Saturday, December 5, 2015

5 Beers that Should be on your Holiday Dinner Table

'Tis the season to stuff your face with lots and lots of food and feel guilty about it the next day, but then stuff your face some more because man, there are gatherings and get togethers and parties to attend, so you eat some more, and then some more, and when will this cycle of eat and guilt, eat and guilt end?

And hey, you can't stuff your face without some beer. Well, you can, but why would you want to?

Yeah. So to accompany this wonderful time of year, here are five beers to consider adding to your holiday dinner table. I'd say that my criteria included the ability to pair with well with food, availability, and so on, but mostly my criteria was "this is a column that didn't get used in the magazine I write for, so let's get some use out of it on my blog."

You know, for the cynical among us keeping score.

Dogfish Head Fort

A table full of food calls for a beer ideal for pairing with all that food, especially fare like turkey, stuffing, greens, and cranberry. Dogfish Head’s Fort fits the bill. Boasting as much in common with wine as it does with beer, this insanely huge fruit beer demands a cautious approach but rewards a well-chosen pairing. Coming in at 18 percent ABV – yes, you read that right – Fort greets your nose with an almost wine-like fruitiness. Your first sip will reveal intense fruit, hints of Belgian funk, and then a wash of alcohol heat. It’s a fantastic way to accent a hearty salad, fine cheeses, and cheesecake (though honestly, who the hell actually likes cheesecake?).

Firestone Walker XIX

The 14th anniversary edition
Some beers are like a holiday in a bottle, a once-a-year break from the norm that makes all the others around it pale by comparison. For nine years, Firestone Walker’s anniversary blends have been one of those holidays in a bottle. Anniversary beers are nothing new, but few do them like Firestone. This year, a group of California’s most talented wine blenders gathered at the brewery to help develop XIX (19). Made up by blending Parabola (bourbon barrel stout), Stickee Monkee (barrel-aged quad), Bravo (barrel-aged imperial brown), and Velvet Merkin (barrel-aged oatmeal stout), this highly complex brew boasts up front vanilla, bourbon, and oak. This is the beer you have with a cigar during a break in your holiday meal, or that you open to impress your stodgy old uncle.

Solemn Oath / The Bruery Conquest

The Bruery is well-known thanks to creative concoctions like Autumn Maple and Tart of Darkness. The Chicago area’s Solemn Oath is less well known, largely because they are not yet distributed outside their immediate area, but beers like Conquest are a sure sign you’ll know their name soon enough. This collaboration beer is a Belgian-style golden ale made with cocoa nibs, coconut, vanilla, and cinnamon. In other words, perfect to enjoy alongside some pie at the end of your long, family-filled holiday day. Bright carbonation, zesty spices and grainy malts dominate, with the additional flavors there to accent the whole rather than to take over. The result is eminently drinkable; it’s subtle enough to enjoy over conversation but features layers enough for finicky drinkers to unpeel. (My great thanks to my friend Cary for helping me get my hands on this beer.) 

Victory Vital IPA

Not all beers in your holiday lineup need be potent, complex monsters. In fact, it’s best that they are not. You’ll need something to start your day, and it’s hard to go wrong with a vibrant, aromatic IPA. Vital IPA is the latest in Victory’s growing lineup of hoppy beers (check out Dirtwolf and the Moving Parts series . This highly fragrant pale ale will wake you up with its aromas of spice, grapefruit, and hints of pine. The crisp, almost pilsner-like malts help it drink clean, with a nice wash of bitterness in the finish to clear the palate. ‘Tis the season for big, dark beer overload, making an IPA like this one a nice change of pace.

Deschutes the Abyss

The Abyss, 2010
At one time, those of us living on the East Coast considered the Abyss something of a white whale, a big, elusive brew we had to chase halfway across the world for a sip. Good beers have a way of making their way east, though, which means you can finally tip your glass and give thanks with this once hard-to-find beer. Made with molasses, licorice, and vanilla bean, with a portion aged in a variety of wine and spirits barrels, this is the sort of complex, knock-you-out brew you enjoy as a nightcap split between a few friends. With luscious dark chocolate, sweet licorice, pleasant bourbon heat, and absurd smoothness for a beer that clocks in at 11 percent ABV, it’s widely praised as one of the best stouts on the market for a reason.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this wonderful post on “5 Beers that Should be on your Holiday Dinner Table”. It was so interesting. I just love beers and usually attend various beer tasting events at local party venue NYC. There is an upcoming beer fest and I am so eager to be a part of that!!