PINTS OF THANKS
Wondering what beer to pair with your Thanksgiving dinner - wonder no more
BY ANTHONY ST. CLAIR
No matter what food is on your Thanksgiving table, let’s focus on what really matters: the beer.
Pairing beer with Thanksgiving courses doesn’t have to be hard. From everyday workhorses to limited-edition special releases, your beer menu can showcase not only the best in the region’s beer, but also the best in your holiday meal.
One beer to pair them all
Luckily, choosing the right Thanksgiving beers can be as simple or complex as you want. Can you match each course with the right craft beer? You bet. But you don’t have to. Even one beer can make a memorable meal.
“If you’re going for just one beer through the whole meal, it’s a challenge with so many competing flavors,” says Lisa Morrison, “chief beer goddess” at Portland’s Belmont Station bottle shop and Biercafé — and also the author of Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest: A Beer Lover’s Guide to Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. “You will definitely want to play it on the lighter side of the palate. Bubbles can help lift the aromas to the nose and also work to scrub the palate between bites.”
Lisa’s pick? Stick with light wheat ales, pilsners and Vienna-style lagers such as marzens and festbiers.
“Little Beast’s Bes, a tart wheat ale, offers a bright acidity and a sturdy effervescence to stand up to the heavy hitters, like gravy and mashed potatoes,” explains Lisa, “while still being gentle enough to work with the lighter fare such as salad and veggies. Look for delicious Northwest offerings from lager juggernauts like Chuckanut, Heater Allen, Occidental, Zoglhaus and Wayfinder.”
Pair a beer with each course
Often, though, selecting a solid Thanksgiving beer lineup means picking a beer that complements each specific course. The general rule of thumb here is to start with beers that are lighter — in both flavor and color — and move toward the darker and more intense side of the beer spectrum.
“Start with something spritzy and refreshing for appetizers, like Alesong’s Wit,” says Morrison. “Then, move to a lager, wheat ale and/or a local cider for the main
course. Depending on what dessert is like, you could pair it with a coffee stout, but I think a rich local porter does a lot of the same thing and still gives you room for coffee too. Ecliptic’s Capella Porter would be congenial with many desserts.”
That’s a sentiment shared by Jacob Faulkner Jones, director of beer education and quality assurance at The Bier Stein in Eugene.
“To make your own local pairings, keep in mind complementary and contrasting flavors,” says Jones. “Always take the body of a beer into consideration.”
He suggests the following craft beer lineup.
Prep and starters: Czech-style pilsner (such as ColdFire Czech Pils, Eugene, Oregon). A solid pilsner is “perfect for drinking during food preparation or as a palate cleanser in between rich holiday dishes,” says Jones.
Main meal: Cider (such as Top Knot River Cider, Hood River, Oregon). With funk, fruit and a dry finish, the Northwest’s craft ciders pair brilliantly with vegetable dishes and starches, such as sweet potato casserole.
Main meal: Oenobeers (such as Alesong Cabernet Sauvignon Terroir, Eugene, Oregon). For U.S. commercial breweries, up to 49 percent of a beer’s fermentable sugars can come from non-grain sources — you know, like grapes. In some ways oenobeers (also called vinocervisias) are beer-wine hybrids, but they are also some of the most exciting frontier brewing in the world of craft. “Sip this like you would a full-bodied red alongside your classic turkey dinner,” says Jones.
Dessert: Porter (such as Block 15 Dark Matter Chocolate Porter, Corvallis, Oregon). The roasted and cocoa notes of porters give them substance, yet they remain light enough on the palate to refresh after the big meal. “They’re fantastic as a stand-alone,” says Jones, “but are light-bodied enough to pair with a traditional pecan pie.”
Mull it over
Sure, there’s nothing like a cold beer. But for Mike Coplin, founder of Eugene’s 16 Tons specialty bottle shop and taphouse, the gray chill of a Northwest Thanksgiving can mean it’s time for a surprise: a heated beer.
“My favorite all-time holiday recommendation is for mulled beer,” says Coplin. “This works magically well with Unibroue’s Quelque Chose Cherry Ale, which is intentionally bottled without carbonation. This beer — and indeed many fruit beers or strong ales — are fantastic when heated to 150 degrees. Sweeteners like honey and spices like a cinnamon stick are optional.”
Special beers you’ll be thankful for
Thanksgiving is the eminent feast of the American year and, for Coplin, that means it’s also the perfect time to bring out special beers.
On one hand are tried-and-true special releases that anyone can look forward to: spiced beers (such as Stone Brewing’s Xocoveza), spirits barrel-aged beers (such as Fremont’s B-Bomb), or themed beers (such as Oakshire’s Big Black Jack Spiced Chocolate Pumpkin Porter.)
“These are great beers,” says Coplin, “and they certainly have earned their place at the table.”
With so many amazing, boundary-pushing new beers arriving on the market every week though, Coplin points out that it’s easier than ever to go above and beyond for your Thanksgiving beer pairings. He suggests stocking up on one or two special beers, and keeping them tucked away until the big day.
So your palate isn’t overwhelmed, Coplin also suggests picking up a few simple, easy-pairing, easy-drinking workhorse beers.
“Head down to your local beer store a few days before your feast and pick out some freshly-canned IPA and pilsner-style beers to enjoy with your meal,” says Coplin. In addition to other brewers mentioned above, he suggests Culmination, Pfriem, Fort George, Baerlic, Breakside, Ale Apothecary and Upright Brewing. Of course, the beer steward at your local beer shop can also steer you to the right brew.
“Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to go full-on decadent, but crisp and spritzy can help to cut a heavy dessert or cream-based dish,” says Jones. “Finding analogous flavors is the simplest place to start, but don’t be afraid to experiment to create your own memorable experience.”
THE ART OF THE CRAFT
Washington craft brewers step-up to the plate
BY HANNAH SUTTON
Juicy, tropical, citrusy flavor? Craft beer. Caramel, chocolaty goodness? Craft beer. Hints of raisin, cherry, plum, toffee, fig, anise and licorice? Craft beer. Vanilla bean, cinnamon sticks and – wait for it – hot peppers? Craft. Beer.
A craft beer drinker can be characterized by a thirst (all puns intended) for exceptional quality, taste and creativity. They anticipate the nuance of flavor, balance and craftsmanship from their brews that they do from all of life’s finer things.
To satisfy this mandate, hundreds – if not thousands – of different types of beer have come to fruition on the craft beer market, and the U.S. has a far wider variety of beer flavors, styles and brands to choose from than any other market in the world. Fortunately for craft aficionados in the Pacific Northwest, Eastern Washington happens to be the hops capital of North America.
According to Washington Beer Blog, The Evergreen State is home to about 400 breweries – nearly double the 2014 total. This is not a small feat considering there are just over 7,000 breweries in the entire United States. Craft beer’s consistent growth can be attributed to consumers looking to keep their business local and connect with the people behind the products.
Washington state brewers pride themselves on their balancing act of perfecting IPA and Pilsner classics, while simultaneously developing unique beverages using imaginative ingredients. Many of these breweries are small, even family-owned, making them integral figures within their local communities. These factors contribute to the pride most craft operations feel in sourcing their ingredients locally.
Craft beer fanatics are often inclined to trying things off the beaten path. Based on their production volume, 7 Seas, Georgetown and Two Beers were in Washington Beer Blog’s top 25 breweries, while Propolis and Stoup are hidden gems with outstanding Yelp reviews from locals and out-of-towners alike.
7 Seas Brewing, located in both Tacoma’s historic brewery district and beautiful downtown Gig Harbor, is a microbrewery featuring an intimate taproom and a wooded beer garden. Their selection is brewed with quality ingredients, technical knowhow, and boasts bold but balanced flavors. Founded in 2009 by Puget Sound natives Travis Guterson and Mike Runion, the brewery distributes throughout Washington. Today, the brews are distributed all throughout Washington, and the family-friendly tap houses feature both indoor and outdoor seating, hospitable staff and, of course, a remarkable beer selection. An added bonus comes with projector screens exclusively for watching Seahawks games. In 2020, the Gig Harbor house will relocate to a new location along the water. 7seasbrewing.com
Seattle’s Georgetown Brewing Co., the maker of Manny’s Pale Ale, is more of a production brewery and beer-to-go shop, selling growlers and kegs. Manny Chao and Roger Bialous began brewing test batches of pale ales in the early 2000’s, and today, they oversee a 60-person staff and the largest independent brewery in Washington state. Rather than a place to spend an evening, a visit to Georgetown provides a helpful staff member to guide you through a free tasting of every beer they sell. Once you’ve selected your favorite, you can purchase a growler to take home. The next time you come back (you will want to come back), they’ll take back your growler and offer you a brand new one. georgetownbeer.com
As a five-time Sip Northwest “Best of the Northwest” award-winner, Propolis Brewing produces herbal ales “inspired by old world tradition, local resources and the rhythms of nature.” Established by Piper Corbett and Robert Horner in 2012 and located in Port Townsend, the Propolis ales are brewed using locally grown organic herbs, fruits and flowers from the forest and the fields surrounding the area. Every ale is crafted in small batches (many under 50 cases), then bottled, corked, capped, labeled and waxed by hand. The taproom welcomes guests of all ages and focuses on positive inclusion and maintaining a peaceful environment for the appreciation of the ales and community.
Two Beers Brewing Co.’s relaxed tasting room in Seattle’s
SoDo neighborhood crafts delicious, creative beer with quality Northwest ingredients. In 2007, Joel VandenBrink founded Two Beers after he discovered “life’s a little more honest after two beers.” This inspired him to craft a beer and open a taproom where beer fans can slow down and simply enjoy friendship. Plenty of seating space, along with a pool table, shuffleboard area and board games, allows guests to comfortably enjoy pints of Two Beers’ own brews and eats from the Bread & Circuses food truck.
A beer geek, a scientist and a foodie combined their love for craft brewing, food trucks and Seattle to open Stoup Brewing in the thriving Ballard brewery district in 2013. Stoup prides itself on respecting both the art and science of beer making, so each sip is sure to be as delicious as it is well-crafted. The brewery opened up with just three beers on tap, and now has 21 pouring at any given time, helping it to compile numerous awards in just six years. This bustling, yet warm and communal taproom is lined with whimsical wall murals making way to garage doors that open to an outdoor beer garden. The kid-friendly beer hall is great for large groups and frequented by food trucks.
Who knows what we’d be drinking today if it weren’t for one couple’s love of complex craft beers and each other. It was 1989 and Charles and Rose Ann Finkel finally realized a longtime dream to open their own brewery in Seattle. Pike Brewing Company is an independent craft brewery located at 1415 First Avenue in downtown Seattle’s Pike Place Market neighborhood. Pike Brewing is home to two locally- focused restaurants — American gastropub The Pike Pub and seafood-focused restaurant and oyster bar Tankard & Tun. Both restaurants are known for local, sustainable and seasonal menus. Pike offers brewery tours and a Micro-Brewery Museum, illustrating 9,000 years of beer history.