Nov. 23, 2013 at 8:49 AM ET
If the Thanksgiving feast at your house is anything like mine, every morsel that hits the table holds a revered place in the heart of a family member and cannot be altered in the slightest. Mom likes the stuffing just so, sister adores her green bean casserole, and Grandma insists on having the cranberries from the can in all of their gelatinous glory. The menu is on lockdown.
But just because you can’t alter the fixings doesn’t mean you can’t explore interesting new flavors on turkey day. Adding some slightly offbeat beers to the mix can create interesting new flavor possibilities that won’t rock anyone’s perfectly preplanned holiday spread.
Cantillon Rosé De Gambrinus is a 5 percent ABV Belgian Lambic brewed with raspberries that’s a love/hate proposition, sometimes by the same person (I’ve had it and loved it, only to find myself suffering through a glass of the stuff when I tried it again). My fickleness aside, this is a beautifully made beer.
Rosé De Gambrinus pours a deep amber with a pink tinge, with a sip providing a puckerfest of tart raspberry, a jab of citrus, and lots of earthy barnyard funk. This beer’s sweet fruit tartness plays nice with many of the traditional Thanksgiving tastes, and its acidic bite will cleanse the palate with every sip, allowing you to discover new and interesting flavors hidden inside of the well-worn tastes of the holiday.
The recipe for Dogfish Head Theobroma,a 9 percent ABV ale brewed with Aztec cocoa powder, honey, chilies and annatto tree seeds, goes back much further than the first Thanksgiving. It’s a reincarnation of an ancient chocolate tipple first crafted around 3,000 years ago in Honduras, pieced together by performing chemical analysis on pottery shards found at an archeological dig site.
The result is a complex beer that pours a lovely copper color – not what you’d expect from a chocolate beer. It leads with a honeyed flavor, followed by notes of cocoa and just a hint of chili bite that grows a bit with every sip. Not only will this wonderfully weird beer add a kick of spice to a traditionally toned down Thanksgiving tastes like mashed potatoes, its notes of chocolate and honey will complement the sweeter flavors of candied yams, creamy casseroles and bread pudding.
A glassful of pumpkin
When I was a kid, I couldn’t get enough pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. Now as an adult, I don’t have to wait for it – I can drink it with my meal. Southern Tier Pumking’s screaming orange label might not bring a dash of panache to your table, but this 8.6 percent ABV imperial pumpkin ale will delight you with its rich threads of malt, vanilla and pumpkin pie spices.
If you can imagine how tasty it would be to take a nibble of pumpkin pie between bites of turkey or ham or sweet potatoes or stuffing, then you get the idea of what pleasures this pumpkin-pie-in-a-glass can add to your repast.
One bird, two stones
Why not embrace “Thanksgivukkah” – this year’s ultra-rare overlapping of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah -with a Hebrew-themed beer that’ll bring a jolt of flavor to your table? Schmaltz Brewing Company’s He'Brew Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A. is an India pale ale brewed with a hearty dose of rye.
The result is a 10 percent ABV beer with a big pop of hops at the front and rich and earthy malts at the back. There’s also a hearty thread of booziness throughout the flavor, which might make it easier to tolerate your uncle’s “unique” sense of humor until you can plug him back into TV to watch the football game. This beer is quite flavorful, but it will play nicely with what’s on your table, even if it insists on taking the lead.
At its best, Thanksgiving is the ultimate in comfort food, a yearly meal that elicits memories of happy years gone by and hopes for the happy holidays to come. Bringing some unique beers to the table allows you to have the best of both worlds – the cozy tastes of tradition and a quaff of quirkiness thrown in to spice things up.