I originally posted this article last year, and I got a lot of great responses from many of you who used Belgian beers to pair with your Thanksgiving feasts, so since it’s that time of year again, I thought I’d repost it.
When asked about what beers to pair with food, I often proclaim: “When in doubt, go Belgian!” Belgian beers have such an intense, and diverse flavor profile that they are a perfect match for food. To that end, here are some suggestions for Belgian style beers to pair with your Thanksgiving feast. I say “Belgian style” because often times, an American brewery makes a Belgian style beer that’s a bit more accessible than something from across the pond. Not to mention, finding Belgian style beers in Las Vegas isn’t easy, so my recommendations will be of beers that I know are available here.
Cheeses: I enjoy snaking on assorted cheeses as an appetizer. For me, a gueuze provides the perfect thing to whet my palate, and can go wonderfully with the right cheese. Shy away from the blue cheeses, and lean towards the white cheeses, something like brie or swiss. For an added bonus, something with some fruit mixed in. Gueuze is a bit sour, but it also has a bright citrus component as well, that will cut through the fattiness of the cheese. There a subtle mustiness that will match the funkiness of the stinkiest of cheeses.
Beers: Guezues are a bit hard to find, especially in Las Vegas. However, Oude Gueuze Tilquin à I’Ancienne is readily available at the Las Vegas Blvd Whole Foods. If guezue isn’t an option, a saison would work as well. More on that later.
Cranberries: Cranberries are both sweet and sour, so it is only fitting to pair it with something similar. Framboise is a sour lambic fermented with raspberries and kriek is the same but fermented with cherries. Both of these beers have a sweet berry flavor that would pair perfectly with cranberries.
Beers: Lindeman’s is the most accessible but also not as sour as more traditional lambics. If you want to steer away from sour, try New Belgium’s Frambozen, it’s a brown ale made with raspberries, but it still has a little bit of that fruity tartness.
Traditional Stuffing: With its bready blend of herbs, stuffing is perfect for a saison. Saisons have an herbaceous aroma and a peppery finish. The malts are light and bready to match the stuffing perfectly.
Beers: Saison DuPont and Fantôme Saison are the textbook examples of a solid saison. For something American, get Saison Rue from The Bruery.
Sweet Potatoes: Belgian dubbel. Dubbels are both malty, and sweet, often with a fig like fruitiness that would compliment and add to a sweet potato dish. Dubbels are one of my favorite Belgian ales for this very reason.
Beers: Chimay Première (Red) or New Belgium Abbey. Dogfish Head’s Raison D’Être is a dubbel made with raisons that would also be perfect.
Gravy: Whether you decided to put gravy on your mashed potatoes, or on your turkey, once again I would recommend a Belgian dubbel. As I mentioned before, it is dark and malty, and would compliment a dark gravy perfectly.
Beers: Chimay Première (Red) or New Belgium Abbey
Turkey: So let’s assume that you don’t put gravy on your turkey. Or, you have a lighter colored gravy that you make using the turkey drippings. In this scenario, a tripel would be the ideal beer. Tripels are both high in alcohol, and have a rich ester and phenolic profile. Some even have a hint of clove like flavors. There is a decent bit of sweetness as well to cut through the fatty, dark pieces of meat.
Beers: Chimay Triple (White), Delirium Tremens, Duvel, and once again, New Belgium offers a great American alternative that is also readily available in Las Vegas: Trippel. As an added bonus, it is brewed with coriander, giving it a bit more of an herbal quality that should compliment your traditional turkey seasonings.
Dessert: Depending on what you plan on eating for dessert will determine what the best beer would be. Ultimately, when pairing with dessert, choose something with a higher alcohol content, as this will leave more residual sugars making for a sweeter beer, as well a one with a bit more body. If I had to choose Belgian beers to pair with dessert, it would be either a tripel, quad/Belgian strong dark ale, or a fruit lambic. Go with the tripels for lighter desserts, like apple pie, or a quad for something heartier, like pumpkin or pecan pie. Quads are a like a dubbel turned up to 11. Even more alcohol, and even more sweet, dark fruit like maltiness. For a berry dessert, go with the fruit lambics mentioned above.
Beers: Since I have already given some suggestions for fruit lambics and tripels, I’ll give some quad suggestions. Delirium Nocturnum or Chimay Grand Reserve (Blue) are easy to find in Vegas.
Hopefully this helps you all out with determining great beers to serve for your guests. Happy Thanksgiving!