Washing Down the HOLIDAY

Thanksgiving means many things to many. To me, it means gathering with family, a table full of delicious foods and a nap as football games play on TV. It also means choosing a variety of beers to go with the cornucopia being rabidly consumed. To show how thankful I am that Northeast Florida has grown to become the beer region that it is, I have suggestions from the wealth of local beer.

Often, as the family gathers, starters are arrayed on platters for nibbling. Usually the trays are loaded with a sampling of cheeses, crackers and other salty and savory fare. To stand up to all that sodium, well-hopped pale ale has the answer and Jacksonville’s newest brewery–Main & Six Brewing Company–has just the ticket: Mix Tape Pale Ale. With a citrusy hop character underscored by earthy, herbal notes, Mix Tape is a solid choice for dinner pre-gaming. Swing by the Springfield brewery for a growler to go.

After family arrives and everyone is seated for the main event, there’s a monumental decision: What beer should you drink with the variety of flavors in a traditional Thanksgiving meal? With turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, yams, cranberry sauce and so on, you must choose a direction. Many holiday meals include food cooked in the oven, resulting in deep browning and caramelization, so a beer with toasty malts like brown ale will harmonize everything. Bold City Brewery brews an excellent one: Duke’s Cold Nose Brown Ale, available at most area grocery stores, is light-to-medium in body and exhibits malty, bready characteristics to enhance the meal without overpowering it.

After the main course, it’s time for an assortment of decadent desserts. Depending on your tastes, they can include mouth-watering pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, pecan pie, rich chocolate cake or even carrot cake. Big, sweet flavors like these deserve an equally rich and decadent beer to sip between bites. You don’t get much bigger than a Russian Imperial stout. An excellent choice for this is Atlantic Beach Brewing Company’s 98th Street Imperial Stout. Coffee and dark chocolate flavors meld with a thick mouthfeel to elevate this one to dessert status. Get a growler filled before Thanksgiving; it’s available only at the brewery.

After the meal, if you’re not in a food-coma, you may want something lighter and lower-alcohol for good digestion. Lagers are perfect for that and Engine 15 Brewing Company’s J’ville Lager works. J’ville doesn’t try to over-awe, yet makes an impression with its light body, sweet, lemony flavor and crisp finish. Crack a few bottles and watch the Cowboys own the Chargers, or the ’Skins take the Giants.

No matter what you serve on Thanksgiving, I sincerely wish you a safe and happy day with your family and friends. Please take a moment to think about all we have to be thankful for; in particular, take a moment to think about the many U.S. service members who are away from their families–whether overseas or domestically–proudly protecting our rights and freedoms.