Every Thanksgiving, drink experts are asked the same question: “What wine goes best with turkey?”
Nowadays, though, beer often is the best answer. With so many great craft brews available, the holidays are a perfect time to try some creative pairings.
Enduring turkey matches include malty Vienna lager or amber ale, which easily compare to the rich, caramelized flavors of roasted poultry and gravy. More recently, the idea of finding a refreshing contrast in the likes of a Belgian saison or tripel has found favor.
My all-time favorite is the underappreciated French style known as biere de garde.
A more malty but still funky cousin of Belgian saison, it’s a farmhouse-style ale with a wonderful complement of flavor hooks that pair with turkey and all the trimmings.
The malty caramel notes match the roasted flavors in the skin and meat of the turkey, plus there are herbal notes like those found in stuffing, and enough hop bitterness and brightness to cut through the fat in the gravy and the acidity in the cranberries.
Biere de garde is most often packaged in festive, large format, cork-finished bottles. Like champagne, you can keep it cold in an ice bucket, pop it at the table and pour it into wineglasses. Two very tasty ones to look for are Gayant Brewery La Divine and La Goudale.
But there’s a fairly new, much lighter beer, called Estrella Damm Inedit, that was specifically designed to be versatile and food-friendly.
That makes it a good candidate to try with a variety of Thanksgiving dishes. What’s more, it’s likely to please non-beer drinkers.
Inedit is a Spanish brew created in collaboration with superstar chef Ferran Adria, founder of the world-renowned El Bulli restaurant.
Adria, sometimes called the world’s greatest chef, is known for his spectacularly creative deconstructionist experiments with audacious contrasts of flavors and textures.
But Adria worked with the brewmasters at Damm and his own El Bulli team of sommeliers to develop a beer that would play nice with food rather than challenge it.
Inedit is brewed with barley and wheat, and flavored with coriander, orange peel and licorice. Many reviewers have compared it to a basic Belgian-style wheat beer, though, really, that’s too simple.
Damm’s everyday brews are light lagers. Inedit is quite different. It has a subtle complexity that takes some time to uncover. Cloudy and aromatic, like a farmhouse ale, it’s soft and creamy, with delicate carbonation, a sweet, yeasty flavor, and spicy notes from the coriander and licorice.
Damm’s and Adria’s claims for Inedit are very specific and filled with hyperbole. They say it’s “made to accompany the festival of flavors modern cuisine offers us.” And that “it can take acidic, sweet and sour flavors.”
Former “Top Chef” contestant Hector Santiago enthusiastically serves Inedit at his Atlanta restaurant and bar, Pura Vida, where he regularly experiments with spicy traditional Latin ingredients and contemporary Spanish cooking techniques.
As a beer lover and an admirer of Adria, it’s not surprising Santiago considers Inedit a fascinating find.
“You can see how they made it to go with food,” Santiago said. “It has a nice sparkling feeling, almost like a cava. I like the way the flavors come out slowly and work with the food. It doesn’t cover things up. It really does let you taste what’s on the plate.”