The Best Thanksgiving Beer! What The Ale?

The ultra-heady Orval under purple lights, Photo John Holzer, Story Greg Nagel

When asked, “Yo, Nagel Bagel, what beer should I drink with Thanksgiving dinner?” my answer is always, “Orval.” People generally accept that, then continue their Black Friday planning. But recently, a co-worker followed with “Why?” and I had to think about it.

Some happy Trappist monks in the Gaume region have been making the pale ale since the 17th century; the brewery was modernized in 1931. If you’re lucky enough to get it fresh in Belgium, it can still have a distinctly noble hop character. But after a lengthy import, the wild Brett yeast in the bottle takes over, adding notes of wild funk, spice and a touch of dehydrated apples that easily balance out the carb-load of a roasted turkey with all the fixin’s.

One of the reasons I love Orval so much is how showy it pours. In certain glassware, the head can rise out of the glass a few inches while keeping its form. The active carbonation acts like a natural Alka-Seltzer, but with the benefit of being completely complex and delicious. In a typical Orval pour, I look for soft minerality on the nose, a light touch of clover honey and a bit of herbaceousness.

And the beer is light enough on the palate to not make you feel overly full, thankfully.

Available at Hi-Time Wine Cellars, 250 Ogle St., Costa Mesa, (949) 650-8463; Also at Total Wine & More;


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