Celebrating with BEER this Holiday Season

by: BeerAdvocate on 11-17-2006
It's been documented in voyage journals that the Mayflower abandoned its voyage and landed in Plymouth due to running out of beer. That one of the first establishments constructed within the Pilgrim colony was a brewery, and that most of its passengers were also separatist farmers, poorly educated and without social or political standing. Given these facts, do you honestly think that they drank wine at the very first Thanksgiving in 1621? Hell no! They drank beer!

Celebrating with BEER this Holiday Season, Thanksgiving and Christmas beer and food pairingsSo as the holiday season creeps up yet again, some of you will ask your hosts what to bring to Thanksgiving and Christmas. You can go ahead and be that same boring person that shows up with that cheap bottle of Chardonnay, thinking that it will help you swallow down hunks of dry turkey. But that's just plain rude, man. Cheap and boring is not the way to go.

What you really need is some quality craft-brewed beer to liven up the festivities. Impress the hell out of everyone when you whip out bottles of intriguing beer and reel off brief explanations of what they are. Fortify the ancestral tradition of feasting by complementing it with beer. Suggest a beer pairing with dinner. Hell, make it an all-day event, and remember there's nothing wrong with drinking at 10am. Beer goes with every meal and minute of the day!

Here are some brief suggestions ...

Apéritif (before dinner)
Try not to kill palates too early in the day, by starting off with a nice light-bodied (not lite in soul) Pilsner or Lager to introduce the evening and guests with. Offer something that will arouse appetites and slowly awaken the senses.

* Brooklyn Lager or Pilsner
* Otter Creek Vermont Lager
* Sam Adams Boston Lager
* Victory Prima Pils

You could even try a Belgian-style Strong Pale Ale along the lines of Duvel. Its light-bodied fluffiness and higher alcohol will loosen minds into conversation.

Hors d'oeuvre Hour
Kick things up a notch with a moderate level of hops. The hoppy characters in Pale Ales will pair nicely with salads, a slew of cheese varieties, fruits, and many hors d'oeuvres, without overwhelming any flavors. But don't go too bitter.

* Anchor Liberty Ale
* Smuttynose Shoal's Pale Ale
* Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
* Three Floyds Alpha King Pale Ale

Eating poultry, gravy, stuffing, etc? You could kick the day up a notch by pairing your meal with some strong Belgian-style ales. Their higher alcohol percentages cut through fats and starches, provide an edge of sweetness, and boast very diverse and complex flavors that lend themselves very well to this pairing.

* Allagash Grand Cru
* Avery Salvation
* Russian River Damnation
* Ommegang Rare Vos

Another recommendation is to reintroduce more Pilsners and Lagers, as they will not only act as a palate cleanser in-between bites, but their lightness and spicy tones complement poultry and the contrast with gravies and stuffing is often welcome.

In our opinion, the best course in which to pair beer with. However, the last thing you want to do is kill a beer with a pairing that is too sweet, so ensure that your beers are sweeter than your desserts. Rich and big Stouts are our favorites, and tend to work very well.

* Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout
* Founders Breakfast Stout or Kentucky Breakfast Stout
* Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout or Oak Aged Yeti
* Stone Russian Imperial Stout

Digestif (after dinner)
Time to kick back and let that food digest. No doubt you are bloated at this point, so the moment calls for something smooth and numbing. Enter Barleywine-style ales, or a similar, big, complex, malty and alcoholic beer. Simply decant some into a snifter, sip, and appreciate life, and your swollen gut.

* Dogfish Head Immort Ale or Raison d'Extra
* Rouge Old Crustacean
* Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine Style Ale
* Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot Barley Wine Style Ale

Now our examples are certainly not the bible in pairing beer with food, but they should give you head start. In time, you will find that nearly every beer pairs with most types of food, some more than others with certain styles of food, and others less. Just remember to be experimental with your pairings and make sure to have fun doing it. And with that, we'll leave you with a 16th century English proverb:

Wine is but single broth, ale is meat, drink and cloth.

Respect Beer.
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