Ah, Thanksgiving. That gluttonous annual tribute to post-colonial greed. To celebrate, many of us are going to be drinking beer -- a lot of it -- before, during and after the main event. This helps one tolerate one's insane relatives and of course there are games to be watched -- NFL and NCAA football and, for those of a more international bent, the second Australia-South Africa Test will be in its second day. (Yes, Team BeerSci likes Test cricket. Don't judge.)
But when discussing beers appropriate for Thanksgiving with the PopSci.com editorial team, we hit upon a better idea. Drink Your Turkey-Day Dinner. It sounds implausible -- and it's certainly not advisable -- but it is possible to have a traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner in beer form. Pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce are two very obvious dishes that have clear beer counterparts: google "pumpkin ale" or "cranberry beer" and you'll find a large array of commercially available beers such as Southern Tier's Pumking and Sam Adams' Cranberry Lambic.
But what about the poultry? Or stuffing? Or green-bean casserole? Well, for those you'll have to be creative.
To get the obvious question out of the way: Yes, there is an extant recipe for "cock ale." It has shown up in different homebrew books, was mentioned in the diaries of Samuel Pepys and was included in the first cookbook published in the then-colonies,The Compleat Housewife from 1727.
Take 10 gallons of ale and a large cock, the older the better; parboil the cock, flay him, and stamp him in a stone mortar until his bones are broken (you must gut him when you flay him). Then, put the cock into two quarts of sack, and put to it five pounds of raisins of the sun - stoned; some blades of mace, and a few cloves. Put all these into a canvas bag, and a little before you find the ale has been working, put the bag and ale together in vessel. In a week or nine days bottle it up, fill the bottle just above the neck and give it the same time to ripen as other ale.
Basically, you're dry-hopping your beer with a gutted, flayed, boiled smashed capon that has been soaked in sherry, and then adding some raisins and spices. Yum! The entire recipe is on the next page.
Commercial examples of poultry beer:
Beer is, as the saying goes, "liquid bread," so making a stuffing beer means putting the herbs into beer. Digging around the internet, I found recipes for garlic beer and I found at least one brewery, The Maui Brewing Company, who makes an Onion Mild for the annual Maui Onion Festival. Reading more into the onion beer, it looks like the brewers take sweet Maui onions and caramelize them (or otherwise bring on the Maillard reaction), then add those to the boil and at flameout. Be sure to add some fresh thyme and oregano at flameout as well to get an herby character in there. You can use the recipe for the Marathon Mild as your base.
In New England, having creamed pearl onion side dish is customary, so we came up with an Onion Cream Ale recipe.
Cream ales are an indigenous American style of beer: light, typically brewed with American six-row barley and a corn adjunct. Cream ales are fermented cool or cold, using a neutral ale yeast strain (you don't want too many esters). The most well-known example of this style is probably Genesee Cream Ale from upstate New York.
Commercial examples of allium beers:
Maui Brewing Company Onion Mild
Yates Brewery Garlic Beer
Drink Genny Cream Ale. It's cheap and cheery.
Awhile ago, I had an excellent cherry stout made by Bell's Brewery. It had enough roast character to offset the cloying sweetness that most non-lambic fruit beers (and especially most American fruit beers) suffer from, but one could still catch a definite cherry character to the brew. Because of this, I think that a Cranberry Stout would be an excellent way to get cranberries in. I found an interesting recipe for a cranberry stout, but really all you need to do is brew a stout and throw some sanitized cranberries into the secondary.
Commercial examples of cranberry beer:
Sam Adams Cranberry Lambic
Odells Cranberry Oatmeal Porter
Cascade Brewing Cranberry Sour
Harpoon Brewery Grateful Harvest Cranberry Ale
Recipes I've seen use pureed canned sweet potato and a period of caramelization in the oven before putting it in the mash tun with your grains. Really, as long as you convert the starches in the tuber into fermentable sugars, you'll be fine. Or steam 'em (this pasteurizes the sweet potato) and put them in the secondary.
Commercial examples of sweet potato beer:
Bell's Sweet Potato Stout
Bent River Brewing Company Sweet Potato Ale
Some pumpkin ales are just a regular ale with pumpkin pie spices. Others use pureed pumpkin at various points of the brewing process (usually in the mash or boil). There are many, many recipes out there for this style of beer. For those who love lagers, I've found a few examples of pumpkin lager out there as well.
Commercial examples of pumpkin beer:
Lakefront Brewery Pumpkin Lager
Southern Tier Pumking
About one zillion others.
Sorry folks. You are on your own.
If you have suggestions for any of the beer varieties listed -- especially commercial varieties, but also brewing tips -- add them in the comments. Team BeerSci will be posting increasingly surly updates to the Twitter feed on Thanksgiving, so if you're bored, hit us up there @BeerSci!
If you want to see sample recipes for the above beers, click on through to page two!single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.