With the holiday season inching closer, meal plans are definitely on the brain. Whether you're in charge of a feast, a side, or are merely a freeloading guest, the right drink pairing can make every dinner a little more enjoyable. With so many options this season, Eater consulted Ian Washington, a brew expert from Ferndale's 8 Degrees Plato to get the skinny on pairings. Washington provided his professional opinion on what beers, meads, and ciders will suit the comforting fall flavors in upcoming meals.
Superior Lakes Trifecta—This mead has wine characteristics with a "nice sharp complexity that works well with light and dark meats or perhaps as an after dinner aperitif." Website
Schramm's The Statement—This beverage is "a blend of Balaton cherries and Michigan honey." While it comes with a higher price tag, Washington notes that "it's very true to the tradition of original mead making and would pair with any after dinner dessert." Website
Bitter Old Fecker—This specialty beer out of Chelsea, Michigan, is made by a small batch brewer. The blend of charred lemons and lavender flavors would be a great companion to turkey or roasted pork loin, Washington says. "It is a barrel aged, dry hopped ale...It pours with a very heavy full head. It's very floral [and] very effervescent, but it drinks kind of similar to a Belgian tripel." Website
Brewery Vivant's Tart Side of the Moon—A dark Belgian farmhouse ale, Tart Side, has "notes of sour cherries." According to Washington, this beer also ages extremely well. Website
Jolly Pumpkin's Persimmon Ship—This American wild ale is a collaboration brew between Jolly Pumpkin and Upland Brewing of Indiana. The brewers paired persimmons and dragon fruit for a blend of fruity fall flavors. "It's got some sour notes to it. In all of [Jolly Pumpkin's] collaborations, I find that there's a nice sharp citrus note to it. You get that citrus and a little bit sourness. Again, it's going to age really well and it might be a good palate cleanser as something that's like slightly sweet but dry."
Jolly Pumpkin's La Parcela—This pumpkin ale will match seasonal spices without overpowering them. "It's not going to be overwhelming. [It's] not going to have too much spice, not too much pumpkin—just even, blended, balanced." Website
Dogfish's Birra Etrusca Bronze Ale—While it's not a Michigan brew, Washington highly recommends this release from the Dogfish Ancient Ales series. "It's got honey in it, pomegranates, there's some other very unique spices. It's very Christmassy." Website
Founders Breakfast Stout—While Thanksgiving meals are generally an evening affair, for a darker brew, Washington suggests the Founders Breakfast Stout. "It's hearty. It's got grains and oatmeal in it. It's just a nice, full stout—one of my favorites of the season—and it pretty much pairs with anything." Website
The Vanderbush—This beer-cider blend is the result of collaboration between Vander Mill Cider and Greenbush Brewing Company. "It's beautifully made tripel with just a little bit of sweetness from the apple. It comes off a little dryer, but again that's a great beer and very ambitious from Sawyer, Michigan."
Brouwerij Verhaeghe's Duchesse De Bourgogne—This Belgian brew is "a very unique sour," with "vinous characteristics." While it can come off vinegary, it has "ripe fruit notes to it, so you've got some dark cherries, some plum, maybe some sour cherries as well." The beer is aged in wood, which "gives that beer a whole new dimension."
Blake's Cider's El Chavo—For a less expensive purchase with a great selection, Washington recommends any of the Blake's Ciders. "They do a lot of fantastic ciders," he notes. "The El Chavo was kind of a surprising hit this season. It's a blend of habaneros and mangoes, so you get a little bit of that sweetness from the mango and the apple, but then you get just a little bit of the bite from the habanero." Website
Tandem's Pretty Penny—This is "is one of my favorites because it's not too sweet or too dry. It's just kind of a semisweet cider...It's not going to get you hammered but it's just a really well blended cider kind of characteristic of a sauvignon blanc, where it has that nice, clean, even dryness." Website
All of these brews can be found at the 8 Degrees Plato bottle shop at 611 W. Nine Mile in Ferndale. The company will likely begin construction on a second location in downtown Detroit this December in preparation for an opening in the first quarter of 2015.