15 April 2010

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16 November 2009

Serve beer with Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving with us means family, friends, good food, and good beer. This annual pilgrimage brings us to the home of my aunt and uncle, where we all hang around the kitchen, snacking on cheese and crackers as the roast turkey is carved and the side-dishes of stuffing, green beans and yams are transferred into antique serving bowls.

Each year I bring an assortment of wine-size bottled beers to share. Though I generally bring six bottles, this year I selected seven different brews...

Roslyn Brookside Beer: Locally brewed in Roslyn, Wash., this lightly sweet pale lager whets the whistle and stimulates the palate as a before-dinner aperitif, pairing with nearly any of the assorted appetizers plates brought by family members. Crisp and smooth, this lager features soft caramel malts and grassy hops and is around 4.5% ABV. $3.99, 22 oz

Spire Mountain Dark & Dry Apple Cider: When we were kids, sparkling apple cider served with Thanksgiving was the norm and it tasted oh-so-good, so this year I’m bringing a cider from Olympia, Wash. to share. Dark & Dry’s fresh apple balanced with molasses and brown sugar is sure to pair not only with the turkey, but also the grand finale of the eve—pumpkin pie. 5% ABV. $4.50, 22 oz

Avery Sixteen Anniversary Ale: Saison beers are known for pairing incredibly with turkey. Brewed to celebrate the 16th Anniversary of Colorado’s Avery Brewing Company, it features a special blend of jasmine, peaches, and honey that’s been fermented with a Belgian yeast strain to create a marvelously spicy and fruity, dry, saison ale. This limited-release ale has been one of my favorite beers of 2009, and I’m particularly excited to share it with the family over Thanksgiving dinner. 7.6% ABV. $7.99, 22 oz

Koningshoeven Tripel: Another of my favorite beers, this Tripel (Belgian strong pale ale) features light malts, with sweet-and-tart esters reminiscent of peach, apricot, melon, and tropicals. It presents a dry finish and lightly warming alcohol. Koningshoeven is one of seven Trappist breweries in the world that are producing fine ales; of the Trappists, this is the only one that heralds from The Netherlands. 8% ABV. $11.50, 25.4 oz

By now, you’re probably noticing a trend: Lighter beers pair with turkey. When pairing food with beer, the main rule to follow: The more delicate the food, the more delicate the beer. The heftier the food, the heftier the beer.

We typically crack open all of the beers during the before-dinner hors d’ouvres hour, and everyone gets a taste of each beer. It’s always a surprise to learn which beers are the favorites…and to see which actually make it to the dinner table (verses being consumed in the pre-dinner hour!). Rarely am I right when guessing which will be the top picks of the eve. (Last Christmas I thought it would be a malty, spicy Christmas ale, as it had been the previous year, only to see the Blanche de Namur licorice-spiced witbier disappear first and be elected as the most popular.)

The Bruery Autumn Maple: One of the main dishes I look forward to each Thanksgiving is the brown sugar and marshmallow covered baked yams. Reminiscent of that dish, Autumn Maple is brewed with hundreds of pounds of roasted yams and a fair share of molasses. This full-bodied Belgian-style brown ale has flavors of yam, marshmallow, brown sugar, molasses, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon. It’s truly yammy! —and is deserving of a spot next to the turkey. This beer comes to us from California. 10% ABV. $13.29, 25.4 oz

Allagash Grand Cru: This Grand Cru has a complex palate of toasted biscuit, candied orange, clove, allspice, vanilla, and honey—all pairing well with nearly anything on the Thanksgiving table. And the crisp carbonation of this ale acts as a palate cleanser, prepping your tastebuds for the next dish. One thing I love about this beer is it ages well. When properly cellared, just a year or two of age causes the candied orange to become a more prominent flavor. Incredibly delicious! And like the Koningshoeven Tripel, this beer comes in a wine-size bottle that’s corked-and-caged, giving a celebratory “POP!” when the cork is removed. Beers labeled as “Grand Cru” typically mean “the best” from the brewery; this one comes to us from Allagash Brewing of Maine. 7.2% ABV. $10.99, 25.4 oz

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout: Okay, I confess. I’m not sure this is going to actually pair with anything on the Thanksgiving table. But as one of my favorite beers of 2009, I just have to bring a bottle of this limited-release stout to share with the family. While stouts that have a strong coffee profile typically pair well with any dessert, this stout boasts a big bourbon punch, both in aroma and in flavor. This Chicago-brewed ale is as dark and dense as a black hole. The aroma is of charred oak, vanilla, caramel and smoke. The rich, robust, rich flavors feature molasses, burnt caramel, vanilla bean, bourbon, dark roast coffee, and oak. It pairs well with most desserts and cigars (though I don’t think any of my family are cigar smokers!). Reviewers on BeerAdvocate.com and RateBeer.com give it scores of “100%” and “outstanding”, and I concur! 13% ABV. $12.50, 22 oz


Have questions on beer or these notes? Contact Tiffany at 99 Bottles, the best beer store in Western Washington according to Evening Magazine’s 2009 consumer poll. You can reach Tiffany at earlybird@99bottles.net or (253) 838-2558. 99 Bottles is open Monday 12-8PM, Tuesday thru Thursday 10AM-8PM, and Sunday 12-5PM. Visit www.99bottles.net for store information.



If you’re only planning to serve one beer at the table, match the dominant dish and flavor. On Thanksgiving this is clearly the turkey. The best beer styles for pairing with baked turkey are saisons, bière de garde, or even a Belgian Tripel or golden ale. Saisons and bière de gardes are both lightly sweet with an herbal quality about them, which make them perfect partners for turkey and stuffing.

For smoked turkey, pair a lightly hoppy brown ale, a Scottish ale, or dunkelweizen. These styles of beer have notes of caramel on the palate, which perfectly marry with the turkey’s caramelized skin.

For the non-traditionalist who serve ham for Thanksgiving dinner, partner it up with a weizenbock. (Sometimes we see both baked turkey and ham on the table at the family’s Thanksgiving celebration!)

12 June 2009

Beer for Picnics

It's picnic season! That means plenty of delicious grilled foods with side dishes of fresh fruits and salads...so why settle for "beer water"?

Try these beer styles for picnic pairings...

BBQ ribs... Vienna lager
Carrot cake... India pale ale
Cherry pie... kriek (cherry) lambic, chocolate stout
Fruit salad... hefeweizen, American pale wheat, kolsch
Potato salad... hefeweizen
Green salad w/creamy dressing... pilsner
Green salad w/vinaigrette dressing... hoppy brown ale
Grilled chicken... dunkel lager, dunkelweizen, kolsch
Grilled salmon... dunkel lager, bock
Grilled steak... porter, Irish dry stout, Belgian dubbel
Hamburger... amber ale, brown ale, English or American golden ale
Sausages... Oktoberfest-Maerzen, Vienna lager, bock, hefeweizen
Smoked salmon... Irish dry stout, Scottish ale/wee heavy
Spinach salad w/vinaigrette dressing... Flanders red
Steamed clams & mussels... witbier, pilsner
Stuffed mushrooms... kolsch, Dortmunder lager