CommentaryBy Jamie Flathers
With Thanksgiving nearly upon us, I thought I’d share with you some ideas for how to find the perfect beer to go with your holiday spread. Whether you’re looking for a single brew to sip on all Thanksgiving long, or you want to pair a different beverage with each course, I have several suggestions, all brought to you by Moscow’s own Hunga Dunga Brewing Company.
If you’ve never been to Hunga Dunga, I recommend a trip. They’re located in an old feed silo between Rosauer’s and the recycling center, just after D Street turns into North Jackson. The atmosphere is one of mood lighting and camaraderie, with just enough kooky art and indie music. The Hunga Dunga servers are friendly, knowledgeable and prompt, and visitors can walk back into the cavernous tap room and feel dwarfed by the fermentation vats. Oh, and the beer’s pretty good, too.
I visited with my husband, Edward, and my buddy Madison, my perennial beer-drinking crew. Following the conventional wisdom of beginning with a light beer and getting darker, I ordered a flight of four: Passion Peach Berliner Weisse, Oatmeal Pale, Red Rye, and Cold Brew Coffee Stout. The five-ounce tester glasses came lined up on a decorative wooden cutting board, and I couldn’t resist taking a picture. What follows are my impressions of each beer, in the order in which I imbibed them.
Passion Peach Berliner Weisse, 3.1% ABV
This sprightly brew would be the perfect accompaniment to just about any appetizer you care to name. It’s light, fruity and sour, almost as if a hard cider decided it was curious and got a buddy to score it some hops. If you’re a fan of sour beers and shandies, this juicy beauty is for you. Put it out with a cheese plate, some dried fruit, or a bowl of nuts. Or don’t. With its low alcohol content and citrusy body, this beer is so drinkable you might forget food even exists.
Oatmeal Pale, 5.2% ABV
I’m not normally a fan of pales, but this beer is a great combination of gentle and stealthy. It’s front-loaded with hoppy bitterness, but not aggressively so, and it’s crisp by the time it finishes, with no lingering aftertaste. The oatmeal gives it a creaminess most pales lack. Drinking this beer is like going to a party you’re sure you’ll hate only to find out that everyone’s super chill and listening to the Shins. It could be at home anywhere, but I’d try pairing it with a salad course, especially if that salad has dried cranberries in it.
Red Rye, 5.8% ABV
This beer is a true team player. The universal donor of brews. It doesn’t have much of a nose on it — when I lifted the glass, all I could smell was the fabric softener on my sweater. Its taste, though, is nutty, toasty and a little creamy, like a good tea cake. It’s so beautifully mild that it could get you through the entire Thanksgiving main course, and its rich auburn color will up your Instagram game by several orders of magnitude.
Cold Brew Coffee Stout, 5.2% ABV
I was not shocked to discover that this was by far my favorite of the four. I was, however, shocked to discover that it smelled only like a really good cup of coffee, and not at all like beer. Upon “accidentally” drinking some after I handed her the glass so she could share in my olfactory rapture, Madison suggested that she could bring a thermos of this beer to work, and no one would know she wasn’t drinking coffee (“For a while,” Edward added). If you usually serve coffee with dessert, you should consider trying this stout instead. It’s all coffee at the start, and it’s neither thick nor sweet at the end like some darks. It’s surprisingly fresh and crisp, rather like — well, like a cup of cold brew. It practically begs to be paired with chocolate. I had it with a decadent apple crisp, and it was glorious. If you’re serving dessert, you need this beer.
Now that you have some ideas, I hope you’ll consider giving beer a seat at the table this Thanksgiving. Even if it’s already a treasured part of your holiday traditions, switching it up with a new addition might be just the thing to make your meal even more memorable than usual. It’s tough to go wrong with any Hunga Dunga brew (growlers are $10), so go nuts, friends. If there’s any coffee stout left after I secure my Thanksgiving stash, I’ll let you know.
Flathers is a Moscow resident and University of Idaho alum. She does a killer impression of a corkscrew. She’s a Ravenclaw with Hufflepuff leanings and is usually reading two or three books at a time. Questions or glad tidings can be sent to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With appetizers: Passion Peach Berliner Weisse, 3.1% ABV
With salads: Oatmeal Pale, 5.2% ABV
With a main course: Red Rye, 5.8% ABV
With dessert: Cold Brew Coffee Stout, 5.2% ABV
Hunga Dunga, 333 N. Jackson St., Moscow; (208) 596-4855