We all know about the best beers to pair with your Thanksgiving meal — but what about the best beers to pair with the crazy relatives you’ll see at dinner? Not to worry, RVA Mag’s John Reinhold has you covered with this encore presentation of our craft beer rundown from last year’s holiday season.
Every year as we get closer to the holidays we like to do some beer pairings, but with a twist we can have fun with. We have done horrible candy pairings, and pairings with your usual holiday feast. This year, as I was trying to figure out what to pair with our local spots this Thanksgiving, I thought about all the relatives gathered around for the feast, and the drama and craziness that can ensue. It’s a horror show of its own kind. So here we have our family-stereotypes/beer pairing!
From your nosy auntie always in your business to that crazy drunk uncle, RVA Magazine takes all those lovely relatives and links them up with some delicious brews to get them good and sloshed. Hopefully, they will then chill out and behave themselves. Or, we can just up the ante and flip everything on its ass. Either way, it’s going to be entertaining for us. So let’s see what I can do for my relatives on this day. Wish me luck — I will need it.
Happy Thanksgiving, and good luck to all!
Crazy Artsy Son (that’s me) – Feeding Frenzy by Three Notch’d RVA Collab House
Because I love dank IPAs — and I helped make this one! Plus it gets me ready for the Thanksgiving feeding frenzy that is this nutty family. I need this beer to get my great white shark temperament out and drown it in this double IPA. That way, I can attempt to deal with everyone. Now, time to figure out what brew I’m giving this family in hopes of keeping the peace.
Grumpy Traditionalist Grandpa – Hardywood Park Craft Brewery Gingerbread Stout
Grandpa keeps a tight ship, and can be a bit grumpy from time to time. It’s usually based on timekeeping. He has that watch on his wrist given to him by a former President, I believe. Its always on time, and we get lots of questions. How’s the turkey going? Are we on schedule? Well, boy, you sure slept over huh, how late were you up? Is the table set correctly?
It’s 9 am and dinner is at 4 pm, but we best get this right. Back in my day (lots of that). Generally, he is more preoccupied talking to Uncle Pundit (more about him coming up), and messing with the teenage kids. It’s always a good time when he talks to the goth cousin or the vegan cousin — classic moments there.
It can be a bit difficult getting Grandpa chilled out; triggers all around, you know the deal. So I’m going with a heavyweight holiday classic. You see, Grandpa might be hard from time to time, but this one can take anyone down a notch. When you start to explain this brew to him, you’re going to get a little pushback, but stay strong, because he appreciates that. By the middle of the glass, he is going to say, “You know, this is pretty good.” By the second glass, he’s telling war stories and relating funny incidents involving your dad. Let’s call it a win.
Sweet Grandma – Ardent Craft Ales Sweet Potato and Sage
Grandma is going to be in the kitchen with mom, getting things ready. The awesome thing about Grandma is that she wants things to run smoothly, and for the food to be amazing. She has the most amazing pumpkin pie and deserts to fix. Sweet as can be to everyone, she makes everyone feel warm and keeps the peace. She’s constantly on Grandpa duty, and that’s quite a job. So I have this special brew picked just for her.
The Sweet Potato and Sage by Ardent fits right in with this meal she has passed down. She will appreciate how well it fits into the season – even if she doesn’t have beer a lot, this will work great. It’s festive, you know! It fits well with the main course, so we should consider this one for the table once the meal lands.
Father – Legend Brewery’s Legend Lager
Look, he’s picking up the bill — you know that. If he, of all people, loses it, well, its all going to go downhill fast. You know your pop. You know his sayings, and how he feels about this “craft beer crap.” You’re bound to hear it every time. “I remember when beer was beer!” So let’s cut it all out and get a classic for good ol’ dad.
Legend Lager will be exactly what he needs — a beer that tastes like beer (that’s his line, don’t steal it). We can keep this one rolling all day through the games, food, crazy uncle high fives, and all of it. So grab two and share one with your dad — you know he is no more ready to deal with these relatives than you are. We can break out the spiked Eggnog if things get serious. Thanks, dad!
Crying Mother – 2017 Stella (Rose style) by Garden Grove Brewing & Urban Winery
She has her white pearls on, and could not be more excited to have everyone together. The tears are welling up already. She is proud, super proud. Mom is also very busy, so you have to help her a lot in this kitchen. But first, let’s start by helping her take the edge off. Shoot, we both need this.
You know she’s not into beer – of course, she would take it and shoot you loving looks. But let’s try to get something she’ll enjoy, for the woman that put up with all your shit over the years. Plus, by the end she’s going be in a ball of tears, with lots of kisses and hugs – so let’s all prepare for that. I think this beer/wine hybrid is the way to go — it’s refreshing, and it gets the job done. It’s early enough to not bomb her out into a crying mess, and should make her feel very warm and loved. Give her a hug and a glass – and get to work! She deserves it.
It’s that time again; time to deal with my drunk uncle, and hope I don’t become him in the future. But let’s not think about that right now. I just hope Dad does not assign me to be his handler again. Whenever that happens, I’m cornered by his crazy ramblings and political rants before I can even sit down with a plate. Trump is coming up, for sure. It’s going to be a YUGGEE hot mess.
“Dude — yeah totally, high five again. Talked to your wife earlier... I mean, you said it, not me. Ok fine, HIGH FIVE! Yeah, I have been bringing some pretty good brews this holiday. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget you. Here — I got you Last Call Bourbon Brown, from Three Notch’d. You should consider the branding for that as a life goal... Hey, stay away from other people’s stuff! Ok?”
Little Sister – Plain Jane from Isley Brewing
Dear god. Being big brother is not always fun. You have to take care of your sister and get her something. I know I’m a few drinks in, but this dude she brought? I’m not sure about this guy. Dad is already eyeing him up and down. I trust her, but sometimes my protective instincts kick in. But I gotta keep it together. It’s not like this is easy for her — or him. I’m supposed to be the cool one, so I gotta reach out my hand first to try and keep it cool.
Mom already kissed him on the lips, and that was a little odd – but that might be my fault for giving her multiple Stellas. Drunkle and he are buds now, it seems — they already did two high fives. I’m keeping a chart. At least my sister and I are in on the jokes. She has given me a few eye rolls – so yeah, I gotta hook her up. So I’m playing it safe and getting her Isley Brewing’s Plain Jane; it’s easy to drink and in her wheelhouse. Still, though… I’m watching that dude.
Little sister’s Jock Boyfriend – The Veil Brewing Co.’s Creep
This guy. He was third-string quarterback and going back to his old high school has him acting like Tom Brady. Overcompensating much? Or is he just that good? It’s hard to tell. Dad is not impressed, but Mom would adopt him if she could. If he comes in and wins one game, however, I’m sure Dad’s story will change and I start seeing pictures of him on the wall. Wait, am I feeling jealous? Ok, so maybe I was never the gifted athlete, but I graduated from college with a performing arts degree, dammit. I played Hamlet! I can surely play an amazing football legend… onscreen.
Now he’s talking to Uncle Pundit; no way he comes out of this unfazed. Oh great, my Uncle Asshat just put his arm around him. This is going south fast. Now drunk uncle is hitting him with the high fives. I guess I should say hello, so let me try this: I’m getting this oh-so-cool dude Creep by the Veil. Fits him perfectly — I have four of these with his name on it. I’m gonna keep feeding him these and see how long it takes for him to bomb out.
“Hey dude – nice to meet you. I got you this!”
“Oh, thanks man! I love the Veil – great beers. Had this the other day with the head brewer. Great hop profile!”
OH HELL NO…
Nosy Aunt – The Answer Brewpub’s Mind Games
Oh, my aunt. Full of ideas for my life, she has all the answers.
“Why yes, life has been going well! …no, she went a different direction in her life. Yeah, I guess she wasn’t marriage material. I know, it was very exciting that I got that extra part in the movie… Life insurance? Yeah, I thought about it. Yeah, the kids are great. Other jobs? Yeah, I have been looking. Oh yes, good idea! I should apply to Google soon… HEY, CAN I GET YOU A BEER? Here, check it out — I got you two growlers of Mind Games from The Answer. The cool kids drink it straight from the growler… You can share it with your amazing husband. Yes, I know he likes beers like this… Where is he? Well, he’s on high five number eight with that fine young gentleman my sister brought. You should meet him, he said he wanted to meet you and talk about family planning. No problem! Bye bye now.”
I usually feel pretty bad for her, because I was her a few years ago. Wait — maybe I still am. Anyway, she just does things differently. Most of us fall on a political spectrum that’s at odds with the people we only see at these family gatherings – but she is even outside of that. She is WAY into conspiracy theories; she talks lizard people and the flat earth quite a bit. You know how people are going to argue over health care? She’ll say something like, “Well, if the aliens would just come out and give us the real cure…” She might watch The X-Files as much as I do.
Most at the party will stay clear of her, but they always invite her, because “That’s what family does.” I’m not sure it’s helping her self-esteem, but she comes and enjoys the food at least. She also likes me, so I try and keep her happy. I got her cider because she does not like yeast or something like that. I forgot exactly why she doesn’t like yeast, but I’m going with it. And we’re giving her two, because she’s the Black Sheep, and needs a little something extra just for being the Black Sheep. I got her Buskey’s 45 and Trying — because, well, we are both there — and Blue Bee’s dessert cider — because she deserves to TREAT herself for being the outcast of the family.
Truck-driving Aunt – Triple Crossing’s Wherever I May Roam
If things get out of hand, I always have her help. That’s only one of the things that makes this aunt awesome. One year, she wrestled drunk uncle after telling him and Uncle Pundit to shut it. Uncle Pundit just cowered, but then drunk uncle made a mistake. It was like Wrestlemania here — a top family moment if you ask me.
She can drink us all under the table, no doubt. She is who we call when we need help with cars, or around the house on projects. She can build anything — the kegerator she built is one of my favorite things I own. So I got her Triple Crossing’s Wherever I may Roam — it fits her well. She knows brew, loves IPAs, and is usually on the road. She is my favorite.
Intense Vegan Cousin – Lickinghole Creek’s Spit Roaster
I totally respect her choices and I’m all about making sure there is stuff on the table for her. But the rest of family, minus my truck-driving aunt, has no idea how to deal with her veganism, so they usually bring food just for her. I always get her drinks, and we talk our usual hippy-dippy stuff.
The best time with this cousin is when the food comes and she says things like “Thanks for putting dead carcass on the table!” And, “Ooh, look — what a nice spread of murder I’m surrounded by.” Or, “I’m glad no one here cares about the earth.” Classic stuff. Love it. I mean I eat the meat, but I appreciate her getting everyone all worked up.
So I got her this Spit Roaster, as a fun poke at her. I think she is going to like it! I mean, she can totally drink it, no problem. If she hesitates, I’ll tell her I’m gonna feed it to drunk uncle – that will probably get her to drink it. Plus, I have a special brownie I saved to win her over with anyway.
Chatty “going-through-things” Aunt – Vasen Brewing‘s The Sour Cherry Walrus
Oh this poor thing. Every time I see her there is an issue — something new that’s the talk of the day. She will get everyone going on this stuff, and it becomes something that keeps coming up all day. Drives my Dad crazy. I even thought about making a sign that says “Moving on” to put up at the table – but I’m not trying to start things.
Between her and her husband (Uncle Pundit), it’s non-stop jibber-jabber. Whatever’s going on, it’s always somebody else’s fault, and usually goes into some kind of greater issue she has with people in the world. Good times.
I’m getting her The Sour Cherry Walrus, because it makes sense. It’s dark and sour, and might help me get her off her constant whine about the state of things. I don’t know — I’m trying here.
Uncle Pundit – Final Gravity’s Irish Goodbye
Honestly, he is the one I most want to catch a cold and miss the party. Boy does he have opinions — and they are always about politics. Not 30 seconds after he gets in the door, he is going, “Did you see Fox news today? Blah blah blah blah.” I tune it out at this point. Do not engage!!
Under it all, he’s a great guy — for real. But there comes a point when I don’t want to talk politics or religion with him, and that point is pretty much always. Anyway, there are times when I can get him to chill with enough booze. Video games worked on him once — he got into that and we actually had a good time. Movies are good as well, but I’ve gotta make it until the time for movies after the meal, so I’m going to give him something I know he likes. He sticks with the classics (surprise), so I’m getting him an Irish Goodbye, a classic Irish stout from Final Gravity. Maybe I can convince him to do car bombs with this, because that is serious. Wish me luck.
We all have met old Debbie Downer in our life somewhere – and this special lady is Goth, to make it even better. Actually, most of the time, she is wearing a black t-shirt featuring a band I really like, so we have more in common than she knows. Before we get to the prayer, before we eat the turkey, we have to get her chilled out. Last year she was sure she was dying from 12 different ailments. Of course, she had to describe them all – and explain that we are all doomed as well.
I’m getting her two brews and a pack of cloves, in the hope she might smile – and might not reduce either of my aunts to tears. Rot in Hell is right up her alley — it’s sour and has that clove background. Plus, she is gonna love talking about it. Then, as she gets further down the spiral, I always have the Murder Hole Mango by Castleburg in reserve. Either this will set me up for a big win this year, or yet another repeat watch of Requiem for a Dream.
There you have it – my choices for my relatives, as we work on getting through these holidays. You can’t go wrong with any of these great local brews, as long as you know which ones to offer which picky relatives. I certainly hope you have a very good Thanksgiving with your friends, family, dog, or whoever you enjoy your holiday with! Cheers to surviving — I hope these brews provide you with some sort of relief.