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Lucy Saunders
4230 N. Oakland #178
Shorewood WI
53211 USA
@ site name

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Best beer for the holiday bird

When Pilgrim John Alden landed at Cape Cod in 1620, the 21-year old cooper (fabricator of iron-bound wooden casks) was in charge of the precious supplies of ale that were left after the long sea voyage.

Yeast harvested from those casks was used to brew beer for the first Thanksgiving feast.

Even after almost 400 years, the beverage best suited for Thanksgiving is still beer. That's because many wines are overpowered by the acidity of relishes such as citrus or cranberry sauces, and the delicate texture and flavor of most farm-raised turkeys needs a subtle counterpoint on the palate.

Pour a beer, and its refreshing carbonation will balance the creaminess of mashed potatoes, rich browned gravy and stuffings.

In his book "Ultimate Beer" (Dorling Kindersley, $29.95), international beer authority Michael Jackson makes a point of categorizing beers according to occasion. Jackson steers readers to Octoberfest and Marzen styles as the appropriate counterpoint to roasted birds such as chicken and turkey.

"The combination works because the reddish, Vienna-style malts employed in brewing Octoberfests have a spicy sweetness that goes well with roasted meats," Jackson says.

But "a spicy sweetness" could be found in some other styles, most notably Belgian ales such as Rodenbach Alexander, and also in some American fruit beers.

"I always serve our Belgian Red Wisconsin Cherry Ale on Thanksgiving," says Deb Carey, president of New Glarus Brewing Co.

Brown ale and hard cider make a delicious marinade for the roasted bird. I used Madison, WI Capital Brewery's brown ale to make the following recipe.

Roast Turkey with Hard Cider and Brown Ale

20 ounces brown ale
12 ounces hard cider
16 ounces apple cider
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
3 fresh bay leaves
2 oranges, washed, quartered, seeded and sliced thin
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 medium-sized turkey (12 to 14 pounds), giblets removed

Special equipment: large stockpot, food-grade 5-gallon bucket (available from home brew supply shops)

The night before, start the marinade. Blend ale and ciders, spices, oranges and oil in large stockpot and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool 10 to 15 minutes. Wash and rinse outside and cavity of turkey. Place turkey in food-grade plastic bucket and pour marinade over it. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (Tip: You may have to remove a few shelves to get the bucket in the refrigerator -- or put the bucket in a large cooler packed with ice instead). After several hours, turn the bird so it marinates evenly on all sides.

After 12 to 24 hours, remove bird from marinade, and pour marinade through sieve into 1-gallon stockpot. Bring to boil, skim off foam and reduce heat to simmer.

Use ladle to measure out 2 cups of sterilized marinade; place in blender with dried cranberries and maple syrup. Hold blender lid on top with towel, and puree until cranberries are well minced. Place bird in roasting pan and roast at 350 degrees 2 to 3 hours, depending on size of bird. Baste often with cranberry cider ale marinade, mixed with pan drippings, to keep it moist. Internal temperature should reach 180 degrees when thermometer is inserted into thickest part of thigh.

(You may choose to finish bird with 10 minutes grilling over a hot hardwood fire to crisp skin and add smoky flavors; if so, omit maple syrup and cranberries from basting sauce as they will char and become bitter.)

Let turkey rest 20-30 minutes before carving. Makes about 12 to 14 servings.

www.beercook.com, Copyright © 2012-2002, by Lucy Saunders. All rights reserved. Note copyright of authors and recipe contributors in bylines and prefaces. Fee required for reprints in any commercial media.

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