Since the keggerator is woefully empty, I decided to do something fun and do a commercial beer tasting with Thanksgiving this year. We are expecting somewhere on the order of 14 people at my mother’s house just around the way this year, but only three beer drinkers among them. I popped over to our local Total Wine and decided to put together a small beer flight to pair with the usual thanksgiving courses.
To make things more fun, I decided to restrict myself to all Belgian beers. With such a wide variety of styles and flavors,I hope this flight will take us on a journey from bite to bite and complement each step along the way.
First Course – Steenbrugge Wit-Blanche
In our family, tradition has us typically hovering over the snack tables, munching as the bird finishes. Cheese is usually a featured item, generally with a creamy brie, a stinky bleu and a sharp cheddar at the very least. Surrounding the cheese plate, we usually have chips and dip, hummus, veggies and cheese curls (yeah, we’re not fancy). I figured a light Wit would be a perfect starter, and selected the Wit-Blanche brewed under the Steenbrugge label of the Palm brewery group.
Draft magazine describes it as:
A fine white head dissipates after pouring this hazy yellow wit. White pepper and sharp wheat scents spice up an understated, delicate orange-peel aroma. Soft on the tongue with effervescent carbonation that neatly dries out the mouth, this beer touches down with subtle malts before a wheat twang strums the sides of the tongue. White pepper springs up in the middle, while orange peel swells in the back. Incredibly clean in the finish, this beer is simply how a wit should drink.
Second Course – Poperings Hommel Ale
“Second Course” is kind of a misnomer, since we’re really only having three courses: appetizers, dinner and dessert. I wanted to feature five selections, so this one shoehorns between appetizer and dinner courses as an extended first course.
Poperings Hommel from the Van Eecke brewery is described by Gobalbeer.com as the true Belgian hop ale, noting that Belgian-style IPAs are generally brewed for export and marketed towards the US. Poperings Hommel is actually the flagship beer of the Van Eecke brewery and is made with local hops (called “hommel” in the local dialect) of the Brewer’s Gold and Hallertau varietals.
Transitioning from the delicate witbier, we head into what might be the only true Belgian IPA and get to awake the palete with bitter hop flavors and aromatics in advance of the heavier dinner course.
Third Course – Saison DuPont
Unlike many beer styles out there, Saison has one true example, a single commercial lineage that is the sole definition of the style dating back to it’s birth in 1844. Often overlooked due to it’s status as a premiere Belgian beer, the saison from Brasserie DuPont consistently ranks as one of the top 25 beers in the world, and rightfully so.
Served along side a large pile of turkey, stuffing, gravy and potatoes, this beer is the perfect complement for those mild and mid-toned flavors.
Draft Magazine describes it as:
Farmhouse ales generally aren’t very common, but if there are any at your corner store, this is the one you are likely to find. This beer is the most well-known saison in the United States, and for good reason: It has the classic cloudy appearance of an unfiltered farmhouse ale and the citrusy notes saison lovers have come to expect. The aroma is lemony and backed up by the malt. Peppery notes come through in the taste that pair wwll with the citrus and malt tones. This beer has to be one of the most refreshing brews you can buy; plus it’s very drinkable, making it a great substitute for standard lawnmower beers.
Fourth Course – Van Honsebrouck Baccus
Sour ales are certainly not for everyone, but I picked up this Flemish Oud Bruin ale from Von Honsebrouck in a 12.7 ounce bottle thinking it might be an interesting pairing against a slice of pumpkin or chocolate pecan pie.
Split over three drinkers, we will have the equivalent of a shot of espresso along side our dessert. For those that are unaccustomed to a sour beer, this amount with either be tolerable or will leave the drinker wanting more.
A more mild example of the Flemish style aged in used wine barrels, I expect this to stand up well against the rich backdrop of a chocolate or pumpkin pie, while accenting and counter-punching with light tart against the sweetness of dessert.
Fifth Course – Kasteel Winter
After the food is consumed, the leftovers put away and the kitchen cleaned, the board games come out. While some people prefer a cup of coffee alongside a hearty game of apples to apples or telestrations, sometimes you want a big beer to finish the night.
This Belgian strong ale from Kasteel clocks in at 11% ABV with a rich brown color and overtones of both coffee and caramel. Mild bitterness, warm flavors and spicy overtones make this a great beer to enjoy before retiring into the frigid night.
Also, if one were so inclined to raid the dessert station a second time, this beer would also complement the rich and sweet flavors of most fall desserts quite well.
So that’s what we’re drinking today, giving thanks for the amazing selection of both domestic and foreign beers available to us. Whether it’s the rare Italian esoteric beers, the upstart Japanese microbrews or the nano starting up right around the corner from you, with the amazing variety of product available there is truly no better time to be a beer drinker than right now.
What are you drinking today?