A while back Matt R. (I think) made a suggestion that we might want to try doing a Thanksgiving beer pairing, complete with courses and beers to match each. We all agreed that that sounded like a good idea, and we laid out a menu of traditional Thanksgiving foods - carrot ginger soup, turkey, sweet potato pie, sweet potato casserole, cranberry relish, cranberry sauce, stuffing, green beer casserole, corn casserole, rolls, pumpkin pie..
One thing I learned from the Turtle/Rabbit/Squirrel beer paring was to not overdo it - but a full cast of Knights (short Jim - who is a Jewish Vegetarian Lawyer (and those people are weird)) meant that if anything, there would be more than enough beer.
Because coordinating a write-up between a cast of nine is usually a trainwreck, I laid down one rule: No one leaves until we're gotten everything written up. While doling out responsibilities, the question was asked: "Are we reviewing the parings? The beer? The spirit of Thanksgiving?" "Yes, Rod, we're reviewing the spirit of Thanksgiving." What follows is out of order in more ways than one. And so..
The Spirit of Thanksgiving
Once every year, the ghost of Jesus rises from the dead to feast on the souls of the living. Every year we survive this atrocity, we celebrate our safety for another year through the holiday of Thanksgiving.
Back to Mike: When we decided to do a Thanksgiving pairing, I immediately turned to Garrett Oliver's The Brewmaster's Table for turkey pairings, and came across two full paragraphs expounding upon the virtues of Biere de Garde and Thanksgiving foods. A sample:
The French have yet to discover this food match, so let me be the one to tell you - biere de garde is brilliant with turkey. And not just with turkey - it is also brilliant with the turnips, the stuffing, the cranberry sauce, the potatoes, the whole darned thing.That's a fairly convincing argument, right?
Schlafly Biere de Garde
We probably served this beer a little too cold to start. The bottle specifically says cellar temperature ("51-55 degrees F") and we served it straight out of the fridge. Later samples definitely showed a bit more fruitiness. Not that that necessarily would have helped with the Thanksgiving meal pairings.
As for specific pairings, I thought the beer went particularly well with the green bean casserole. It was more of a contrasting pairing as opposed to a complimentary pairing. The fruitiness was interesting counterpoint to a dish full of green beans and mushrooms, though the caramelized onions linked up perfectly with the caramel malt flavors in the beer.
Matt R: 3.8
Matt E: 3.0
Schlafly Biere de Garde Average: 3.09 Mugs
Troegenator Doublebock - Troegs Craft Brewery
The nose starts out with a bit of a raisin sourness with chocolate and caramel toffee notes. It has a nice dark caramel color that resembles caramel ice cream topping. Taking a sip of this 8.2% ABV brew is a bit misleading as it warms the palate and tends to meander through the malt sweetness. As it warms to room temperature you tend to taste the lightly toasted caramel malt and it balances out. For being a fairly boozy brew, this has a great balance to misrepresent the ABV.
In regard to our Thanksgiving pairings, this worked really well with the sweet potato pie. It brought out the maple syrup notes and complimented the toasted pecans on the top. There is a great pairing with the oyster stuffing with bits of salty mushrooms and the malty sweetness of the beer. Overall, this works quite well with the majority of dishes for the Thanksgiving meal.
Matt R: 4.0
Matt E: 3.75
Troegenator Doublebock Average: 3.71 Mugs
Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron
This is supposed to be a brown? We picked up a black liquorish nose, with hints of vanilla, smokeless tobacco, bourbony alcohol, soy sauce, molasses, and almond extract. A deep black/purple/marron-maroon color filled the glass and left no lacing. This is an all out beer, with little in the way of subtlety. Black liquorish, sassafras, molasses, some cough medicine I had and hated as a kid (someone else said Dimetapp, bourbon, and toasted wood all came to play.
We all agreed that this beer would be interesting with some age on it, but would it be good?
Matt. E: 2.175
Matt R: 2.0
Rod: 3.8 (Who also noted: "You guys are jerks. If this was aged, (my score) would be even higher)
Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron Average: 2.60 Mugs
Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar
Jason brought out this beer and it wasn't really paired with anything, but just went along nicely in between dinner and dessert. Is that a new meal time? Rouge's take on the brown ale adds some nutty complexity with the traditional brown ale base. The mouthfeel is a little lacking in carbonation, but it still cleared the way for pumpkin pie quite nicely. This is beer is neither offensive or something to really write home about, but it is of good quality and worth your time.
Matt R: 2.5
Matt E: 3.6
Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar Average: 2.88 Mugs
For lack of a Left Hand Juju Ginger, we paired the carrot ginger soup with Chris' homebrew Sorachi IPA. Named after the Sorachi Ace hops, this IPA carried a very refreshing lemon flavor. Citrus and pine filled out the background but this IPA was noticeably lighter than others, while maintaining a very prominent bitterness. When paired with the ginger and black pepper flavors of the soup, a very floral character emerged and created a chamomile and heather flavor profile which blended nicely with the soup. The finish was a bit overpowering, as the hops quickly cleansed the palette of creamy squash and carrot. I think the lesson that we learned here is a citrus pale ale with a bit of a floral character would be a good pairing for ginger spiced squash or carrots.
Ps. Thanks to the folks at Goose the Market for their great brining instructional video and for all their help with the bird. Even I managed to make an tasty and tender turkey, which is no small feat.