Beer to Get You Through Thanksgiving


Courtesy of Minnesoul

Thanksgiving is a traditional time for sharing, eating and giving thanks. It’s also a swell time to watch football and drink beer all day. Let’s face it: You don’t have to go to work, but in many cases you do have to hang out with your relatives all day. For some of us, you need to drink.

Hey, a farmer in New Hampshire feeds his turkeys beer. If the birds are drinking it, we should be too. So, here are a few recommendations for your Thanksgiving get-together.

In general, here’s how most beer resources see Thanksgiving beer drinking: You start the day (say, at kick-off) with lighter, easy-drinking beers that won’t fill you up. For the meal itself, you go for something a bit stronger, preferably something slightly bitter to help enhance flavors in main dishes. And after dinner, enjoy a big, rich, sippable stout or porter.

As noted, not only do the beers help you enjoy your gigantic holiday feast, they also help you endure some of the less … festive … social aspects of it.

When the day gets started, consider enjoying a refreshing Samuel Smith’s Pure Brewed Organic Lager. It’s not exactly exotic, but it is one of the more solid and dependable lagers out there. At 5.0 percent ABV, it’s light enough to be a reasonable session beer, but it has enough of a kick that will sure make it easier for you to listen to your Uncle Randall prattle on about his latest surgical procedure. What’s an ileostomy again?

Also consider having a light, but flavorful cider on hand for those who might not go for something as relatively complex as the Samuel Smith. A Magner’s is a solid middle-of-the-road choice that is not too sweet and not too tart, but still has a pleasant fruity flavor. Plus it will give your annoying sister something to put in her mouth to help curb how much she talks about her awesome boyfriend, who never seems to show up to these family gatherings.

For a traditional, roasted turkey dinner, how about a marzen-style brew? Great Lakes Oktoberfest is one of the best choices of its kind in part because of its mild finish. Plenty of spice and noble hops, but the flavor won’t get in the way of your grandma’s dried out stuffing and that dirty-sock aftertaste.

If you want to throw a curveball in there, see if you can find Harpoon’s Winter Warmer, which has plenty of cinnamon and nutmeg, and will distract you from Mom’s constant complaining about football and her never-ending chorus of, “I thought the parade was on” – even though it’s 4:30 in the afternoon.

beer - young's double chocolate stoutAnother one to consider for dinner is Harpoon’s Grateful Harvest Cranberry Ale – yep, Cranberry beer. It doesn’t get much more Thanksgiving than that. After the 6.5 percent ABV of The Great Lakes, the Harpoon beers sit at 5.9 percent each, and that suppertime buzz will come in handy when Dad invariably decides to unbutton his pants at the dinner table to “make more room.”

And finally, once the plates have been cleared and the passive-aggressive sniping has died down under the weight of a collective tryptophan hangover (a tryptophangover?), that’s when you bust out a classic: Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. Have you ever wrapped your mouth around one of these? Holy cow. Made with dark chocolate and chocolate malts, this isn’t a beer to go with dessert, it is dessert. And it’s way better than that crappy, months-old fruitcake Aunt Bitty brought with her. (You just know she got it on sale last January at Wal-Mart.)

So as the day winds down, and your right-wing cousin Iver, who also somehow is an insufferable hipster, drones on about Obamacare, socialism, Al-Qaida and his plan to move to British Columbia in 2014, you can sip your Young’s with a warm, full belly while you stifle eye-rolls and wish he’d shut up and move already.

Oh, and if the relatives stay past 9 p.m., just break out the tequila. At that point, passing out is your only salvation.

This post was originally published by

Re-Booted Wiedemann Brand Continues to Quietly Grow

louisville beer - weidemannI remember hearing in passing sometime ago that the Wiedemann brand had been bought and that a new version of Wiedemann Special Lager was being brewed and distributed, but that information fell out of my mind. Until recently.

Geo. Wiedemann Brewing Co. now has placed its lager in more than 300 locations around Kentucky (though none in Louisville, if the company’s locator is accurate), and three additional beer styles are in the hopper: a bock, an amber lager and a Bavarian-style marzen.

This recent story even reports that owners Betsy and Jon Newberry plan to open a brewery and taproom in Newport, the city where the original Wiedemann originated, sometime in 2014.

The Newberrys have been in business for over a year now, and they say there is even plans for a bottling plant. I have to admit that since Falls City started cranking out beers again, I’m intrigued by the new old brands that have been popping up, such as Sterling and Hudepohl. I like the nostalgia, obviously, but I also have mostly liked the products.

I haven’t tried the new Wiedemann yet, but it looks like as good a reason as any to take a drive northeast soon. Anyone else out there tried it?

Blue Stallion Brewing Opens in Lexington

louisville beer - blue stallion german pilsner lexington

German Pilsner.

Took a mini-road trip with my girlfriend Cynthia on Saturday to check out the newly-opened Blue Stallion Brewing in Lexington: beautiful tap room, lots of German-style beers, a few guest taps and a welcoming feeling.

Oh, and would you believe this? Before they even opened, they were forced to change their logo by the local convention bureau. Maybe Blue Stallion and West Sixth could start a support group in Lexington for embattled logos. More on that in a moment, though.

Blue Stallion’s beers are of the German variety; pilsners and dunkels are the order of the day, but all the beers are lagered and filtered. In addition, a few ales make their way into the mix. But the main point at Blue Stallion is that the beers are, according to the brewery’s website, “approachable.”

At Blue Stallion, they “no longer accept that a casual beer needs to be yellow with no character or flavor.”

So if you’re looking for an Imperial IPA, well, know that the hoppiest beer brewed at Blue Stallion is the Pilsner, at 45 IBU (although they do have a few guest taps for hopheads). But it opens the door for a lot of people to find a beer they enjoy. Here’s a brief rundown:

Hefeweizen (3.8% ABV, 14 IBU): This one is smooth and fruity, with a hint of banana. Light body with a floral nose, it also offers up hints of clove. Imagine if Blue Moon didn’t suck, and you’re in the ballpark.

Scottish 70 Shilling (3.2% ABV, 20 IBU): Seriously? Only 3.2% alcohol by volume? Talk about sessionable – I could drink 10 of these and probably still be going strong. Actually, this is a very light brown ale with just a hint of caramel and malts, and as such was Cynthia’s favorite. It got its name because a pint of it would have cost 70 shillings back in mid-19th century Scotland.

louisville beer - blue stallion sampler lexington

Sampler and the “uber-bar.”

Munich Dunkel (5.4% ABV, 25 IBU): A mild version of a classic dunkel, this one has plenty of malt character and a bit of sweetness. In fact, Cynthia referred to it as “adult root beer,” which isn’t far off. This one packs a bit more punch than the Hefe or 70 Shilling. Solid.

Smoked Lager (5.7% ABV, 19 IBU): This one is smoky, as you’d expect, but not offensively so. If you’ve had the smoked beers at Against the Grain, for instance, you know a strong smoke flavor. This one is not nearly as bold; in fact, the smoke presence is just enough to wake up the taste buds. It also leaves a nice tingle on the palate. According to the Blue Stallion website, this beer is based on a German legend: “An accidental fire in a small regional brewery exposed the stored malt to the smoke for several hours. Because the brewer did not have the money to afford a new batch of malt, he was forced to use the smoked malt in his beer production.” People liked it, and it stuck. It may not be true, but it’s still a good story.

Wee Heavy (9.5% ABV, 28 IBU): Appropriately named because while it’s easily the heaviest beer currently on tap at Blue Stallion, it’s surprisingly light bodied. In fact, I was shocked when I learned it packs 9.5% ABV. The Scotch ale has flavor reminiscent of molasses. Be careful with this one, kids.

German Pilsner (4.9% ABV, 45 IBU): My favorite of the day, this is a classic German-style pilsner, with just enough hop bite to let you know it’s there. Crisp and slightly bitter, it features two different kinds of noble hops. More, please.

louisville beer - blue stallion logo lexington

Note the new logo.

While there, I spoke to co-owner Jim Clemons, who told me the tap room was basically built out by hand, taking about nine months to complete. The bar, I noted, is quite high – so high that when one sits there on a bar stool, it puts the bar level at about chest high, leaving you eye to eye with your beer.

Clemons referred to it as the “uber-bar,” and said it was only designed that way due to piping that had to run under the bar and needed to be at a certain height. The bar itself is made from barrel slats, which gives it a rustic-meets-modern look.

Clemons said Blue Stallion may be the smallest brewery in Kentucky, at least based on output. He said whereas most brewers can get a batch of most beer styles ready for tapping in two or three weeks, it takes six weeks to finish a Blue Stallion beer, due in part to the lagering process and also due to the step mash process they use, which slows the heating process but also helps the brewers avoid using any acids or chemicals in the brewing process.

“We’re very proud to do it the old-fashioned way,” Clemons said.

There’s no food menu at the tap room, but people are free to order pizza delivery or bring whatever they like. One couple who sat at the bar and watched sports on the flat screens brought a bag of salsas and other dips from Trader Joe’s, and casually snacked as they sipped their beers.

louisville beer - blue stallion original logo lexington

Blue Stallion original logo.

Oh, and note that the logo on the glasses and at left is different than the one used on the website (bottle photo, above). That’s because the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau took exception to the original logo since it resembled their own. It wasn’t exactly a West Sixth vs. Magic Hat situation, though.

“They asked us to change the logo, and we did,” Clemons said. “We wanted to be accommodating.”

It’s commendable. One logo lawsuit in Lexington is plenty.

Ten-Buck Steak and Beer at Cumberland Brews

cumberland brews L&N #152 - Louisville BeerGotta love Cumberland Brews; it’s a warm, cozy place with solid beers and great food. And sometimes you can also get a really good deal.

Take Thursdays, for instance. I stopped in yesterday for lunch upon hearing that Cumberland offers a Thursday special of steak and beer for 10 bucks. My immediate reaction was that it sounded too good to be true, and you know what they say about situations like that.

But I’m here to tell you that the New York strip I had was the real deal: eight ounces, tender and tasty, and seasoned with black peppercorn. And it came with a pile of delicious hand-cut fries and even a miniature red velvet cupcake. Oh, and for the $10, you also get a pint of your choice.

I mean, it’s darn near ridiculous. For the quality and amount of food I was served, I doubt I could have prepared that meal at home for the price. And that doesn’t even factor in the beer.

Oh yes, the beer: My pint of choice (OK, I may have had three, sue me) was the L&N #152, a “steam beer” that is actually a lager, but drinks more like an ale. Presumably named after the Louisville railroad (for which my dad briefly worked back in the late 1960s), L&N #152 has a dark body and plenty of hops — OK, perhaps not enough for a hophead (it’s 40 IBU), but enough to provide a familiar bite and tingle sensation on the palate. That’s good enough for me in the right situation.

It pours a deep amber with a creamy, tan head, and packs a nice malt body to go along with the hops. It reminded me slightly of one of my local favorites, Irish Rover Red, which as an ale that is more malty but with fewer hops. The L&N also has an almost dry sensation on the palate, which isn’t there in the Rover Red.

If  you haven’t tried it, I’d recommend it highly on a Thursday. Or a Wednesday. I’m told you can get a bison burger and a pint for $10 on hump day, which is a pretty sweet deal too.