Fall Seasonal Beers: All About Pumpkin Ale!

A lot of beer styles have great stories, but Pumpkin Ale's story is one of my favorites. 

A True American Beer

Back in the colonial days of America, pumpkins were everywhere. It wasn't uncommon to find fields of wild pumpkins, and for that reason, they weren't exactly a hot commodity (because they were everywhere!). 

If a year's harvest was poor and brewers didn't have access to the amount of grains they needed to brew beer, they would turn to the excess pumpkins laying around as substitute. Pumpkins provide plenty of sugar, and that is all that brewers needed to create beer. Therefore pumpkins were used as a "last resort" in brewing--no one purposely used them in brewing unless it was absolutely necessary. 

Fast forward to the 1980s and Bill Owens of Buffalo BIll's Brewery--Bill read that George Pumpkin used to brew beer with pumpkins, so he decided to resurrect the style. However, simply adding pumpkin to the beer didn't impart much flavor, so BIll added traditional spices you'd find in pumpkin pie to give the beer a little more oomph. Other breweries followed with their own interpretations and before we knew it, pumpkin ale is a style again! 

Pumpkin Ale Profile

There is no specified flavor profile for pumpkin ale, but many brewers will commonly include pumpkin pie spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice to add "autumn" character to their beer. I've tried ones that are straight up "PUMPKIN!" like Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale, and others that are a bit sweeter and dessert-like, like New Holland Brewing's Ichabod Ale (one of my personal favorites this past year!). 

I feel like it has been a recent trend for beer geeks to poo-poo on Pumpkin Ale, but I happen to enjoy them for what they are--a historical beer style resurrected into something completely new. Although most pumpkin ales are released as early as August, I'll hold on to them through September and October and drink to get into the fall spirit. 

Do you like Pumpkin ale or despise it? I want to know! 

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The Beers of Oktoberfest

Fall is my favorite time for beer because this is Oktoberfest season! There are two styles of beer that we associate with Oktoberfest: traditional Marzen and modern-day Festbier. Check out the video above for how these two styles came to be! 

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Christmas Gifts for the Home Bartender

It’s finally time to get all your loved ones presents (and maybe a few for yourself!)! If you’ve got someone on your list that likes cocktails, is a home bartender, or maybe is wanting to become one, today’s post will give you some perfect gift ideas for them. There are many ridiculous products out there that are just not needed and I know you don’t want to buy yet another gift for someone that will collect dust in the corner or end up in the garage sale pile. So fear not! Here are 5 gift ideas for the home bartender:

Books

I have a huge library of cocktail books and will gladly accept more. If your gift recipient is a cocktail lover, they will definitely appreciate a new book to read as well. For the new enthusiast, consider buying an “all around” cocktail book with good recipes (my favorite is the first one listed below!). For the expert, buy them a specialty book on one specific interest they have like gin or tiki drinks. Here are some suggestions from my library:

  1. The Ultimate Bar Book. Every bar should have this book/great for newbies (Mittie Hellmich)

  2. Liquid Vacation: 77 refreshing tropical drinks from Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas

  3. The Spirit of Gin: A Stirring Miscellany of the New Gin Revival

  4. Sherry: A Modern Guide to the World's Best Kept Secret

  5. The Old Fashioned: The Story of the World's First Classic Cocktail, with Recipes and Lore

Bar Utensils

If your gift recipient is a seasoned home bartender, they may already have most of the bar utensils they need; but for someone new to the scene, proper bar utensils are absolutely essential for getting started. Here’s what I can’t live without in order of most important to least important (but all are still important lol):

  1. Boston Shaker. Don’t waste your time with fancy cocktail shakers! Every single one that I’ve purchased in the past has leaked! Every. Single. One. This is the one I use. 

  2. Jiggers: used to measure ingredients for cocktails. Here’s what I’ve bought. 

  3. Strainer

  4. Mixing Spoon

  5. Fruit Peeler

  6. Grater

  7. Muddler

  8. Fun cocktail picks. My latest purchase.

Glassware

Everyone will appreciate good glassware! But don’t be thinking that I’m telling you to buy your recipient a tacky martini glass that says “cocktail time!” or whatever. I’ve accumulated many 1-glass presents over the years and most of them were donated immediately to the thrift shop. I’m talking about gifting a nice set of glassware which can get expensive, but will most definitely be appreciated. Just try to find out what your loved one needs so that you don’t buy them something they already have:

  1. Martini Glass Set

  2. Low Ball/Old Fashioned Glass Set

  3. Hi Ball Glass Set

  4. Coupe Glass Set

  5. Whiskey Glass Set

  6. Decanters (even better if you fill it with booze!)

Bar Cart

This one may be reserved for big budgets, but if you’re looking for a statement piece for your home bartender, get them a bar cart! I got mine at an antique store but new ones are also an option, like these: AmazonWest Elm

Spirits

Finally, don’t forget that your home bartender will appreciate a good bottle of booze...after all, that’s why they are into home bartending! Find what type of spirit they need or like most, and get them a good bottle (with a little research you can find fun options, or just ask me!). For instance, my husband likes scotch. Last year I got him Aberlour because it was something new for him to try and something he probably wouldn’t have purchased himself. If your recipient is looking to just grow their collection, find some fun bitters to give them. Last idea--find a fun cocktail recipe you think they’d like, then buy all the ingredients to make that cocktail. If you feel like spoiling this lucky gift recipient, buy them the utensils and bar cart to go along with the cocktail!

Happy shopping and leave a comment below if you have any questions! 

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How to Pair Beer With Thanksgiving

Everyone remembers to put wine on the dinner table for Thanksgiving, but what about beer? You can't forget about the beer!

Thanksgiving is hands-down my favorite meal of the year because I put about 9 bottles of both wine and beer on the dinner table (as if I need an excuse...). Wine is a great contribution, but seriously, beer is where it's at.

Beer is excellent with a meal like Thanksgiving because it is carbonated and can have a dry finish, which cleanses your palate after every sip and makes the next bite of food taste like its your first. With so many flavors going on in the meal, it is excellent to have a palate cleanser like beer. 

There are two beer styles that I recommend pairing with Thanksgiving dinner: Saison and Biere de Garde. Saison is from Belgium, and Biere de Garde is from France. The two styles are very similar (their differences are a discussion for another day) in that they both have spicy, earthy components that will pair excellently with Thanksgiving. Many of them actually have spices IN them, but many just taste that way naturally because of the yeast strain used. 

Saison and Biere de Garde are also excellent because they come in 750ml bottles which makes a great presentation on the Thanksgiving table. They are usually cheaper than wine as well, so you can open plenty up without feeling guilty. 

These two beer styles from Europe may be difficult to find depending on where you buy beer, but don't fret: many American craft breweries are making interpretations that you can substitute easily. Just look for "farmhouse" or "saison-style" on a beer label and you know you've got a winner.

 

DANI'S SUGGESTIONS:

Saison

  • St. Feuillien Saison (Belgium) 
  • Saison Dupont (Belgium)
  • Brasserie a Vapeur Saison de Pipaix (Belgium) 
  • Brasserie St. James Daily Wages (Nevada)
  • Ommegang Hennepin (New York)
  • Brooklyn Sorachi Ace (New York) 
  • Dogfish Head Saison du BUFF (Delaware)
  • North Coast Brewery Le Merle (California) 

Biere de Garde

  • Brasserie La Choulette Amber (France)
  • Brasserie St. Sylvestre Gavroche (France)
  • Brasserie Theillier La Bavaisienne (France) 
  • Sierra Nevada Trip in the Woods (California)

If you can't find these beers, fear not! Here are some other Belgian styles ales I recommend that can be found easily: 

Belgian Tripel

  • Chimay Cinq Cents (White Label) (Belgium)
  • Unibroue la Fin du Monde (Canada) 
  • Westmalle Tripel (Belgium) 
  • Tripel Karmeliet (Belgium) 
  • Victory Golden Monkey (Pennsylvania) 
  • New Belgium Trippel (Colorado)

Golden Strong

  • Delirium Tremens (Belgium)
  • Duvel (Belgium) **Dani's fave! 
  • Russian River Brewing Damnation (California)
  • North Coast Brewing Grand Cru (California) 
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How to Pair Wine With Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is hands-down my favorite meal of the year—Christmas of course wins the “favorite holiday” category, but let’s face it…what other meal do you have mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes on the dinner table at the same time?! (theoretically, I know I could do this any time, but it is more special if it only happens once a year!)

This is a holiday that exemplifies everything I stand for—enjoying a great meal around the dinner table with family and friends. This is a holiday that’s ALL about giving thanks, spending time with those you love, cooking, eating great food, and relaxing. It’s what I aspire to do every day of my life.

Thanksgiving also happens to be my favorite because I use it as an excuse to open a bunch of wine and beer, give everyone at least 5 glasses to *taste* said wine and beer, and have fun pairing with the myriad of side dishes on the table. It really is a dream come true for me.

Although I open about 9 different wine and beers every year, no matter how many people are over, I want to make things easy for you and give you my two must-have wines for the Thanksgiving table plus a couple of “runners up” that you can choose to add to your holiday as well.

Wine #1: Beaujolais

Bow-jo-what? Bow-Jo-Lay. This is THE wine to buy for Thanksgiving if you only plan to drink one thing all night. Beaujolais comes from Burgundy, France, and is made from a grape called Gamay. The wine is light-bodied like Pinot Noir and has lots of red fruit (think tart cherry, currant, and cranberry) going on. It also tends to be a bit herbal and earthy, depending on the kind you get. A wine that tastes like cranberries and has herbal notes to it is going to be PERFECT with Thanksgiving. Bam.

Dani's Picks: 

  • Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Villages $
  • Georges DuBeouf Beaujolais Villages $
  • any Cru Beaujolais $$
    • Morgon
    • Moulin-a-Vent
    • Brouilly
    • Cote de Brouilly
    • Julians
    • Chenas
    • Fleurie
    • Regnie
    • Chiroubles
    • Saint-Amour

Even better is that Beaujolais is kinda out of fashion right now, so you can get a GREAT bottle for under $20. Beaujolais Nouveau comes out around this time every year so that is a fine option, or if you want to spend a few extra bucks go for Beaujolais Villages. And then if you want to get really fancy you can do a Cru Beaujolais. Any of these will be perfect with Thanksgiving. If you don’t think you will like this wine, please just trust me and try it with this meal. It is such a good pairing that it won’t matter if you like bigger reds or whatever your reason is.

Wine #2: Riesling

Before you go all “I don’t like sweet wine” on me here, let’s think about the kinds of dishes that are served at Thanksgiving: sweet potatoes. Cranberries. Creamed Corn. I see a lot of sweet dishes on the Thanksgiving table. Sweet food does NOT go well with dry wine. Any Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, whatever that you put on the table that doesn’t have sweetness to it will not work with food that has sweetness. Therefore, Riesling is awesome with Thanksgiving because it has great acidity (perfect for food pairing) and a hint of sugar which will match any sweetness in dishes. Make sure to pick one that isn’t dry, but also don’t pick one that is dessert-sweet. We’re looking for off-dry or “kabinett” level here.

Dani’s Picks:

  • Elk Cove Estate Riesling, Willamette Valley OR $$
  • Dr. Loosen "Blue Slate" or "Dr. L", Mosel Germany $$
  • Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling, Columbia Valley WA $
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Runner Ups

Pinot Noir

Similar to Gamay, this is a good pick if you can’t find Beaujolais or are really that afraid of trying something new.

Dani's Picks:

  • Rodney Strong Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley CA $$
  • Adelsheim Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley OR $$
  • Erath Pinot Noir, OR $

Gewurztraminer

this wine often has some residual sugar in it, acting like Riesling while pairing. Gewurztraminer is also known as the “spicy” grape, meaning it carries spice aromas and flavors like cinnamon, clove, ginger, and allspice (matching many flavors on the table)

Dani's Picks:

  • Trimbach Gewurztraminer, Alsace France $$
  • Columbia Crest Gewurztraminer, Columbia Valley WA $

Sparkling Wine

This is a great wine to have before dinnertime because it can get the party going. It also provides a nice palate-cleanser throughout the meal because those bubbles will scrub flavors off your palate. If you pick an off-dry style (one with a hint of sweetness), it will also pair well with dishes on the table (please refer back to the Riesling comments to understand why).

Dani's Picks:

  • Roederer Estate Sparkling Wine, Anderson Valley CA $$
  • Any Champagne
  • Freixenet (or any) Cava, Spain $

Looking for a wine to pair with pumpkin pie? Sorry, I’m not a fan of wine with pie. Beer wins that race. But if you must, opt for a sweet wine like Riesling or Moscato. Personally I might have some Bailey’s and coffee this year.

How to Make Hot Buttered Rum

Confession: This blog post is not new. Well, the pictures are, but the original post was written in 2014 when I was a new blogger...and incredibly frustrated with my photography skills. I wanted to share this recipe with y'all again since it is my Christmas cocktail staple, but the original blog post was just too cute to revise. So if you've been along this blogging journey with me for a few years now, hopefully you can appreciate the nostalgia of what you're about to read as much as I do. Just a couple things are different now...Andrew and I are of course married, we live in our new (old) house with a REAL fireplace, and we no longer have to dream about snow...this time of year we get plenty of it in our new hometown of Reno. Enjoy the post, and enjoy your hot buttered rum.

Get this easy, warming, festive hot buttered rum into your belly right now! Recipe for hot buttered rum on CaretoPair.com

Hot Butt Rum, Hot Butt Rum, na-na-na-na na-na-na-na Hot Butt Rum.

That is the tune that Andrew sings every time he makes me Hot Buttered Rum, replacing the lyrics of "Hot Cross Buns". He actually does this quite frequently, replacing lyrics to songs, especially around Christmas time. His favorite one (and secretly mine too) is replacing "kids jingle-belling and Dani Grams yelling" during the "most wonderful time of the year" song.  I gotta love our relationship. :)

Here in Las Vegas, we have to force ourselves into the holidays spirit. For those of us used to crappy, cold weather and dreary days around Christmas time, its difficult even after 10 years to adjust to the endless sunny days, palm trees, cacti, and warm daytime temperatures of the desert.

Get this easy, warming, festive hot buttered rum into your belly right now! Recipe for hot buttered rum on CaretoPair.com

Despite having gotten our Christmas tree in t-shirts this year, our holiday season has been merry and bright thanks to one seasonally special drink: hot buttered rum. An irresistible cocktail with a funny name, this has been Andrew’s and my favorite holiday drink for the last few years. This is the go-to holiday concoction if you’re looking for something sweet and warming but don’t want the heaviness you’d get from creamy drinks like eggnog or baileys.

Get this easy, warming, festive hot buttered rum into your belly right now! Recipe for hot buttered rum on CaretoPair.com

No matter how hot it may still be outside, a glass of hot buttered rum makes me want to snuggle in front of the (dvd) fireplace with the illusion that its snowy and cold out. And it’s a great one for your holiday guests—who doesn’t like butter, and who doesn’t like rum? You may get the occasional friend or family member who will look at you when you offer one with the look on their face like “butter in a cocktail??” You may even be thinking that right now. But trust me, this cocktail will be the hit while you’re decorating, while you’re eating cookies, while you’re opening presents…the opportunities are endless!

 Merry Christmas! I hope this cocktail enhances all the cheer in your home for the holidays!

Hot Buttered Rum Recipe

Author: Dani (CaretoPair.com)

Total time: 5 mins

Serves: 1

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
  • 2 Cups light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 pinch salt
  • dark rum (we often use spiced!)
  • hot water

Instructions

  1. With an electric mixer, blend butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt together in a medium bowl. Place in a sealable container and put in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  2. For each cocktail you make, spoon 1 Tablespoon of the butter mixture into a small mug. Top with 2-3 oz of dark rum, then fill the rest of the mug with hot water. Mix the contents of the mug together with a spoon or small whisk.
  3. Keep the butter mixture in the fridge and use whenever you are in the mood for another hot buttered rum! (Makes about 12 drinks total)
Get this easy, warming, festive hot buttered rum into your belly right now! Recipe for hot buttered rum on CaretoPair.com

4 Wines to Have on the Thanksgiving Table

It's almost that time to wake up early, watch the parade, make the pumpkin pie, and decorate the table for Thanksgiving! I look forward to this day every year not only for the mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes (potatoes are my favorite) but because its the day that I can put multiple wine glasses at each place setting, open a ton of bottles, and force my family to try everything while I enthusiastically shout out what wine to try with which dish (it really is a dream come true). Just kidding, I don't force anyone to drink wine. But it is pretty awesome getting to taste each wine with the side dishes and having those "aha!" moments where something works really well.

With that, I give you my top 4 wines to have on your Thanksgiving table this year and every year after this. Since you'll hopefully have plenty of people over to drink 4 bottles of wine, this is a great way to get variety onto the table and avoid buying multiple bottles of the same wine. Woohoo!

What wine to do you pair with Thanksgiving dinner? I say, pair 4 of them! Here are the top 4 wines that must be on your Thanksgiving dinner table | Lessons in Libations

1. Sparkling Wine

What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than with sparkling wine?! Not only are bubbles great for the holidays, but they also pair with the many flavors of the meal. Each time you take a sip of sparkling wine, the bubbles scrub your tongue clean, giving you a fresh palate for the next bite of food you take. With all the flavors going on in Thanksgiving side dishes, sparkling wine will help cleanse your palate.

You have lots of choices when it comes to bubbles, depending on your budget. Cava, Prosecco, Champagne...all good. My biggest piece of advice, however, is to spend at least $10 on that bottle of bubbly. Any less, and you risk the bottle being force-carbonated which might give you a nasty hangover for Black Friday. (And nobody wants that).

Dani's Picks:

  • Nino Franco Prosecco Brut $
  • Freixenet Brut $
  • Roederer Estate Brut Rosé $$
  • Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut $$$

2. Riesling

Riesling is an absolute MUST at the Thanksgiving table! There are lots of sweet flavors in the dishes, so you need a sweet wine to balance them out. However, don’t go buying late-harvest, dessert-style Rieslings as they are way too sweet and heavy to pair with dinner. Instead, opt for a Kabinett Riesling from Germany or a domestic off-dry example. These wines are great pairings for Thanksgiving because the sweetness of the wine matches the sweetness in the food and won't overpower even the lightest dishes.

Dani's Picks:

  • Dr. Loosen "Dr. L" Mosel, Germany $
  • Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley, Washington $
  • Dr. Loosen "Blue Slate" Kabinett Mosel, Germany $$
  • Elk Cove, Willamette Valley, Oregon $$

3. Beaujolais

Thanksgiving is my favorite time to drink Beaujolais. It is actually the first red wine I think of when preparing my wine list for the big day. I partly enjoy it so much with this holiday because I never seem to drink it any other time of the year, even though it's a great little wine with a very small price tag. A light red wine made from the gamay grape, Beaujolais boasts vibrant flavors of bright red fruit and even a bit of candied "grapeiness". Its a crowd-pleaser, as usual sweet-wine drinkers even warm up to it, and it pairs incredibly with Thankgsiving. You can usually find a cheap Beaujolais under $10, but for a few dollars more, you can get the best of the best, Cru Beaujolais. I say if you get one wine to go with Thanksgiving dinner, make it this one. Note: Beaujolais Nouveau hits stores in November each year, so it should be very easy to find.

Dani's Picks:

  • Any Beaujolais-Villages
  • Any Beaujolais that says "Morgon", "Brouilly", or "Moulin-a-Vent"
  • Favorite producers: Joseph Drouhin and Georges DuBoeuf

4. Pinot Noir/Red Burgundy

Like Beaujolais, Pinot Noir is a great wine for Thanksgiving because it is light, fruity, and low in tannin. Thanksgiving dishes are not heavy  so these light-bodied wines will complement, rather than overpower, them. Personally I suggest a Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley or Burgundy as these are usually the lightest and have a bit more earthiness to them than their California counterparts.

My Picks:

  • Erath, Willamette Valley, Oregon $
  • Adelsheim Vineyards, Willamette Valley, Oregon $$
  • Flowers, Sonoma Coast, California $$
  • Any red burgundy--look for Savigny-Les-Beaune or Nuits-St. Georges for good values

Other Favorites of Mine

Gewurztraminer or Cabernet Franc are also great additions to the Thanksgiving table if you are feeling a bit more adventurous. Just stay away from big wines like Nebbiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon, unless you have guests coming over that will not settle with anything else (in which you should make them bring their own wine. Just saying.)

What are your favorite wines to pair with Thanksgiving dinner? Let me know in the comment