Hoppy Thanksgiving everybody. “May your joys be as countless as the golden grains.”
For quite some time now — personally at least — Thanksgiving is really “Beer & Turkey Day.” I love turkey. I could eat it several times a week and not get tired of it. But unlike most people, I like it dry — no gravy. It stems from my Great Aunt Helen, who couldn’t make a turkey juicy to save her life, even though her heart was in the right place. And I never liked gravy all that much; weird, I know. As a kid, it just meant developing a taste for dry turkey. As an adult, it means finding the right beer to counteract the dryness I now love so much. Of course, making it wok with not just the turkey but also cranberry sauce, stuffing, potatoes and the rest of the feast is also a challenge.
For me, I’ve found that spicy beers work best for the Thanksgiving meal, the spicier the better for my purposes. Not everybody likes their beer spiced, I know, but my feeling is there are 364 other days when you can drink those.
My two favorites for Thanksgiving are Anchor’s Christmas Ale and Pike’s Auld Acquaintance.
Though Anchor’s “Our Special Ale” began in 1975 as essentially a brown ale, over the years since it became more holiday-oriented as spices were increasingly added. In my opinion, it’s best years were the later half of the 90’s decade when it was very spicy indeed. Though most people thought they were too spicy during that period of time, I reveled in the complex spiciness and found them to be the perfect complement to dry turkey and the other Thanksgiving fixings.
When Pike began making their Auld Acquaintance, they loaded it with spices and it quickly became my new favorite, especially when Anchor started backing off the spiciness of the Christmas Ale as the new millennium dawned. But early in the 2000s, it was discontinued in the bottle and I was unable to get it, returning instead to Anchor’s Christmas Ale, even though I wish it was spicier.
Happily, Pike under the new/old owners is bottling it Auld Acquaintance again, though it doesn’t appear to be exactly the same. It used to be around 6.5% abv, if memory serves, whereas the new bottle is a more modest 5%. It does contain orange peel, coriander, cinnamon and nutmeg. I also remember it being hoppy, while the 2008/9 version is only 32 IBUs.
So this year, happily I got to try both beers with dinner. I started with the Anchor, and it delivered almost everything I wanted, though I still pine for it to be even more spicy. But it certainly worked with my meal. The Auld Acquaintance, on the other hand, was slightly disappointing. It was thinner-bodied than I remember it and the spiciness was likewise more restrained. There was a lot there, but I wanted to be hit over the head, rather than be spoon fed. Still, I can’t complain. They both worked well and as I sit here writing this the rest of the family cleans up — and shoots me dirty looks — but I am completely satisfied. Ah, beer and turkey — a match made in heaven.
In past years, there were quite a few suggestions for beer and turkey pairings. Really, they’re almost all good suggestions. The important thing is family and friends. But the beer is the icing on the cake that makes the meal divine.