Food magazines must love this time of year. Throngs of unconfident cooks, dreading the duty of roasting the ceremonial family bird, look to the latest issue of Bon Vivant for step-by-step directions that will produce the plump, caramelized icon on the cover. Great, problem solved. But what to drink?
While there are many fine possibilities among commercial beers, we homebrewers have the luxury of being able to create one precisely suited to this festive occasion.
For most, putting on the dog for the in-laws means popping a wine. Riesling’s nice with roast bird, but if you’ve got the spare change, a well-aged bottle of white Burgundy is delish. Grab a bottle or two for grandma and you’re done.
But for those of us with a more sophisticated palate know that the bittersweet charms of a well-matched beer can take us to greater heights. And while there are fine possibilities among commercial beers, we homebrewers have the luxury of being able to create a beer precisely suited to this festive occasion.
My approach to beer and food matching involves three things: 1) matching intensities; 2) finding common elements; and 3) making sure the contrasting elements of alcohol, hoppiness, sweetness and fat are all in proper balance. There is a lot more I could say,* but right now you’ll have to take this on faith.
In terms of intensity, a turkey dinner is probably just a bit higher than average, and this would suggest a beer of a similar ilk. Belgian beers are so elegant and wonderful with food, that I’m thinking about something along the lines of an abbey beer.
But since this is Thanksgiving, why don’t we add some elements of a harvest beer? These take many forms. In the past, a harvest beer had a lot of meaning. Brewing was once deeply entwined in the natural cycles. Since the last of the previous year’s malt and hops were used up to produce “March” beers which had to last through the summer, the availability of ingredients to brew again in the fall must literally have been cause for dancing in the street.