Nov 11 2011

Thanksgiving Beer Pairings, The Wrong Way

Published by at 7:10 am under Beer,Holidays,Pairings

Put a beer in my hand, turkey

Snubbing the Snobs

Everyone seems to have an opinion on proper Thanksgiving beer pairings. Just google around and you’ll find article after articles touting the subtle nuances of kolsch and cranberries, or tripel and turkey.


This is America, people! And as Americans, we owe it to our heritage to say screw subtlety! Let’s drink, stuff ourselves, and pass out face down in waldorf salad.

So to all you sommeliers of suds, you fancy boys of froth – cram it. Keep your brainy pairings – here’s what I’m drinking this year.

First Course – Maytag Blue and Franziskaner

I love stinky cheese. And from many arduous seconds of half-assed reading on the subject while trying to sneak furtive glances at the ladies on Gossip Girl (Melissa watches, so back off.)  I’ve discovered that stinky cheese and light, citrus-y beer is a no-no.

Eff that.

Strong cheese gets me excited about the coming meal. By the time I’m eating cheese, I’m probably smelling the turkey in the oven. A strong cheese like Maytag gets my tastebuds firing on the same rhythm as my nose-buds.

Pairing with light, orange-y  means I can finish a beer or two and not feel like I need a nap before the bird hits the table. It’s a win win.

Second Course – Turkey, Stuffing and Gravy with Rare Vos

I might actually get some kudos from the snooty beer pairers of the world on this one. Ommegang’s is a natural pairing with the main meal. It’s flavorful without being aggressive. It keeps pace with the malty turkey, but isn’t distracted by the herby stuffing or buried under unctuous gravy.

Rare Vos is that rare brew that skates the right distance between all the competing elements in a Thanksgiving meal.

And I’ll be drinking 7 of them.

Dessert – Apple Pie and Whiskey Porter

Dessert will be a thick slice of apple pie, warm out of the oven, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. And a short pour of .

Yes, it’s wrong. Wrong to skip Pumpkin Pie. Wrong to eat apple pie with such a dark beer. Wrong to thumb my nose at this season of thanks and cholesterol.

But if whiskey porter and apple pie are wrong, I hereby question the rightness of everything. Everything.

Food Rules are Dumb

Listen, I’m all about natural pairings. Caramel and salt were made for each other. Arugula and sweet lemon dressing is a revelation. Steak and blue cheese give me a little rise in the you-know-where.

But for the love of god, the bajillion rules detailing what wine or beer to drink with that rare Eurasian flatfish, has gotten out of hand. This brainy approach to food and wine is all wrong. Eating and drinking isn’t about our brains. To most of us, it’s not about subtlety, either. It’s about flavor, socializing, and hedonistic joy.

So no, I don’t feel bad about pairing apple pie with something dark. Allagash white may be a more natural choice, but it’s Thanksgiving. Let me focus on actually being thankful without worrying if I’ve gotten the rules right.

Is that so much to ask?

What Do You Think?

Am I right about all these food rules getting in the way of true gastro-happiness, or do I need a lesson in subtlety?

Leave a comment and let’s all talk it out.

(also taking suggestions for your favorite Thanksgiving beer pairings)

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Thanksgiving Beer Pairings, The Wrong Way”

  1. EvanLacon 12 Nov 2011 at 11:34 am

    When I worked in the liquor store, folks would come in around Thanksgiving time (mostly the day before) and ask what wine goes well with a Thanksgiving dinner. We would tell them to drink whatever they want for two reasons.

    One, because it’s a holiday. Don’t drink something you don’t like, or take a gamble on something you’ve never had, just because you think you’re supposed to. Drink what you want and enjoy yourself.

    Two, because there isn’t a wine that goes with a Thanksgiving dinner. Pinot noir and chard are the obvious choices, but either one is going to get lost in all the flavor variety that is a Thanksgiving meal.

    Personally, I might do an unoaked chard for an aperitif, or maybe a bone dry champagne just because they’re fun. Then drink an inexpensive pinot noir throughout the meal simply because it’s better than nothing, which is, in turn, better than merlot.

    As for beer? I’ll just bring some Bass ale, the world’s best, most reliable and versatile beer.

  2. Abbyon 13 Nov 2011 at 11:25 am

    What do I know? But I think you’re both right and wrong. Seems to me that there are people who have a palate that’s much more sophisticated than mine who probably do notice a difference and who probably can put pretty impressive pairings together. I do think there are times when I’ve had the wrong beer or wine with a dinner and it mattered. But, all of that said, given that my palate is not that sophisticated and that I’m in my pajamas right now (illustrating further my lack of general sophistication), I like to have a variety of beer and whine on hand and tend toward what I like as a go-to. I don’t like Merlot. I just don’t. I didn’t like it before Sideways, either. I like cab-savs and zinfandels and pinots. I don’t love white wine in general, but I tend to have a bottle of white zin, chardonnay, and maybe a pinot grigio on hand for big meals. Honestly, in terms of beer, I’ll drink a good IPA with anything, but that’s not true of everyone, so we tend to have a wheat and a Sam Adams type around, too.

    I don’t like Merlot. I don’t like Brown Ales. It doesn’t much matter what food you put in front of me, I still won’t like those drinks. And I do like risotto. If you put a sweet white wine in front of me, I’m probably not drinking it with my risotto. But I’ll drink it later.

  3. on 14 Nov 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Ha! I’m working on a similar post right now (great minds…). I don’t think the “rules” are ever arbitrary. They are probably there for a reason, but I feel with the onslaught of the internet and blogs and whatnot, there are so many hard-and-fast “rules” that people throw out there, it’s hard to know what’s what. So I’ll agree with you: Drink whatcha like. I recently blogged about and about , so I guess you have at least one ally in your corner .

    Personally I think beer is much better to pair with any food versus wine because of the carbonation. I think Evan is right that a Sparkling will work wonders for any course of the Thanksgiving meal (appetizers, the main event, or dessert). You could even get crazy with a sparkling Shiraz. An off-dry Prosecco would be nice, too. I just picked up a bottle of that might make it’s way to my Thanksgiving feast. We usually serve up the from the same vineyard. This year we will add to the repertoire the hard cider that’s fermenting away in the root cellar.

    So that probably doesn’t add anything to the beer pairing discussion, but I can’t really improve upon or argue the Rare Vos (since it is my fave beer of all time ev-ah). Maybe try the has body but won’t fill you up. I actually think Yuengling might pair terrifically, as well.

    PS – who says because you take a slice of apple pie you have to forgo the pumpkin? That’s just silly.
    Deanna (Silly Goose Farm) recently posted..

  4. on 15 Nov 2011 at 11:52 am

    Oh, and since Beaujolais Nouveau is released exactly one week before Thanksgiving, it’s a natural choice (secretly I get more excited for BN Release Day than Thanksgiving).
    Deanna (Silly Goose Farm) recently posted..

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