This is our first post, hopefully the first of many!
We are big advocates of beer and food pairings. One of the reasons we are so in love with craft beer is because of how dynamic it can make a meal. From the simple, everyday pairing of an ESB, amber, or balanced IPA with a well-crafted burger with cheddar, to the sultry decadence of a Belgian Dark-Strong (Quad) with marrow, beer can help cut fat, emphasize sweetness, amplify heat, or be the counterbalance to an intense flavor component in the food. And no better time is there to put this to the test, run it through the gambit, than Thanksgiving.
First, let’s discuss some of those traditional American Thanksgiving mainstays- mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and of course the turkey. (If you are a vegan like us, we have a killer lentil loaf recipe that will follow.) We’ve all had them over the years, good and bad variations as well. We sometimes like to get fancy-pants with our cooking, but we will providing you some delicious recipes that any can make, and everyone will love! We once beer-brined a turkey for a skeptical mother-in-law who, after tasting, swore she’d never go back to plain roast turkey!
Let’s start with the sides. One of the easiest to make, and easiest to botch, is the stuffing (or dressing, depending on what part of the country you hail from). Too moist, too dry, or just plain bland, we’ve experienced them all. And don’t even get us started on Stove Top… The key to a good stuffing is, first and foremost, good bread(s). Good quality bread will absorb a perfect amount of liquid while providing flavor and texture. Combining an artisan bread and some corn bread is extremely easy to do and will give depth, heft and texture to your stuffing. Herbs are the next crucial component in making a great stuffing, and through much trial and error, we have found sage to be the best. It not only stands out as a tasty solo herb, but it also buoys the flavors of all your other ingredients, making sure everything is married well. For liquids, we like to use… beer! Belgian (or Belgian-style) tripels provide not just moisture but a strong herbal/spice attribute as well as a hint of sweetness. Depending on whether you want it vegan or not, you can add cream, stock, pan drippings from your bird, bacon, or chorizo. Chorizo adds an incredible flavor to stuffing (and we have an awesome vegan version you can use, too!).
Mashed potatoes are an easy one, but again, easy to mess up. You want them to be creamy, but still with some dense texture. This is one of those ones where too much moisture, or overboiling the potatoes can kill the dish. We like to boil them until slightly soft while still being a bit firm. Drain them thoroughly before proceeding, and slowly add butter, cream, or vegan-milk of choice. A bit of salt, a bit of pepper work nicely here, but what really turns mundane potatoes into something memorable is the addition of roasted garlic, leeks, and your IPA of choice. The garlic, leeks, and ipa create an herbal tour de force that will invigorate anyone’s Thanksgiving meal.
Sweet potatoes. Everyone has their favorite way to do these, and while we’ve had some great savory ones, it’s the sweet ones that we love. I mean, dessert for dinner? Yes please. Sweet potatoes simply need to be baked, mashed, and topped with a mixture of brown sugar, butter, pecans to be completely enjoyable. However, the simple addition of imperial stout to them kicks them up a notch, adding a roasty, chocolate background that marries perfectly with the natural flavors of the root veg and the sweet topping.
Cranberry sauce can be turned into something incredible by adding a citrus component and some wit beer. As simple as that.
Let’s move on, now, to the big guns and some deeper components of cooking with beer. (Recipes will follow this section!) When it comes to cooking a big bird like a turkey there are a few important things to think about: moisture vs cook time, how moisture absorbs into the meat, and the natural flavors of the meat. For turkey, the meat has a natural sweetness, dark and rich, reminiscient of sweet bread, raisin, subtle tart cherry, celery. Turkey is very easy to dry out because it’s cavity is so big, and getting consistent heat can be difficult, causing the bird to cook unevenly. Many people make the mistake of carving the bird right after pulling it out of the oven, which ultimately causes all of the moisture to escape, leaving you with dry, unenjoyable meat. Letting it sit for 10-15 minutes allows that moisture to redistribute throughout the meat leaving you with a delicate, moist and full-flavored turkey you can enjoy for days. How to get that moisture sealed in in the first place? Brining. Brining is essentially just marinating in a salt solution which opens the pores in the meat and allows for absorption of the brining solution. This gives you maximum control over flavor, as well. We have found a good, malty oktoberfest to work wonderfully, but a rich Belgian dark-strong ale to work even better as it heightens all of the natural turkey flavor. Drying the skin of the bird thoroughly before roasting will ensure a nice brown, crisp skin.
Hungry? Let’s get cooking!
Sage & Tripel Stuffing (serves 8-10)
8 c. crusty bread, cubed (cut into cubes, leave out overnight- the bread you use will help build the flavor of the dish, so choose something good, like Acme Bakeshop ciabatta or sourdough)
4 c. cornbread, cubed (same story as above)
1/4 c. chopped Italian parsley
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
1 c. unsalted butter or substitute
1 1/2 c. onion, chopped
1 c. celery, chopped (the leaves are great to use because they contain the most flavor)
2 ea. eggs, beaten (for a vegan version substitute w/ground flax meal at a ratio of 1 Tbsp flax/2 Tbsp water per “egg”)
1/2 c. broth
1/2 c. heavy cream (for a vegan version substitute w/milk substitute blended with 1/4 c. raw cashews and 1 tsp apple cider vinegar)
1/2 c. Belgian-style tripel (Woodland Empire Gold Days or Westmalle are best recommendations)
Place breads, herbs, slat and pepper into mixing bowl. Melt butter inskillet and sautée onion until softened. Add celery and cook for 5 min. Pour into bread bowl and toss. Add eggs, stock, cream and beer and mix thoroughly. Place in baking dish, cover, and bake at 325º F for 30 min. Uncover and continue baking an additional 30 min or until browned.
Roasted Garlic & IPA Mashed Potatoes (this is a modified version of the Homebrew Chef’s recipe)
2-3 lbs potatoes (russet work best for this recipe)
2 ea head of garlic (not clove, but entire bulb)
1 Tbsp. Olive oil
2 ea. Sprig of thyme
1 c. Heavy cream (or vegan substitute)
2 ea Sprig of thyme
2-4 Tbsp IPA of choice (obviously we’ll want to plug ours, but Sockeye Dagger Falls would be a great choice for this recipe as well, with its strong herbal character)
Preheat oven to 350º F
Add peeled potatoes to cold water and add 2 Tbsp salt. Bring to a boil and cook potatoes until tender. Drain well, mash, and return to pot.
Remove as much papery outside skin of garlic as possible. Cut the top of the head off, exposing the cloves. Place bulb in a piece of foil, drizzle with 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil, add sprig of thyme, and wrap. Repeat for second head of garlic. Place both heads in the oven and bake for approximately 30 min. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 min. Using a potholder or heat-proof cooking glove squeeze bulb until all of the cloves pop out into a bowl. Mash the garlic with a fork until you’ve made a smooth paste.
In a sauce pan, add cream, 2 sprigs of thyme and heat to medium. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 min. Remove thyme sprigs and add garlic paste. Whisk to break up garlic and simmer an additional 3 min. Remove from heat, add salt, pepper, and IPA to taste.
Add garlic IPA cream to potatoes and mix thoroughly. It is best to start small with the IPA and dial it up to your taste. A little can go along way, especially depending on the IPA you choose.
*Pro Tip: Ahead of time, sautée some chopped leaks for 10 min in 1 Tbsp olive oil. Remove from heat and purée in a food processor. Add leaks when mashing the potatoes for an increased complex flavor.
Stout Potato Souflée or Sweet Potato Stoutflée
5 ea Sweet Potatoes
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 c. milk or substitute (coconut milk is great in this instance)
1/4 c. stout or porter (flavored/sweet versions will obviously add to the character of the dish, so keep the bitterness, roast, sweetness, etc in mind)
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. finely chopped pecans
1/3 c. oat flour
3 Tbsp. coconut oil
Preheat oven to 350º F
Poke skin of sweet potatoes with a fork and place on a baking dish. Bake for 45 min- hour. Cool completely, remove skin, and mash the meat. Add vanilla, milk, and dark beer of choice. Mix thoroughly until smooth. Mix topping ingredients in a bowl. Put sweet potato mixture into a casserole dish, and evenly spread topping mixture across the top. Bake for 30 min, until topping is set and browned.
For your bird, we’re not even gonna front. The best recipe we’ve ever tried you can find HERE from the Homebrew Chef. Click on that shit and it’ll whisk you away to that recipe. Just remember, a nice dark Belgian-style beer rocks in this recipe.
Here’s a Woodland Empire suggested beer pairing guide for your Thanksgiving feast! Have a happy holiday!
Before meal: Acme Boisener-Weisse (at only 3%, with a nice tart acidity it’s not filling, and piques the appetite.)
With Meal: IPA is utilitarian, pairs decently with most foods, cleanses the pallet with its bitterness and carbonation, but let’s be honest- there’s way better ways to enjoy your meal.
Oatmeal or Milk Stouts are great accompaniments to a Thanksgiving meal as they pair well with the roasted flavors of most of what you’ve cooked, the sweet, earthy character of sweet
potatoes, the bready flavor of stuffing… Belgian Dark Strong Ales/Quad work like a carbonated red-wine, rich, acidic, full bodied, slight sweetness, spice. The deep fruit and herbal/spice characteristics will match intensity with and provide balance to, or marry well with the herbal, sweet, smoky, roasty flavors of most of these dishes. Saison, especially our Foxtail’s Saison with rosemary, will kick a Thanksgiving meal’s buns. The high effervescence is pallet cleaning, whisking fat away and leaving your pallet sparkling ew for the next bite. It’s herbal bitterness will balance the sweetness of some dishes, the herbal character from the rosemary and yeast along with the slight sweetness from the malt will go good with your turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, or whatever else you can throw at it, including cranberry sauce. Moondog Amber, with it’s rich, fruity malt complexity and dry, slightly hoppy finish will pair well with the natural flavors of the turkey, the bready, herbal flavor of the stuffing, balance the dank intensity of the garlic IPA mashers, and walk hand-in-hand with cranberry sauce.
After meal: Here’s where you want to go big, rich, intense. Imperial stouts, more dark Belgians and the like. We highly recommend our Crispy Apple Turnover- at 10% with a nice, dry finish, warming alcohol, deep, nutty, rich malt and apple character this beer is nearly dessert in itself.