Talking turkey: beer with Thanksgiving dinner
Until recently, however, Americans haven’t considered beer sophisticated enough for their dinner table, much less the celebration of our national heritage, and for good reason. American adjunct lagers do little to enhance the flavors of turkey, dressing, yams and cranberry sauce that Americans traditionally enjoy on Thanksgiving. With the emergence of American craft brewing and the popularity of fine traditional beers from Europe, that is changing, and many chefs and culinary experts now regard beer as a better match than wine with the rich and varied foods we eat at Thanksgiving,
Specialty stores like City Beer and Healthy Spirits in San Francisco, which cater to the new generation of Bay Area beer lovers, are certainly an excellent resource for good beer and advice about what to serve. But not everyone has that expertise close at hand. Fortunately, you can now buy craft ales and lagers at the same store you buy your turkey and trimmings. It takes some effort to find the right store, however, and most large chains like Safeway have been reluctant to replace mass-market beers like Bud Lite, Miller and Coors with craft beer. Your best bet for finding good beer is at high-end markets like Whole Foods, Berkeley Bowl and Draeger’s.
In San Francisco, Whole Foods on Fourth Street has an excellent selection of craft and imported beers. Kevin O’Shea, who manages the store’s beer section, can point out just the right beer for every course of your Thanksgiving feast. When it comes to talking turkey, O’Shea (pictured above) recommends thinking Belgian. A flavorful saison such as Saison Dupont from Brasserie Dupont in Belgium or the Hennepin from Ommegang in Cooperstown, N.Y., will stand up to the varied flavors of Thanksgiving, which range from savory to sweet, often on the same plate. On the other hand, Garrett Oliver, brew master at Brooklyn Brewing Company, extols the virtues of funky French biere du garde.
You might match your appetizer course with a simple pilsner, like the hoppy Victory Prima Pils, or you can serve alluring Belgian ale, like the fruity, spicy, earthy Rare Vos from Ommegang or a Belgian Avec Les Bon Voeux saison. Other excellent choices include the deliciously refreshing Houblon Chouffe, a Belgian IPA from Brasserie d’Achouffe in Belgium, or a Belgian-style trippel like Chimay White, Tripel Karmeliet or the dangerously delicious La Fin Du Monde from Unibroue in Montreal.
To end your repast, how about a stout, like Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, or the Deschutes Abyss from Oregon? Or you could do a porter, like Deschutes Black Butte Porter, or an Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock, which comes with a festive little white goat wrapped around its neck.
If you’re concerned that beer won’t look as cool on your Thanksgiving table as wine, many of these beers come in large, corked bottles with colorful, festive labels and they look almost as good as they taste. But not quite.
Whole Foods Market
399 4th St.
San Francisco, CA 94107