We can’t have large Thanksgiving gatherings this year, since those potentially spread Covid far and wide, but we can still drink our Thanksgiving beers at home. I don’t usually have a large beer-drinking crowd, but enough that I can buy something new and interesting to try, or crack open a bottle of some rich aged stout to share among a few people. The lack of those people present in my house on Thursday is not going to stop me from opening something though.
Stick that turkey in the oven and break out that bourbon barrel-aged monster you’ve been aging. It’s strong, but the best thing about these beers is that they taste better approaching room temperature than fridge temperature, so even if you’re just sipping over a few hours, they’re still delicious. Drink them more like bourbon than like beer.
Alementary makes a beer called Figgy Pudding, which is typically described as an English Barleywine, though I’m not sure that really captures it.
Big sweet bready malt, with a full range of supporting characters from light toffee to low chocolate. Fruit aromas of apricot, date, significant fig. Flavors of holiday fruitcake with massive malt structure. Figs for days, with supporting apricot. Date and Prune are secondary.
It’s a really neat beer, and I really love it. It’s also one of those that you can age. I’ve got a few bottles from previous years and I’m intending to open one up around noon on Thursday. At 9% it’s not as heavy hitting as some could be, but either way I”m looking forward to enjoying it slowly while I pull together appetizers/snacks or mashed potatoes or other such foods.
So much of Thanksgiving drink media talks about pairing your beverage with the meal, but that just feels like clickbait to me. The meal is one small portion, and you’re probably snacking all day. You’re definitely DRINKING all day right? The drink for 1pm spinach artichoke dip is different than when you have your plate stacked high with various mashed tubers. Drink what you like!
I was in NY briefly earlier this month and went to a bottle shop in Valley Stream that I usually go to, but hadn’t been since the pandemic started. They’re pretty good with having some more of the local Long Island breweries that don’t distribute to me in New Jersey, and other various breweries distributed to NY but not NJ. Mayflower brewing company is one, and I saw they had a Thanksgiving Ale. I picked up a 4-pack of that, to be my ‘drinking with dinner’ beer.
After dinner, which is typically earlier in the day than ‘real’ dinner time, I suspect I’ll need something crisper and bubbly. This might be the time for a bottle of champagne, or a nice pale Ale. We’ve got a nice bottle of Pinot Noir sparking wine from Sparkling Pointe that might be right, or I did buy a 4-pack of Alementary’s Random Placement Of Things which would fit the bill too.
Finishing beer? Probably something small and smooth. A better person might say water here, but I’m thinking of a few light and fruity ales I have in the basement, or something like a dark mild. Plenty of taste, but nothing overpowering. Something to coast to the finish line with.
Whatever you enjoy, stay safe and go ahead and tag @BarleyProse with what you’re drinking. Cheers!
Note: If you haven’t yet read Ceetar’s wonderful new piece entitled “Thanksgiving is a Beer Holiday”, please go get your main course there first, then come back here for some dessert.
Turkey. Stuffing. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Green beans. Cranberry sauce. Fourteen kinds of pie (I hope, I hope, please please please let there be fourteen kinds of pie, pretty please).
While, in theory, a pumpkin ale sounds like it would be devoured in perfect harmony with the dishes that make up the classic Thanksgiving menu, I offer an alternative to you, gentle reader. I humbly posit that exchanging beer for bourbon might pair just as well with the food, and leave you not feeling so full that you wanna eject stomach gravy all over your granny’s shaggy living room carpet.
I’d be a damned liar if I told you that La Cumbre’s La Negra bourbon barrel aged stout or Marble’s Pumpkin Noir will not make an appearance at our Thanksgiving get-together. Like Ceets said, the day is long, start early. But when others zig for that IPA or another stout, I’m gonna zag my way on over to the bourbon shelf and do turkey day my way.
Since the drinking will begin closer to sunrise than sunset, it’s imperative to get out of gates slowly so I’ll start my Thanksgiving with the Basil Hayden’s Two-By-Two Rye. This is as close as you can come to a non-alcoholic beverage where bourbon is concerned (checks in at a measly 80 proof / 40% ABV). It’s as smooth as Sade, so you’ll still be able to talk to people without any slurring or mumbling (which will likely come later).
Ah, talking to people. A pitfall of Thanksgiving. We’ll all be happy to see our friends and most of our relatives, but sometime in the early afternoon, that vocal Trump-supporting in-law will show up (and in fairness, he’ll have to deal me, the “libtard craft beer blogger”), and that’s when Knob Creek is the best goddamn thing in the whole wide world.
This particular bottle I picked up last month on a motorcycle journey across the southern United States that culminated in a bourbon trail run through the beautiful state of Kentucky (with DD, I should add, the bikes were parked for this particular leg). I left home with an empty bag I planned to stuff with bourbon bottles and that bag came back full, gentle reader, same as my heart just now as I recall riding past mile after mile of cotton fields with a delicious liquid bounty tied down to my faithful iron colt. Sweet irresponsibility.
Anyway, Knob Creek, in my opinion, is always a little hotter than other bourbons, so this 115 proof / 57.5% ABV fire-breather (that was hand selected by none other than Jim Beam master distiller Fred Noe himself!) will drop me into a proper early afternoon buzz, and will allow me to torch a would-be political debater like I was Drogon flaming a bunch of digital extras in a Game of Thrones throwdown. That was a long sentence, I’m sorry. But it’s one of those bourbons that makes you shiver and shake a little after you swallow it. It’s distilled with the kind of attitude you need to shake off rivals, so it’s perfect for this time of day with disparate personalities arriving and cautiously intermingling.
Now it’s time for the big Thanksgiving meal. And with all the flavors competing for our taste buds’ affection and attention, a special bourbon will need to be summoned to meet the challenge. This is when I call on the Maker’s Mark Private Select Oak Stave by Bill Samuels, Jr. These Private Select offerings by Maker’s are pretty cool. Dig this from their website:
Beginning as fully matured Maker’s Mark® at cask strength, Private Select is created by adding 10 custom wood finishing staves to each barrel…
The finishing staves can be any combination of five flavor profiles chosen especially for this program.
The five profiles can be a combination of any of the following: Baked American Pure 2, Seared French Cuvée, Maker’s 46, Roasted French Mocha and Toasted French Spice.
This particular batch, Bill Samuels decided to ignore the four other flavor profiles entirely and devote all 10 staves in this batch to Maker’s 46, so we’re left with a bottle that has the subtle sweet of the 46, but in a 110.6 proof, 55.3% ABV monster. Any flavor on your beautiful Thanksgiving plate can represent the Yin, and this wonderfully complex bourbon will Yang it the hell back around. A truly resplendent spirit.
Dinner is done, the plates are cleared. Trump guy is in the other room watching football even though he hates football, and the vultures are in the kitchen picking at the leftovers. We have to pace ourselves here a little bit, so I’ll switch now to the Weller Special Reserve, my go-to everyday type bourbon. Weller replaced the rye in the mash with wheat, and for some reason, that makes it the easiest thing in the world to drink. I already used “smoother than Sade” (which was was a lie, nothing is smoother than Sade), so “smoother than Steph Curry’s release” seems like a full notch or two below Sade. I need a Prose-inator filled with sexy smooth similes to help me through this piece. Regardless, the Weller is smooth like Giant Steps Coltrane, as you can see by this nearly empty bottle.
People are hugging good-byes now, speaking on how we’ll all congregate again at the December holidays, only then everyone’s stress levels will be exponentially higher. No four-day weekend like glorious Thanksgiving, and many of us will feel overburdened because we spent way too much money buying gifts for everyone when bloated commerce seems completely out of the true spirit of the holidays. I already miss Thanksgiving, my comfy sweat pants and watching football with Trump guy who can be alright sometimes in his own ways.
At this point I’ll be slurring, all warm inside and telling everyone how much I’ll miss them, and at that moment, I’ll actually mean it. I’ll close with an offering from Washington state – the BSB (Brown Sugar Bourbon) by Heritage Distilling. The only difference between this thing and a Cinnabon at the airport is nothing, there is no difference at all. You will get a massive sugar buzz from the delicious airport Cinnabon and this easy 60 proof / 30% ABV warm, liquid treat will sneak up on you even though it tastes not like booze at all, but like that yummy $8 dollar, 900-calorie demon of an airport terminal delicacy that will leave you in a heap of sweaty regret. This particular bottle, however, was purchased as part of a fundraiser for Seattle’s homeless community during Pearl Jam’s 2018 epic summer “Home Shows”, so the slothy regret is tempered by its good intentions, if only slightly.
And with that, I bid you a Happy Thanksgiving, gentle reader. Be it bourbon or beer, Lions or Cowboys, Trump or anyone else, let your day be filled with hearty foods and spirits, and stellar company to match. And if you have any Pappy Van Winkle on your shelf, hit me up. I’ll bring by some leftover pie.
People might talk to you about wine at Thanksgiving, and that’s fine if you like wine, but it’s really the perfect holiday for beer. There is no gift exchange. You’re probably filling your stomach with plenty of alcohol-soaking food. It’s an all day holiday but besides dinner you really have no obligations but to sit around and chat…..and drink.
So why not beer? Even leaving aside the ways certain beers can pair better with all that rich and heavy food, most of your drinking probably isn’t happening at dinner. So open up a big bottle you’ve been saving, maybe even something someone gave you during the holiday season last year. Have an unofficial bottle share. Introduce family members that aren’t usually beer drinkers to some of the different flavors some of these beers bring.
Thanksgiving may be dressed up as a fancy dinner in some respects, but it’s not, nor has it ever been. It’s a working man’s celebration that there is enough food to last the winter. To celebrate the harvest being in, the land being plentiful, to be thankful of those that help us survive and thrive. The classic dishes aren’t fancy dishes out of a fancy restaurant, even in the age of farm to table. They’re simple, classic dishes. Meat, potatoes, veggies. This isn’t a 10 course dining experience; most of the time you’re chatting, and munching, and watching sports. So beer. Beer fits perfectly. Or cider. A crisp apple cider goes really well with a lot of these dishes, but let’s talk about the beer.
You’re going to start early, you’re going to have a big meal in the middle, long before you even entertain driving. You can have a few, or a big, beer. Open up that 10-14% bomber of stout that you’d never find a time to drink on your own. Share it. Bring out those pumpkin beers you bought but didn’t love, I bet you’ll find a lot of people interested in trying some of that. Did you score a bottle of some fancy limited release bourbon barrel aged concoction? Did you pick up a six-pack of less rare, but still delicious, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout? Did someone bring something you’ve never heard of but thought you’d like because you’re into beer? Open them! Drink them! Share them! Most of the guests are there with nothing to do but drink, chat, and eat. It’s basically a bottle share with a big meal at the end.
My Thanksgiving is going to be low-key this year, I’m eating out at a German restaurant, which probably means Oktoberfest with dinner. On Saturday I’m having some friends over, and that’s when I’ll break out the Thanksgiving beer. The Alementary makes a delicious English Ale aged in rum barrels called Figgy Pudding that I have a bottle of from each of their now three years of making it. I’m excited to do a vertical tasting of this. After that I plan to open a bomber of Brooklyn Brewery’s Tripel Burner, a Licorice-spiced tripel aged in white wine barrels, that comes in at 10.6% ABV.
What beers are you planning to share for Thanksgiving? Comment below, or tweet us at @BarleyProse on Twitter or @BarleyProseBlog on Instagram with the hashtag #Beersgiving.