Try Beer, Not Wine, for Thanksgiving

Written by Fred Tasker for McClatchy Newspapers

Beer for Thanksgiving? Don’t reject it out of hand. One can make a very persuasive case for holiday brews.

Some historians say the Pilgrims drank beer on that first Thanksgiving, just as they did every day, because the water available to them was polluted. Others say this is poppycock.

Doesn’t matter. On Thanksgiving 2010, the reason to drink beer is that brewing has become so sophisticated that a thoughtful host can match beers with each course just as she or he would with wine.

As aperitifs, you can serve light brews – pale lagers or wheat beers – to get the conversation flowing. Such brews can be light as clouds, highly carbonated, full of festive, tiny bubbles just like champagne.

The hors d’oeuvres course at Thanksgiving is usually pretty light, given the fulsome nature of the coming meal. Crisp crudites, maybe, or smoked salmon on water crackers, just to keep your guests alive until dinner. For this, amber and dark lagers provide similar lightness but a bit more malty and hoppy flavor.

For the main course, with its sheer bulk and multitude of flavors, anything goes. This is the ale course – pale ales, dark ales of all hues and flavors. The smoky, caramelized flavors of these sturdier brews are great matches for the crackly, deep-brown skin of a well-roasted turkey, and their underlying herbal flavors go well with stuffing.

As for the side dishes, one can only say that hearty goes well with hearty.

When dessert comes, surprise your guests: Serve that pumpkin pie with a sweet and spicy pumpkin ale or that sugar-laden pecan pie with the wonderful accompaniment of a chocolate stout.

APERITIF BEERS

Singha Thai Lager Beer (5 percent alcohol): pale gold color, frothy white head, light, frothy and hoppy; $8 per six-pack of 12-ounce bottles.

O Kocim O.K. Full Pale Lager Beer, Piwo Jasne Pelne, Poland (5.6 percent alcohol): light gold color, white, frothy head, hoppy aroma, light and frothy with sweet fruit and mild hoppiness; $1.69 per bottle (1 pint, 9 ounces).

HORS D’OEUVRES BEERS

Yeungling Amber Lager (4.4 percent alcohol); amber color with small, lightly amber head, light-bodied, flavors of malt and caramel, mild; $6 per six-pack of 12-ounce bottles.

Samuel Adams Black Lager (4.9 percent alcohol): black color, aromas of dark toast and smoke, lightly sweet, light body, soft carbonation; $8.69 per six-pack of 12-ounce bottles.

MAIN COURSE ALES

Schneider Weisse German Hefe-Weizen Ale, Germany (4.9 percent alcohol): high carbonation, big, long-lasting beige head, malty flavors, mild hops; $3.99 a pint.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (5.6 percent alcohol): malty, fruity, spicy, with hoppy finish; $10 per six-pack of 12-ounce bottles.

Monkey Wrench Dark Ale, England (5.3 percent alcohol): dark color, big, tan head, mellow coffee and roasted malt flavors, sweet and rich; $6 per bottle (1 pint, 6 ounce).

DESSERT ALES

Rogue Chocolate Stout, Oregon (6 percent alcohol): very dark brown, thick, with creamy, sweet-tart chocolate flavors from added chocolate; $6.29 per 22-ounce bottle.

Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale: Brewed with pumpkin and spices, it perfectly matches the flavor of pumpkin pie; it’s full-bodied, sweet and spicy, a good dessert beer; $9 per six-pack of 12-ounce bottles.