there will be plenty of munching before the actual meal, and any of these beers will work just fine with cheese and crackers, chips and dip, or a veggie tray.
Ready for some turkey and all the fixings now? Bet so. Come back tomorrow for our recommendations on what’s the perfect thing to serve with the bird, stuffing, gravy and the rest of the spread.