Wine is excellent for certain things but when your family gathers for Thanksgiving, beer most assuredly deserves a seat. Beer’s vast range of flavors, alcohol strengths, and color profiles make it an ideal drink for every facet of your feast.
This isn’t a newfangled idea. The Pilgrims settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts originally because they were out of beer and couldn’t continue their voyage further south. Although they would have loved a pint of ale at the first Thanksgiving, hard cider and water were served.
Here are a few pairing suggestions for the big day that include the turkey, sides plus (and most importantly) the pies!
Turkey and Tripel
Belgian beer styles are perfect for turkey and I like tripel best for it is highly carbonated and those bubbles clean your mouth after each gravy rich bite. Belgian tripels are golden in color with flavors of spice and pear so it’ll add a salty/sweet flavor contrast as well to the main dish. Lastly, they are higher in alcohol (around 9.5% ABV) so not as boozy as wine, but close!
Recommended beers: Chimay Cinq Cents Tripel (White Cap), Westmalle Tripel
Stuffing and American Brown Ale
The salty/nutty flavor of stuffing is great with an also nutty but sweet brown ale. American brown ales don’t get a lot of attention nowadays, which is a shame because they are wonderful paired with many foods, especially during the harvest season and into the colder months. Try with the mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese as well.
Recommended beers: Avery Ellie’s Brown, Bell’s Best Brown
Cranberry Sauce and Saison
Saisons are my second favorite beer to bring to Thanksgiving because, you guessed it, those Belgians sure know how to make beers that pair well with food. Saisons are a broad beer style and in America, they are usually golden in color with high carbonation and a spicy component that makes them dry and refreshing. The tart zip of the cranberry sauce on a nice piece of turkey mingled with the peppery quality of the saison is a home run. For a nice presentation on the table, opt for the 750mL bottle of Saison Dupont, which comes with a cork/cage topper like champagne.
Recommended beers: Saison Dupont, Boulevard Tank 7, Ommegang Hennepin
Pumpkin Pie and Scotch Ale
A Scotch ale (also known as a “Wee Heavy”) is usually a higher ABV dark beer style originally from Scotland that is pure caramel/toffee. The caramel notes of this beer is a great contrast to the spice of pumpkin pie, like adding straight caramel to each delicious bite. The beer cuts the spice level and the sweetness of the beer harmonizes with the flaky pie crust.
Recommended beers: Oskar Blues Old Chub, KettleHouse Cold Smoke
Apple Pie and Barleywine
The undisputed queen of Thanksgiving desserts, apple pie is one of my family’s favorites. To pair with this classic, choose a high ABV beer like a barleywine, a style of beer that originated in the United Kingdom. There’s no wine here, the beer is called barleywine because it can be as boozy as wine, sometimes even higher!
Barleywine has flavors of toffee, caramel, and/or dark fruits like fig and plum. It is similar to a Scotch ale, but higher in ABV. These flavors harmonize well with the apples and cinnamon. Barleywines are a great way to wind down the festivities.
Recommended beers: Firestone Walker Sucaba, Fox Farm Copestone, Revolution Straight Jacket
Here’s to you this holiday season and remember to celebrate responsibly and surround yourself with people you care about. Cheers!
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