Beer Of The Week: Blue Buck, In Time For Canadian Thanksgiving

Monday marks a holiday that in Canada is known as Thanksgiving. Any American will recognize the basic outlines of the day: Get together with friends and family and eat until you can compare stretchmarks and then succumb to naps. That doesn't mean it's the same holiday. Care to (U) guess (S) which (A) is superior?

The harvest season up north is of course shorter, so this holiday of plenty actually works in October. Its dates floated for some years (for a long stretch it resided on a November Thursday) until 1957, when Canada nailed it down to the second Monday in October—conveniently overlapping with Americans' observance of Columbus Day. This means bankers and mailmen on both sides of the 49th parallel can get shithoused on the same Monday without worry that they're missing voicemails from their counterparts.

It's a fine holiday, but even most of the folks I know here in British Columbia implicitly regard it as the junior-circuit version of the greatest of all American holidays, referring to theirs as "Canadian Thanksgiving." Part of that is to distinguish it for an American audience such as myself, but it's also an acknowledgement that the Yanks' version has grown to a mythological proportion. Part of that involves the ritual of sport, certainly: Thanksgiving simply wouldn't be the same holiday if the NFL were still in preseason at the end of November, as the NHL (usually) is in early October. Americans are fat and love to get fatter; the gluttony of their Thanksgiving takes on a self-righteous urgency. Thanksgiving proper is also Black Friday Eve, speaking of mentally healthy American rituals.

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But the critical feature of Thanksgiving, its enormous advantage over the Canadian version, is hidden in plain sight: It's on a Thursday. Superficially this doesn't appear to make as much sense as a three-day weekend. Realistically a huge swath of American workers, outside of essential sectors such as movie theater ticket-takers and Walmart cashiers, leverage that Thursday across Wednesday and Friday to build a four- or five-day weekend. Hell, play your boss right and you can shrug off the preceding Tuesday, as well. All that's left is Monday, when no one feels like doing much of anything. Weasel out of that pointless workday and a single holiday Thursday can beget an effective nine-day weekend—spring break in November. With football. And your family on-hand, all stoned on turkey and carbs.

Canada's Thanksgiving is just afternoon snacktime by comparison. But it still clobbers a mere Columbus Day. Adopt Canadian Thanksgiving as your own, and lo, you shall have two Thanksgivings to celebrate each year. Think of the first one, Monday's, as a starter Thanksgiving. Slather maple syrup onto a Canadian bacon crepe, eat with gusto and then say "sorry" when you reach for seconds.

Then, in the spirit of cross-border brotherhood, enjoy a Canadian beer that doesn't taste like imitation Budweiser. The recommendation this week is Blue Buck, a hoppy, malty pale ale out of a Victoria, B.C. brewery called Phillips. It's something of a magical beer, actually, combining the lazy sipability of a lager with the depth of an ale. It does such a good impression of a lager, in fact that it won silver in the 2012 Canadian Beer Awards' North American Amber Lager category. No, that doesn't make sense. Yes, it's a peculiar beer.

Tasters tend to find apple and citrus notes, as well as caramel and honey that match the color of the pour. Overall, it's not the most challenging beer you've ever had, and on a Thanksgiving, that's fine. To buy it, you'll have to set foot in British Columbia or Alberta; Phillips hasn't yet begun to distribute south of the border, alas. Mitigating that sucky state of affairs, the brewery has published a recipe for Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Corn Soup that it says pairs well with Blue Buck. Swap out a similar English Pale Ale (e.g. Boddingtons or Old Speckled Hen) if you must. Happy Starter Thanksgiving, one and all.

Beer-game pairings
Detroit and Dallas both have byes, totally thwarting my Thanksgiving hopes. Substitute Buffalo at San Francisco to see Canada's adopted NFL team at work. The Monday night game is a holiday must: Houston at the Jets. And for Saturday afternoon, we're looking West Coast: No. 23 Washington at No. 2 Oregon.

(Note: Because Phillips' website is too cute for its own good, reading the corn soup recipe is a pain in the ass. Unless you read it below. Sub-note: I have no idea if this recipe is even edible. If it's not, blame Canada.)

Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Corn Soup
• 1 pound leftover turkey meat, diced bite-size
• 2 oz. hard Spanish-style chorizo, diced small
• 2 tbsp. olive oil
• 1 large onion, diced
• 2 celery stalks, diced
• 1 carrot, diced
• 1 red bell pepper, diced
• 6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
• 2 medium tomatoes, diced
• 3 ears fresh corn, shucked and cleaned
• 2 large yellow potatoes, cubed
• 6 cups chicken stock
• 1 tsp. dried thyme
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 heaping tsp. turmeric
• 2 tbsp paprika
• 1 tbsp smoked Hungarian sweet paprika (can substitute regular paprika, totaling 3 tbsp.)
• 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
• 1 tsp. red pepper flake
• 1 tsp. chipotle pepper
• 1 tsp. chili powder
• 1 tbsp sugar or honey
• 1 tbsp rice or white wine vinegar
• Salt and pepper
Cut the ends off the fresh ears to provide a flat surface and stand them upright, shaving the kernels off. Heat the oil and cook the diced chorizo until crisp and its fats are released, about three minutes. Add onion, celery and carrot, stirring until sweated, about four minutes. Add garlic and cook two minutes more. Add tomatoes and all the dry spices and herbs, toasting for two minutes. Stir into thickened sofrito and spice mixture the potatoes, red bell pepper, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil; then cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes. When potatoes are nearly done, add corn and leftover turkey. When corn and turkey are cooked and tender, about four minutes, turn off heat. Add sugar or honey and vinegar, adjusting to taste and adding salt and pepper as needed.
Serves 8-10.