The Mayflower is famously said to have dropped anchor on the shores of New England, short of their Virginia destination, because they ran out of beer. While this account may seem the stuff of preppy frat house legend and historic Anheuser-Busch advertising, it's based in truth. Look to William Bradford's History of the Plymouth Plantation if you don't believe us: "We could not take much time for further search, our victuals being much spent, especially beer." Fresh water aboard ships in the 17th century was unreliable at best, but barrels of beer usually remained potable -- salt and malady-free.
Wine is as historically accurate to the first Thanksgiving spread as those baby marshmallows on your yams -- beer had a far more probable place. These strong, flavorful beers hardly resemble the corn-based fermented beverage landing on Plymouth settlers' tables, but they likely taste much better. Fruit, spice and caramely malt are present throughout, yet none of these well-made beers take on the Yankee Candle taste we find in holiday commercial brands.
The highest recommendation we can possibly make is that you take your own pilgrimage to a local taproom on Tuesday or Wednesday and fill up a growler with freshly tapped beer for the big day. If you're boarding a plane, TSA will not appreciate those 64 ounces, so check a bag filled with the following loot and remember the spirit of the day to share beer and give thanks.
Decadence, AleSmith Brewing Co. (San Diego)
Festive packaging on this AleSmith bomber makes it an especially appropriate host gift. Dried fruits and sweet bready notes conjure up images of figgy pudding -- if we'd ever actually had figgy pudding. If Charles Dickens were around to drink this beer we suspect Hard Times and Oliver Twist would have looked a little more like Party Times! and Oliver Twister!
6 Geese-A-Laying, The Bruery (Placentia)
Belgian-style Dark Ale with Cape Gooseberries; 11.5%
Walking the line between sour and sweet, this fruity installment of The Bruery's 12 Days of Christmas series is a dark and roasty transition from last year's 5 Golden Rings blonde. With a cork and cage closure this bottle-conditioned beer can be opened now or cellared for years, where it will continue to evolve until 2019 -- the year 12 Drummers Drumming will release.
Hullabaloo, Hangar 24 Craft Brewery (Redlands)
Scottish Ale; 6.5%
Their second year producing this Winter seasonal, Hangar 24 has built a solid beer in Hullabaloo with a predominantly toasted caramel flavor profile -- a casual choice for pairing. We like that it's dry and balanced, even rye and earthy, but not overwhelmingly spiced. Buy it in a four-pack and use it to wash down a generous portion of stuffing.
Stimulus, Eagle Rock Brewery (Eagle Rock)
Belgian Amber with Intelligentsia Coffee; 6.6%
There you are, drifting off after seven thousand calories of starch and sugar, A Christmas Story is running on repeat lulling you to sleep. But there are dishes to do and leftovers to put away and children to wrangle to their beds. Awake from your Thanksgiving dinner coma with this intensely coffee-infused, light-bodied beer from Eagle Rock. Extra points for throwing love at a local brewery.
XVII Anniversary Ale, Firestone Walker Brewing Co. (Paso Robles)
American Strong Ale; 13.3%
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Firestone Walker's Anniversary beer is routinely becoming our selection for closing down Thanksgiving Day. There is nothing mild or modest about this beer -- a blend of seven different beers aged in 220 oak barrels (mostly bourbon and brandy barrels). It is enormous and wildly complex, a righteous flirt of a beer that demands sharing. 17th Anniversary is a memorable selection that will challenge the entire table over the possibilities of what beer can be.
Erika writes at erikabolden.com and @erikabolden. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.