I enjoy Thanksgiving and at the risk of being sappy, it is a great time to have our small but agile four-person family together, something that is becoming a rare occurrence as the kids spread their wings.

In addition, we are fortunate to attend a Thanksgiving celebration where a semi-large crew of delightful family plus friends plus surprise friends of friends all convene at my wonderful brother and sister-in-law’s house. The theme of the menu is that everyone brings some kind of food or drink offering they are proud of and want to share with friends and family.  Thankfully, sharing beer has become a part of that tradition and there are many craft beer adventurists in our family! 

Like the many characters in a family, there are also many varieties and nuances of beer. This article should hit newsstands about one week before Thanksgiving, so I’ll give you proven approaches for enhancing your Thanksgiving / Family / Beer experience.

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Quick start

After traveling to your destination or welcoming all the guests at your home, there could be no better time to sip on one of those stronger Double IPAs you have had in the fridge and have been waiting for the perfect time to break out.  Even better, split it into two glasses and share with the new boyfriend of your niece’s friend who looks like a deer in headlights standing in corner doing his best Marcel Marceau impression.  He will thank you… silently.  From a beer-food pairing perspective, the citrus will complement most anything.  At our gathering, we typically have a charcuterie (thank you spellcheck) platter, and the hop bitterness goes especially well with the meats.  

Try Iowa’s Toppling Goliath Brewery pseudoSue Pale Ale with a citrus-y taste and well-balanced hop bitterness at a manageable 6.8% abv. If you want to step it up give Columbia County, NY Chatham Brewery Bombogenesis or its cousin Pineapple Bombogenesis a whirl as both are outstanding citrusy bold double IPAs weighing in at 8.5% abv.  Each brewery’s noteworthy names that could spur conversation such as “Uncle Ferdinand, what exactly is a Bombogenesis?”

Time for Turkey!

Ok, so now there is an abundance of food in front of you including, in our case, multiple self-given award winning versions of stuffing and green beans. What kind of beer should you have? Given the variety, I suggest keeping it simple with a beer that’s complementary yet stays out of the way of the food flavors.

Crisp German Pilsners like Oskar Blues Brewery Mama’s Little Yella Pills at 4.7% abv and mellow but flavorful lagers (say hello to anything from Jack’s Abby) will work well. This approach will steadily guide your thirst through the plentiful courses ahead of you. I have a nice selection of elastic waist pants specifically for these occasions.

Time for Dessert!

Have that pumpkin ale in the fridge? Bring it out! Got that imperial stout? Yes, please! Newsflash: sweeter beers pair very well with sweet desserts and especially if they are served in a snifter style glass at room temperature. A few examples include Captain Lawrence Autumn Blaze Pumpkin Ale 5% abv with just the right amount of pumpkin and Evil Twin Brewery Imperial Biscotti Break 11.5% abv, which literally has a biscotti taste profile as it warms.

If you do not care to double down on sweetness, open up any Belgium style ale with its innate effervescent, fruity, lightly spiced, low bitterness profile that will cleanse your palate and provide authentic taste profiles dating back to the 1800’s that still play well today.  Try the gold standard bearing Chimay Belgium ales in any of their 4-5 varieties that have been killing it since 1862.  They come in very sharable larger form bottles as well.  In addition, I have found that people who make blanket statements such as “I don’t like beer” will potentially like Belgium style ales.. give it a try.

Alternatives

So there I was sitting at a local beer purveyor doing research and a beer tasting from Athletic Brewing Company out of Stratford, Conn., was just starting up.  Hmm I said to myself, this is serendipitous as I ambled over to the tasting table only to be shocked to find that all the beers were non-alcoholic. What the? To be polite, I sampled them all and was very pleasantly surprised to find them excellent! Literally, the great tastes of different styles of beer without any of the alcohol. So for any or all of the beer-food pairings I mentioned above please consider substituting these Craft Non-Alcoholic Beers from Athletic if they suit your tastes:

Appetizers: Run Wild IPA or Free Double Hop IPA
Dinner: Upside Dawn Golden Ale
Dessert: Stump Jump Autumn Brown

Finally, one of the traditions we have at the Thanksgiving dinner table before we dig in is to read a poem (author unknown) from awhile back that resonates with us all as it distills the annoyances we all have in life and turns them on their head. Here is an excerpt you might like:

Be Thankful for:
...the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.
...the taxes I pay because it means that I am employed.
...the clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat. 
...all the complaining I hear about our government because it means we have freedom of speech.
...my huge heating bill because it means that I am warm.
...the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours because it means that I’m alive. 

The Katonah Beer Man
TheKatonahBeerMan@gmail.com