Food & dining

99 Bottles

Perfect beers for holiday meals

Boulevard Harvest Dance Wheat Wine Style Ale
Gary Dzen/Globe staff
Boulevard Harvest Dance Wheat Wine Style Ale

Thanksgiving has passed, but there are all those leftovers in the fridge. You need something to help wash down all those turkey sandwiches, not to mention a beer that works for all those holiday parties coming up.

Last week I gave you a great cranberry beer from Harpoon, but if fruit beers aren’t your thing, the annual seasonal offering from Kansas City’s Boulevard Brewing may just do the trick.

Boulevard Harvest Dance wheat wine is a good beer to accompany your meal or end your night. It’s a beer that fits snugly into the period between Oktoberfest and Christmas, a beer that celebrates the harvest as the end of the fall season. This Boulevard offering is strong but not heavy, smooth but not an especially easy sipper. For the time of year, it’s just about right.


A wheat wine is a style similar to a barley wine in strength but containing a large proportion of wheat malt. Boulevard uses 20 percent raw wheat and 25 percent wheat malt in this brew. Belgian ale yeast is also used, though this beer doesn’t adhere to a particular Belgian style.

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Poured into a snifter, Harvest Dance is light orange in color with a fluffy head. The first scent wafting up from the glass is the banana notes from the Belgian yeast. I also get brown sugar and fruit. Why fruit, you ask? Hallertau and Citra hops impart a burst of citrus, and the beer is also bottle conditioned with Muscat grape juice. To round out the flavor profile, the brew is aged on both French and American oak.

Harvest Dance tastes as smooth as it sounds. Bananas, grapes, and a silky butterscotch dominate the flavor profile. The hops are somewhat muted (42 IBUs), but that’s more a product of the presence of other ingredients than a lack of hops. There are wine notes here, which will pair nicely with your squash or pumpkin pie. The finish is dry due to the oak aging. At 9.1 percent alcohol by volume, a dry finish is welcome.

One beer that gives back

Another beer that works great with heavy holiday meals is Harpoon’s Grateful Harvest Cranberry Ale. Brewed with freshly harvested cranberries donated by local farm A.D. Makepeace, the beer also serves a charitable function. Harpoon donates a dollar from every six-pack sold to local food banks. The brewery anticipates that approximately $35,000 will be donated from sales of the beer this year.

Grateful Harvest Cranberry Ale is a medium-bodied amber ale brewed with Munich and Vienna malts. An addition of CaraMunich malt adds a touch of sweetness. I’m not much for most fruit beers, but as you’ll see below, neither the fruit or the malt is too overpowering in this beer. Worries about the beer being too sweet were unfounded.


Poured into a tulip glass, the beer pours a dark amber. It keeps a nice white head throughout, and tiny bubbles bob to the top like cranberries in a bog. Sticking my nose into the glass, I get cranberries, bready malt, and, thankfully, plenty of pungent hops.

The beer is malt-forward, but the toasted caramel flavors don’t overpower. Cranberries add a nice bite, and the tartness of the fruit combined with the beer’s carbonation make for a lighter-than-expected mouthfeel. There aren’t distinguishing hop notes, per se, but their presence is felt with a pleasant bitterness. This is a very drinkable beer. At 5.9 percent ABV and 25 IBUs, it shouldn’t overpower your turkey dinner or leave you too groggy to do the dishes.

The Harpoon Helps program in 2012 alone has raised more than $445,000 for local charities. Food banks are always in need of donations, but the need is especially dire this time of year. You can support your local food banks tonight at any of the 15 British Beer company locations from 5- 8 p.m. Please consider making a donation.

I have a lot to be thankful for this year, including the chance to take over 99 Bottles and write about something I’m passionate about, however trivial it may be. As always, I appreciate your reading me.

Gary Dzen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Globegarydzen.