Brewer’s Bird – A Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
by Cristall J Heisch from The Sleepy Panther Bottle Shop
Many of you know Austin Heisch as a badass brewer from Rahr & Sons, but to me he’s someone even cooler – he’s my husband! Austin and I have spent lots of Thanksgivings together and right after having an awesome family, our health, and his love, the thing I am most thankful for every year is that sweet, sweet beer brined bird flesh he makes.
Austin’s Thanksgiving turkey is his baby every 3rd Thursday of November – he gets up at the crack of dawn to start warming his kamado-style smoker with beer soaked oak spirals or old barrel staves. Beer is our world, so Austin and I naturally infuse beer into our everyday cooking, and especially when we have something super special to prepare! Austin’s turkey has been the highlight of our Thanksgiving meal for three years now, and I sat down at our dining room table to get all of the details for y’all.
This year Austin will be cooking up a Rahr & Sons Pumpkin beer brined turkey smoked over Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer Oak Spirals – YUM! Recipe is below!
What you’ll need:
- 1 15lb turkey
- 1 gallon Pumpkin beer
- 3 yellow onions – quartered
- 3 carrots – coarsely chopped
- 3 stalks of celery – coarsely chopped
- 6 whole garlic cloves
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- 1 Tbsp whole telluride peppercorns
- 2 cups kosher salt
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 4 whole bay leaves
- 1 lemon, quartered
- 2 oranges – vertically sliced
- A large, well insulated cooler
- Large bag (trash can liners work perfectly for this)
- Wireless Meat Thermometer
- Aluminum foil
- Smoker (we use a Kamado-style)
- Oak or Pecan wood
What to do:
- 1. Add all ingredients except the turkey to a big pot, and boil for about 10 minutes. This is your brine.
- 2. Let your brine cool for about 20 minutes.
- 3. Add 1/2 gal of ice to bring the temperature of the brine down further to 50-60F (use your meat thermometer to check).
- 4. Line your cooler with the trash can liner, then add brine and turkey and close lid. 5. Leave for 24-48 hours. We use a Yeti cooler to keep ours nice n’ cold – if you don’t have one, check your brining turkey every now and then and add a little more ice. Not too much though, as you don’t want to water down your brine.
- 6. Once you are ready to cook your turkey, warm your smoker (Austin uses a Kamado-style, but if you don’t particularly like smoked meat, aka blasphemy in our house, you can sub the smoker for an oven) to 275F. If you prefer a crisper skin, you can turn it up to 350F.
- 7. Take turkey out of brine and pat dry. Let it come up to room temperature.
- 8. Put your turkey over the fire and smoke until it reaches 165F. This usually takes about 4 hours, but do not rely on the clock to cook your bird unless you want to gamble with it being over cooked. Use your meat thermometer as your timer – temperature is guaranteed to tell you exactly when your bird is ready!
- 9. Once your bird is at 165F, remove it from heat, cover with aluminum foil, and let it rest an hour before carving.
A Few Tips n’ Tricks
- Your bird doesn’t need to be basted. Because you put it in a brine, flavors have already been soaked into the meat. If you really do want to bast, Austin suggests using the same beer you brine with and spraying it on the bird lightly in 30-45 minute intervals. But, again – it really shouldn’t need it!
- Austin suggests using high gravity (at least 7%), malt forward beers. The high alcohol content tenderizes the meat. Spices are cool, but avoid hoppy beers. “I just don’t think the bitter hop flavors go well with smoke,” says Austin. In past years, he’s used Rahr’s Tenderfoot barleywine and The Regulator doppelbock.
- No matter what beer you decide to use, the recipe for the brine should work just fine. Austin has used the same brine every year with different beers and had outstanding results!
- Don’t skip on salt! The salt is what’s doing the work in your brine. Per osmosis, salt pulls liquid out of the meat, but since the bird’s submerged in brine, the liquid will go right back into the bird but with flavors from the brine.
- It’s important to keep a consistent temperature in your smoker!
- Save your bones for a broth later! We’ve made amazing stocks with our leftover turkey carcasses – remember to roast before you soak!
We are hosting our families at our house for the first time this Thanksgiving, and I can’t wait to place Austin’s perfect brewer’s bird at the center of our dinner table. Let us know how your beer brined birds come out in the comment section below!
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!