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We also give thanks for beer

OUP’s Online Marketing Manager Stephanie Porter reflects on the beers to accompany her Thanksgiving meal.

Thanksgiving is all about tradition, and if you are like my family, your dinner will probably be served with wine. But having recently spent some time with The Oxford Companion to Beer and its Editor-in-Chief Garrett Oliver, I am thinking about adding a little twist to the end of the meal.

“Dessert, often thought of as the province of sweet wine, is actually usually better with beer. The maxim in wine—that the wine must be at least as sweet as the dessert—does not hold force with beer. In fact, it is the relief of sweetness from the palate that is the key to success. After a few forkfuls, the palate is overwhelmed by the sugar in most desserts. That is one reason why coffee often seems so pleasant with dessert; it is not nearly as sweet as the dessert.”

So after the turkey has been carved, eaten, and relocated to the fridge for tomorrow’s sandwiches, I will be breaking out a few choice beers to serve alongside my cousin’s famous French silk pie. Here are a few easy suggestions for incorporating a delicious brew into your Thanksgiving dinner. According to The New Republic reviewer Alexander Nazaryan, it might be almost as American as apple pie.

Pour a coffee flavored stout with your pecan pie:

Not to suggest that you have to forgo the coffee altogether, but my mouth starts to water just thinking about this pairing.

“Bigger beers with some caramel or roasted character tend to do best. With a chocolate tart, for example, we can pair a coffeeish, chocolaty imperial stout. In this pairing, we have both contrast and harmony—the
roasted malts match the chocolate, whereas the beer cleanses the palate of sweetness; the dessert can come back tasting fresh.”

I would aim for something with rich flavor, but that isn’t too heavy. I might go for two of my all-time favorite beers, Full Sail Session Black or Köstritzer Schwarzbier. But any of the beers listed in this link—Great Brewer’s Beers with a coffee flare—(or in your grocer’s isle) could have a similarly great effect.

Swap a Pumpkin Ale for your Pumpkin Pie:

As full as I am after a big meal, it just wouldn’t feel like Thanksgiving without a little something sweet to finish it all off. And since pumpkin ale is an American original, it seems even more fitting.

“As a general rule, pumpkin ale has an orange to amber color, a biscuit-like malt aroma, and a warming pumpkin aroma. Modern pumpkin ales are almost always made with “pumpkin pie spices,” which usually include cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and sometimes vanilla and ginger. The finish tends to be dry because of many fermentable sugars derived from the pumpkin.”

Pumpkin ale has seems like it has secured its place in bars and bottles across the country, so you should have no trouble picking up this new classic. I love the light flavor of Brooklyn’ Brewery’s Post Road Pumpkin Ale, but as this would be in lieu of pumpkin pie, I might go for something with even more pie-like goodness like Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale. Check out Draft Magazine’s Pumpkin picks, too.

Pour a rich barrel-aged beer over vanilla ice cream:

This pairing is all about pleasant contrast. Concurrent with the flavor of the wood itself may be the flavor of whatever beverage the barrel held previously. While some brewers do buy new barrels, this is relatively rare; not only are they very expensive, but their flavors can be overwhelming. The spirits or wine a barrel previously held will have extracted a lot of this flavor but also left much intact and possibly imparted its own flavors. (View the list of 2011’s Top Ten Barrel Aged Beers.) Common flavor notes include vanilla, caramel, toasted almond, or even apple and cider flavors, but since these beers can take on many flavors, make sure you read the description before choosing it for your dessert!

Watch the video to see Garrett talk about the worldwide craft brewing movement.

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