Thanksgiving drinks: sampling beer and wine you can appreciate at big feast

IN MY GLASS

In My Glass

November 02, 2005|By ROB KASPER

Since Thanksgiving is a day everyone is encouraged to ask for "more," it seems an ideal time to broaden your beverage base, to drink widely.

So during a recent turkey dinner, a mock-up of this month's major meal, I poured not just wines, but various beers in my glass. I am glad I did because I now have some new potable companions that I plan to look up, and drink down, during the holiday.

During this bird and beverage feast, I switched liquids in midfeast, several times. Breaking the meal into beverage segments, I poured some libations with appetizers, some with the roast turkey and finished up with some for dessert. This is not everyday behavior but, hey! that is why Thanksgiving comes once a year.

Recommending wines and beers for the Thanksgiving meal is a slippery, tricky business. The taste landscape is often cluttered with required family side dishes, such as creamed onions or gack! brussels sprouts. This fact, combined with the various ways - from brining to smoking - of handling the prized bird entree, makes the task of matching beverages with Thanksgiving fare a minefield. So I dodged it. I let other people pick the drinks.

I tapped the talent of Chris Spann, the proprietor of the Wine Market, a restaurant and wine shop in Locust Point, and Volker Stewart, proprietor of the Brewer's Art, a restaurant and brew pub in Baltimore's Mount Vernon neighborhood.

Spann suggested the wines; Stewart suggested the beers. I fetched the bottles and one Sunday afternoon fried some oysters for appetizers as my wife roasted a turkey breast. We had slices of pumpkin pie for dessert. At each stage of the meal we sipped a recommended beer and wine, then picked a favorite.

A beer, a Saison Dupont, was the darling of the oyster-eating segment. This Belgian farmhouse ale seemed to jump out of its small champagne-style bottle and fill the glass with brilliant orange liquid topped with a snowy foam head.

It was an effervescent, flavorful delight with a tartness and hoppiness that embraced the fried oysters in a happy union. Even at $5 a bottle (375 milliliters), a glass of this stuff will be welcome at my Thanksgiving table.

The wine, a 2005 Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa, was too acidic for the cooked oysters, but seemed a likely companionable beverage for raw ones.

Because this is Baltimore, the turkey-tasting portion of our mock feast included a bow to sauerkraut, a companion of the roasted bird favored by many local residents.

We carefully positioned pieces of turkey and kraut on our forks, and sampled them along with sips of wine and beer. Later, in a nod to eaters who prefer their birds kraut-free, samples of turkey, without the fermented cabbage, were tasted with wine and beer.

For the kraut-inclined, the wine of choice was the Bethel Heights 2004 Pinot Gris. The sweetness of the Oregon white contrasted nicely with the tang of the sauerkraut. The beer, a Fordham Helles light-bodied lager, was not a bad match either.

The red wine, a 2003 Ridge California Zinfandel Paso Robles Dusi Ranch, was a knockout. With great fruit flavor and a strong acid backbone, it was the best beverage to enjoy with naked roast turkey and its many side dishes. Who knows? It may even make brussels sprouts taste good. It also was the most expensive wine, $28, on the table. A kraut-free turkey should remain, according to this tasting, beer-free as well.

A drink with dessert is an indulgence, but gratification is what this feast is all about.

The dessert wine, 2003 Chateau Lafon Sauternes, proved to be too sweet to go with the slices of the pumpkin pie. It might have worked better with a fruit pie, especially a mincemeat pie.

The Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout Winter '05-'06, however, was sensational. A dark brew with crisp coffee notes and pleasing bitterness, it nestled up to the pumpkin pie and took it home.

The Thanksgiving meal is a revel in familiar flavors, yet it is nice to bring a new friend to the traditional feed. The Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is mine.

rob.kasper@baltsun.com

Oyster Appetizers

2005 Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc,

$23.99, a very dry South African white, more comfortable around raw oysters than cooked ones.

Saison Dupont,

$4.99, 375 milliliters, a sprightly Belgian farmhouse ale in a champagne-style bottle, the darling of the appetizer hour.

Turkey Time -- with or without sauerkraut

Bethel Heights 2004 Pinot Gris Oregon,

$17.99, a white whose natural sugars get along with the kraut.

Fordham Helles Lager,

$6.49 a six-pack, a light-bodied lager with an affinity for fermented cabbage.

2003 Ridge California Zinfandel Paso Robles Dusi Ranch,

$28, a remarkable red whose balance of fruit and acid carry the bird and the day.

Pie Time

2003 Chateau Lafon Sauternes,

$21.99 for 375 milliliters. Its sweetness can overwhelm pumpkin pie; better matched with mincemeat.

Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout Winter '05-'06,

$7.99 a six-pack. Sensational stuff, a complex mix of chocolate and coffee flavors that could be sipped with any pie, anytime.

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