Hop Notes: How to pick the perfect beer for Thanksgiving


By: Eric Strader

Eric Strader/Hop Notes

My most memorable experience with waiting in line was as a young boy, waiting to enter the King Tut exhibit in Chicago. This was before Ticketmaster, cell phones or the Internet.  Sorry if I’m sounding old.  

We awoke at 2 a.m. and walked from our hotel to join the line where there were around 100 people already waiting.  

On Black Friday, I will not be waiting in any long lines for great bargains and I will not be waiting in line for Bourbon County. The only shopping I might do this Friday will be at Horrocks, purchasing last minute food items for my parents’ 50th anniversary party later in the day. And it just happens they have a 20 tap bar where you can simultaneously enjoy a bar while shopping throughout the store. This is not to say I would never consider waiting in line other times for Founders’ KBS release or for Dark Horse 4 Elf Party bottle releases. However, I have yet to wait in line for Bell’s Brewery Eccentric Day, which will take place this year on Friday, Dec. 4 and is one of the best parties of the year.

Alongside the release of Bourbon County this year, I am giving away two Goose Island pint glasses. In order to win this pair of glasses, you must be able to pick them up at DIY Coffee and Ale Supply, 114 E. Washington St., Goshen. Be the first person to email the names of all six types of Goose Island Bourbon County releases for this year and you win. Send email to EricStrader69@gmail.com    

If you have won something from Hop Notes in the past six months or so, please let someone else have an opportunity.

But let’s not rush into Black Friday and skip right over the day that this holiday is all about: Thanksgiving. Most of us will be eating, drinking and spending quality time with family, so the question might be what beer to choose for your holiday meal. My advice this year is to not complicate the matter. In many ways, the craft beer community has made craft beer into a complex beverage, with many terms and tasting/flavor descriptors. Searching for just the right pairings between food and beer can be really fun and I really enjoy doing that. However, sometimes I just don’t want to think too hard about it.  

If you are really interested in the type of hops, malt and yeast used or what specific barrel in which a beer was aged, that’s great. But that shouldn’t affect how you enjoy what you are drinking. Let’s not take all of the mystery and simplicity out of beer. Chances are if it’s in your refrigerator, it’s a beer you enjoy. Or if you are perusing the shelves at your local bottle shop, choose something you love, or try something new you’ve always wanted to try. Chances are it will pair just fine with whatever you are eating this holiday. And if you are with lots of family and friends, all the better to try several different beers.

I know I will have fun choosing my bottles and certainly won’t overthink it this year.  One Thanksgiving tradition I started a few years back is to enjoy a previous Bourbon County release in hopes it will bring me good luck on the search for the current year’s release. This year I have chosen a bottle of Bourbon County Barleywine from 2013. Other beers that I have already chosen include:

  • Dark Horse BourRUM double barrel aged Plead the 5th 2014 (Russian Imperial Stout aged in both bourbon and rum barrels). This has traditionally been a brewery-only release at its annual 4 Elf party in December.
  • Jackie O’s Brick Kiln (English barleywine, 10.5 percent ABV)
  • Kuhnhenn Bourbon barrel aged 4th Dementia (old ale, 13.5 percent ABV). This also is a brewery-only release.
  • Goose Island Night Stalker 2010 (imperial stout, 11.7 percent ABV). This was purchased locally, but has only been brewed and distributed once since 2010.
  • Pizza Boy Brewing Abascio-Cell (wild ale aged in white wine barrels with Colombard grape juice, 6 percent ABV). This bottle was a gift from a friend and since it’s a 750 milliliter bottle, Thanksgiving is a great time to share it with family.
  • Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper 2009 (imperial stout, 10 percent ABV).  This is one that has been sitting in my cellar for awhile and I’m really looking forward to opening this one up.  

Whatever you choose to drink with your Thanksgiving meal or any other time during the holiday, just relax and enjoy it. Don’t overthink it. Happy Thanksgiving!

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