In the olden days back in Minnesota, before I was officially “of drinking age,” we used to celebrate the poultry centric holiday with a few glasses of “Franzia Blush”…out of a box. But hey it sure beat Michelob Golden Light out of a can, Blatz, and this other tableside staple referred to in our family as “Morgan Davis” (Mogen David wine.) Try asking for “Morgan Davis” at a liquor store and let the ridicule begin, I know firsthand.
Thankfully, I discovered the joy of craft beer (then called microbrew) around the time Nirvana’s “Smells like teen spirit” started blaring out of my maroon Dodge 600’s windows. After the light-bulb went on a six pack or three of Summit Brewing’s finest would be hidden away in the basement refrigerator of my parent’s home. A few brave relatives would even ask for a pull (or a whole bottle), usually after a few glasses of liquid courage poured out of a box. Strangely this event occurred each year around the time John Madden and Pat Summerall dug into the turducken.
Twenty some years and 1500 miles later our Thanksgiving traditions have changed. Being down in Florida with my longtime sweetheart Lisa, and with her sister and family in close proximity, our large family gatherings are now much smaller. Gone are the lefse (which is a tasty Norwegian potato flatbread), and thank goodness- the pickled herring and the odiferous lutefisk are no longer with us. Vino still makes an appearance but it comes in the form of a decent and user friendly red.
Craft beer now dominates our Thanksgiving hooch bounty for a couple of different reasons. We really enjoy it for one and quality suds pair extraordinarily well with food. Also homebrew is poured through more taps than I’m willing to admit and somebody has to pretend like they enjoy it.
According to legend, one of the main reasons those thirsty pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock was because they ran out of ale. So we’re actually celebrating the spirit of the holiday when we crack open another frosty cold one. That excuse is usually recited later in the evening.
Anyway on to the food and beer
Smoked turkey breast is the protein du jour. Two or three boneless breasts grace the table and one is injected with apple juice and at least one is injected with Frank’s Red Hot sauce-the original buffalo wing sauce. Liberally dry-rubbed, they are smoked over apple wood.
Delicate with fruit overtones and moderately smoky, they do best with a brew doesn’t overpower. Belgian (and American) wits and strong ales both pair perfectly, the fruity esters (from the yeast) really compliment the meat. Allagash White, and Florida Brewing Co.’s Key West Sunset Wheat are solid selections as is Delirium Tremens.
Many flavors are contained within the plethora of side dishes. Sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberries, and stuffing all surround the good bird. Food friendly and versatile ambers, reds, pale ales, and brown ales work well. New Belgium’s Fat Tire, Cigar City’s Maduro Brown, and Summit Brewing Co.’s Extra Pale Ale fit the bill.
Rich deserts, usually in the form of Pecan and Pumpkin pie, complete the caloric odyssey and a special brew is required to help wash down all that decadence. Pumpkin beers make wonderful choices, as do winter warmers, chocolate beers, fruit beers, and Wee Heavies. Stouts and porters do the trick too. Tampa Bay Brewing Co.’s Gourds Gone Wild, Pensacola Bay’s Lighthouse Porter, Great Divide’s Claymore Scotch Ale, Rogue’s Chocolate Stout, and of course Cigar City’s Hunahpu Stout do those pies proud. To counteract that tryptophan and stay away for that second NFL game pick up a growler of Dunedin Brewery’s Biere’ de Café.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving and cheers!