Thank You, Beer!

As the leaves have already changed color and we rake like crazy, November is a month in Central New York when winter unofficially begins. We watch football and basketball with passion. We put on the electric blankets and eat more soup. While for some people it’s the beginning of a long, cold dreary season, for others it’s a nice change.  This is also the month that we Americans annually celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving. Without sounding like your 5th grade textbook, the quick recap is that Thanksgiving celebrates the bounty of the harvest and in 1621 Native Americans and Europeans shared their bounties — the first Thanksgiving.

While I can’t say for sure, it would be most probable that the pilgrims drank ale instead of wine back in the day.  As generations passed, somehow wine has become the libation of choice for your traditional turkey and cranberry meal.  So this year I would suggest that you make beer (which is usually overlooked on turkey day) a legitimate choice of drink.  After much research, there are so many websites that suggest particular styles of beer with your turkey, Tofurky, or your turducken.  My head spun from one website alone!

Taste is subjective, and I know plenty of people who stick to the light lager because it’s an easy choice.  Why not try a zesty ale this year?  Wine and food pairing is pretty simple — red for meat, white for chicken and fish.  Which you choose is up to you.  The same thing goes for beer.  Take the turkey for instance, a bird with light and juicy meat if cooked correctly.  I wouldn’t have something heavy with it such as an oatmeal stout or a porter.  Also, let us not forget that turkey naturally has tryptophan, an essential amino acid that is known for its sleep inducing properties.  Go light — have a lager or an amber ale with your turkey.  Go slow with everything, including the beer.  The tendency is to go all day without eating just so we can gobble (!) up as much turkey, bread rolls, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie to expand our bellies.

Believe it or not, beer and desserts do mix well.  A chocolate stout with a bowl of raspberries is delicious.  What about pumpkin pie, which in and of itself has a complex variety of spices and isn’t extremely sweet?  I wouldn’t recommend a pumpkin flavored beer with your slice since it has essentially the same ingredients that flavor a pie, so it would probably taste flat or redundant.  Some light spice or zest of orange in your beer would work well.  Also, around this time the holiday ales arrive, which tend to have more zing than the summer and autumn batches of brew.

It’s so easy to order the same thing every time at happy hour, like you’re on automatic pilot.  There are so many wonderful craft beers made and available locally that are waiting for you.  If you don’t want to commit  to buying something you might not like, why not go to a local brewery and sample their offerings?  It’s a great way to experience how beer can take on so many forms and how different brewers interpret a particular style of beer.

After all is said, done and eaten, the purpose of Thanksgiving in part is to share and to be thankful for our bounty and what is important in our lives. Holidays are wonderful things, reminders that are easily forgotten the other 364 days of the year.  So don’t wait for New Year’s to make a resolution — start one now! I know that I am thankful for many things and people, but sometimes it’s so easy to forget that my taste buds still work, that I can still smell.  Because without these senses, there would be no taste nor enjoyment in what we eat or drink.  So resolve to get those taste buds of yours on a beer adventure and be thankful for the brew masters who put their hearts and souls into the craft of creating that delicious pint in front of you.

Originally printed in the November issue of Table HoppingClick here to read it on their website (pg. 36)!

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