Thankful for Better Beer

Thanksgiving. Turkey day. It’s one of the best food days of the year; for me, it’s usually one of the best beer days as well.

I’m sure you’re probably thinking that I mean that in regard to the day-before-Thanksgiving’s unofficial position as the “biggest party day of the year.” Let me be quick to point out that that particular ship sailed for me a decade or more ago. I’m in my late 30’s now and I’ve got four kids. The last thing I need on Thanksgiving Day is a hangover the size of a Butterball.

No, for me, the reason Thanksgiving is a great beer day is about exposure, not excess.

Because I’m occasionally stubborn as a mule and get crazy ideas, The Puddinette (that’s my lovely wife of 10 years, btw) and I have made it a holiday practice each year to invite both of our families to our place for the Big Feast o’ Plenty. And since we’re having everyone over, I proudly offer a selection of Better Beers for our guests to enjoy.

Yes, I probably should get something light and fizzy, too, but my mother always told me never to get chintzy with guests.

Last year, I picked up a six-pack of Great Lakes’ Edmund Fitzgerald, their highly prized Christmas Ale, some Guinness and Sam Adams Light. I figured that would cover just about everybody one way or another, and in all likelihood, there’d be a few bottles left for me to enjoy later, after everyone headed home.

Imagine, then, my surprise to be hurrying to the only local liquor store I expected to still find open at 9:57 pm on Thanksgiving night, fervently hoping to get there before they locked the door. The stock in my cooler had been raided mercilessly throughout the day. Not a bottle remained. In fact, you could hear crickets chirping in the ice bath within.

Even more surprising was the fact I was pleased to find that my beer had completely vanished.

If you’re anything like me, there have been days in your life when striving for Better Beer has been a test of patience. Always a rewarding test, mind you, but a test nonetheless. I’m surely not the only person in the world that’s been labeled derisively as a beer snob at some point. And even if, like me, you’ve chosen to cling to that moniker with intense pride, sometimes the mocking still stings a tiny bit. I’m also certain that many of you know how lonely it can be at the grocery’s beer case as you carefully consider your options among meager choices while a cluster of friends waits impatiently at the exit, with an on-sale 30-pack of something relatively tasteless in their hands.

Believing in Better Beer is not always for the weak of will.

When I reached into that empty cooler last Thanksgiving, I felt a little vindicated for the years of weathering audible sighs and good-natured ribbing because I refused to drink beer I didn’t enjoy. The vacant cooler wasn’t the best part, though. That came earlier in the day when I noticed one of my guests pulling an Edmund Fitzgerald from the ice. “I have to be careful not to drink too many of these,” he said to me. “With the darker ones you’ll feel it pretty quick. But even so, I’m always glad to hear we’re going to Puddin’s house, because I know you’ll have some good, tasty beers.”

Admittedly, in the long run, putting up with a little shenanigans from people who just don’t get it about craft beer is, well, eventually its own prize. I mean, ultimately, you do get to enjoy the beer. But when an opportunity comes along to spread your love of Better Beer without pressure or judgment and it results in a great experience for everyone, well, now that’s a day to be pretty thankful for.

I haven’t decided yet what I’m going to offer my guests this Thanksgiving,* but you can bet your last Christmas Ale I’m going to have a few more bottles on hand than last year.

In fact, I might even set aside a private little stash for later.

Pud’n

*Why, yes, I am taking suggestions. That’s what comments are for!

7 Replies to “Thankful for Better Beer”

  1. Might I suggest some Arrogant Bastard? It would double as a delicious pairing to the feast, and I little bit of an “I told you so”.
    Happy Thanksgiving folks! I am still debating the Turkey Trot tonight, but if anyone is going, feel free to drop me a line.

  2. I know I am about to hear some groans but if you want to try a real Thanksgiving beer that will surely be available try the Sam Adams Cranberry Ale. I think they removed the name Lambic? This beer has gotten better over the years and I applaud Jim Koch for making a beer with a difficult,untraditional fruit. If you ever been to the cranberry fields in cape cod you will have a better appreciation of this beer. It of course goes with anything on the table. If you can’t stand it or have left overs it makes a great ingredient for basting or roasting etc. I thought this years batch was the best so far and less tart? Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. My brother-in-law and I always have the good beer when we cook the traditional feast. We also have the bland usual beers for everyone else. In recent times, the cooler with the good stuff dwindles by the end of the night, leaving only the bland stuff — Our operation to bring good beer to the masses (its a big family) is a success !!

    I plan to do the Party Source run at lunchtime, so I’ll be looking for a recommendation for this year.

  4. I tend to enjoy the Great Lakes Christmas, but, despite it being slighlty out of season, Nosferatu is great, if you can find it.

    If you do want something yellow, you should at least go with a Cincy favorite, Hudy.

  5. I don’t “search” for beers that are going to go well with a thanksgiving meal, because honestly there is so much going on our thanksgiving day plates. A guy @ party source suggested to me the New Holland Cabin Fever (brown ale). It’s a good one for sure. If you have to get some of the cheaper swill for guests, pick up some of the Hudepohl Amber Lager. I think this would be a great “gateway” beer for people to start on. I myself will be taking some GL Christmas Ale to my parents because my Dad ACTUALLY liked it. I hope it is his gateway to some better beers.

  6. Thanks for the great suggestions, everyone. Tom also suggested the Hudy Amber as well as Rivertown’s Pumpkin. I couldn’t find it where I stopped, though, so I ended up with:

    Hudepohl Amber Lager
    New Holland Cabin Fever
    Christian Moerlein Christkindl
    Great Lakes Christmas Ale
    Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald

    I think I might take 3 Christmas Ales and 3 of the Cabin Fever and stash them away from the family. Shhhh, Don’t tell anyone! 😉

    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

  7. I agree with the Hudy Amber. A 12 pack stashed away in case you run out would save a late trip to the liquor store.

    Just got some Moerlein Christkindle myself!

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