Despite what some of you may think, there are those of us around Thanksgiving that are not daydreaming about wolfing down turkey for the feast. Some of us are looking for an alternative to the traditional centerpiece and main course, and I figure it’s only fitting that we get some beer to pair with our new entrees as well. Thankfully, Michigan provides some killer beers for us to pair it with.
I wanted you all to know that, yes, there is such a thing as stuffing stuffed pork chops. It’s exactly what it sounds like—in that our beloved stuffing is in fact jammed right into your juicy chops for an extra level of enjoyment. The pork lends its meaty flavors to the stuffing, while the stuffing itself creates an almost “inside-out” sandwich like effect. I’m thinking that we’ll want a beer to resonate with, or connect matching flavors in both the food and beer, for this dish. Cedar Springs Brewing Company offers up the Küsterer Munich Dunkel, and I think it would be the perfect accompaniment. The bready and slightly nutty flavors along with the subtle chocolate aromatics of the beer will match with the obvious “breadiness” of the stuffing. The clean and balanced profile of the beer, as well as its carbonation, can cut through some of the fats from the pork. This creates a balanced back and forth between both the beer and food, because the beer acts as an extension of the stuffing flavors to connect the pairing. Though the beer is not bottled or canned, be sure to grab yourself a growler of it on tap at the brewery or from local bars carrying their product.
Honey glazed ham is a personal favorite of mine, and it finds quite the companionship when paired with beer. Because of its sweeter flavor, and its powerful salty and savory deliciousness, we’ll need a beer that matches in intensity. I’m proposing Odd Side Ales’ Barrel Aged Sweet Potato Souffle Rye. It’s big, bold, boozy, and—quite literally—a sweet potato pie tasting beer. When lining up its sweetness (though not cloying in any manner) with the honey sweetness of the ham, you find a tasty similarity. Even the honey and the sweet potatoes will find harmony together! The rye and spice characters from the beer are then highlighted by the sweetness and create the added layer of difference or complexity to the pairing. The alcohol warmth will cut through the fat, meld with the sweetness, and make your insides feel hot and happy. I mean, hey, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard of booze and ham having a relationship together (rum ham anyone?) so let’s see what the delicious fuss is about. This is one of those pairings that can create a lot of interesting flavor combinations, so sip slowly, savor every bite, and enjoy the layers.
Sausage stuffed butternut squash is a new one for my list, and of course it sounds oh so perfect for beer. With the combination of potential herbs and spices in the sausage, and the sweetness of the squash, this portion of the meal would be quite happy with Stormcloud Brewing Company’s 228 Tripel. It’s a Belgian Tripel, built ‘to style’, that would tackle just about any combination of sausage or squash types that one would want for this dish. Squashes tend to lend a subtle sweetness that can be whisked away with the drier, more highly attenuated and more highly carbonated body from the Tripel. It can also contrast and create layers with the various spices and herbs that are in the sausage, depending on which variety you choose. Pepper, sage, garlic, and beyond, the Tripel’s yeast and their resulting phenols and esters will highlight and enhance the spices you encounter. The Tripel is a beer lover’s ultimate pairing tool, especially when a multitude of flavors are present. In this situation, with a couple of unknown creative opportunities with the recipe (again, type of sausage and squash), all you have to worry about is cracking it open and enjoying it, because this beer will be able to stand up to the job regardless.
Though we see this next dish on many occasions, it can make a seamless transition into your Thanksgiving meal as well. Beef short ribs are savory little niblets of awesome that can be absolutely crushed and enjoyed thoroughly with the Penetration Porter from Kuhnhenn Brewing Company. We’re once again encountering salty and savory characteristics in our entree, so let’s take a new route and join it with the roasty, toasty, citrusy, and bitter brew that is the Penetration Porter. The roasty bitterness of the beer will cut through the meat’s fats, as the toasty bits will gain a friend along the charred and crispy edges of our beef. Add that layer of citrus to gain a roast and orange citrus tasting blend, and the meal has officially transformed.
Going on the ‘gamey’ realm, duck can make for a delicious alternative bird to the traditional turkey. I recommend doing a roast duck with a cranberry glaze, and pairing it with Greyline Brewing Company’s Schadenfreude German Wheat. The soft and pillowy mouthfeel from the wheat is going to coat the duck and embrace it. The cherry glaze is going to find a home in that wheat and allow itself to be highlighted by it. Those roasted, caramelized edges on the duck will contrast beautifully with the sweet cherries, and the higher carbonation from the beer is going to absolutely clear our palate between each bite so we can keep diving into more food and never stop because it’s Thanksgiving and we must press on. Be sure to grab the Schadenfreude from Greyline Brewing’s taproom, which offers 32oz sealed crowlers of their beers as they are not in bottles and cans for distribution.
You see? Turkey isn’t the end all be all for Thanksgiving. Go a different route if you are so inclined, and we’ll just keep providing ways in which you can enjoy it thoroughly with our favorite beverage. For this day of thanks, I just want to be sure you all have some suggestions for imbibing on those fine hours of gluttony. It seems to only make sense.
Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving to you all!