DRAFT PICKS: Getting ready for the holidays

In preparation for the holidays — specifically Thanksgiving — I have been asked to repeat a column I wrote about this time last year.

A fellow explorer suggested I rerun my Thanksgiving Day meal recommendations for beer at the Thanksgiving table a little earlier so that those interested could take advantage of the recommendations.

I do so, and note that after a careful review, I’m leaving the suggestions the same as last year. I firmly believe this will set a fine table.

Thanksgiving Day is coming. Soon the family table will be groaning with traditional foods. One thing that is generally lacking at the Thanksgiving table is … beer.

There are a lot of reasons folks don’t bring out the brew to a family Thanksgiving gathering (most of which involve crazy Uncle Louie and that unpleasant incident with his suspenders)!

But, gentle readers, there is no reason in the world one cannot have a very civilized table laid with a festive, yet well-regulated serving of well-paired and carefully considered beers.

Nevertheless, in the distant history of this nation leading up to the first Thanksgiving Day we can find plenty of references to brewed beverages that would simply indicate that having a good, fortifying beer at the holiday supper was something not out of the ordinary — even for the Puritans!

The Beer Institute notes on its website, “When the Pilgrims sailed for America, they hoped to find a place to settle where the farmland would be rich and the climate congenial. Instead, they found themselves struggling with the stony soil and harsh winters of New England. And all because of a shortage of beer.

“An entry in the diary of a Mayflower passenger explains the unplanned landing at Plymouth Rock: ‘We could not now take time for further search … our victuals being much spent, especially our beer…’ (NB: This quote is from Mourt’s Relation, 1622, and is most usually attributed to colonists William Bradford and Edward Winslow).”

And so … in the true and historic spirit of the holiday, I’d like to suggest a beer pairing menu for the Thanksgiving holiday.

I’m planning this meal on three basic courses — appetizer, dinner and dessert.

APPETIZER

For this appetizer course I’d suggest:

Sofie

Goose Island Beer Co.

Chicago

Sofie is a Farmhouse Ale, Belgian in its roots and slightly ‘enhanced’ with a little citrus zest and other goodies.

It is a light beer so folks sipping this shouldn’t be worried about ruining the meal.

I found the aroma to be complex, and even a little mysterious.

At first wash, this ale is a little tart which goes great with the appetizer finger foods and cheeses.

It is a touch floral and doesn’t project the alcohol at all.

I found it to be somewhat creamy while at the same time offering pronounced citrus fruitiness.

There is also a bit of spice tucked away in the background. (It might be even a touch peppery to the real discerning sipper.)

Very, very nice and holding nothing that would overwhelm the meal to come.

 

MAIN COURSE

With the traditional Thanksgiving Day main course (I’m assuming turkey and all the trimmings), I’m going to suggest an excellent American Amber.

Rogue American Amber

Rogue Ales

Oregon

As it’s name announces, this is an American Amber probably best served at the table in a pint glass.

American Amber has a somewhat cloudy look, but is not heavy or thick in the least. When poured well, there is a decent head that stays a while but will not distract at the meal.

It has a beautiful smell — mildly floral. Almost a complement to the cranberries or tart sauces on the table.

This is a touch citrusy. Some may think of it as leaning a bit bitter. I would disagree. It is a fine fit for roasted foods.

There is just enough maltiness to bring out the sweetish highlights.

I find this well-balanced and an excellent table ale.

 

DESSERT

This is a tough one. A lot of people simply don’t see beer as an after-dinner drink.

Try this one.

Midas Touch

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

Delaware

Midas Touch is categorized as a Herbed or a Spiced Beer. It has a bit of a kick, (9 percent ABV), which is certainly OK following a heavier holiday meal.

Midas Touch pours a wonderful hazy yellow — liquid gold as per its name.

There isn’t much head, but that’s OK. The unique aroma doesn’t need too much help to reach the surface and tickle your nose.

There is a certain strange, somewhat exotic taste to Midas Touch. There is a very defined spiciness to this fine brew — even something of an herbal quality.

It is not bitter, or at least very mildly so. Some may find it a bit tart, but it is not bitter.

There’s a lot to discover in this wonderful drink. It is certainly a thinking person’s brew.

I’d suggest serving this in a wide-brimmed glass (a snifter?) that will allow it to breath well and release the subtleties of its distinguished recipe.

There is a somewhat sweet, almost honey mead quality to the finish that will warm the soul — and tummy too!

This would be great on its own, and I think lined up with a nice slice of pecan pie, this could be a great end to the holiday feast.

And now, for this week’s suggestions and reviews.

DRAFT-PICKS-BANNER-USE

ghetoblasterGhettoblaster
Motor City Brewing Works
Detroit

This is really an interesting brew. At first, I found it to be closer to a farmhouse ale than a English dark mild ale.

This Ghettoblaster poured a cloudy straw-like yellow with quite a bit of foamy head that left a good layer of lacing.

First sniffs revealed much of the farmhouse ale characteristics — a slight citrusy, lemony scent, with a hefty background of malt and yeast tones.

There is a little fruitiness kicking around backstage. The whole mix leaves you wondering what will be announced at first sip. Indeed, the first swirl of Ghettoblaster is interesting but nothing too surprising.

There is a very inviting, softly muted taste of yeasts, but the brew remains very drinkable to the end.

The fruitiness hinted at in the scenting is really not too well expressed in the tasting. Still, this is a good, smooth, if not unassuming brew despite it’s rather bombastic name packed with promise.

Don’t take Ghettoblaster at its name value. Taste it for what it is, and you’ll more than likely enjoy this good Detroit offering.

 

monkeykingMonkey King Saison
New Holland Brewing Co.
Holland

After an afternoon cutting wood, a good farmhouse ale is just what the doctor ordered.

Monkey King, (doncha just love the names?), pours a somewhat cloudy, obviously unfiltered, wheat yellow. There is a lot of carbonation, and you need to pour a bit carefully. There is a lot of sediment in this brew. That in itself should not be off-putting. Call it “old style.”

There is a good layer of foam that kind of pops and fizzes as it dissipates. Cool!

There is a rich, crisp lemony scent to this brew. In fact, there often is a citrusy tone to farmhouse style ales. There is a good amount of grainy or bready maltiness in the background, and there is a hint of some spice … maybe coriander.

The bready scents (the yeasts) demonstrate the unfiltered qualities as well.

At first wash, there is a bit of spiciness that for a short second is surprisingly overpowering, but then a sense of balance settles in and the somewhat odd fruitiness is revealed. Odd in that it is more like old, ripe fruit than fresh, crisp fruit.

There is a certain hoppiness. I found that the expressive fizziness tends to mute the bitter tastes there may be from the bittering process.

I actually liked this brew and found it quite refreshing despite the thicker and more carbonated blend. It was a great afternoon beer out on a the deck with autumn breaking all around. It actually might be a better beer for warmer weather, but it was most enjoyable and worthy of a second go around.

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Posted by Jim Crees

Jim is the editor in chief of the Pioneer, Herald Review and Lake County Star. He can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8360 or by e-mail at jcrees@pioneergroup.com.

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