Beer Pairing Suggestions for Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving is just a few short weeks away. Odds are, you're either eating at your house, attending someone else's gathering, or attending several gatherings. Whether you're hosting or attending, serving or bringing a great beer to go with a turkey dinner is always a great gesture. Now if you aren't celebrating Thanksgiving, then perhaps you should be using that day to watch football and brew up a delicious beer. Here are some great beer pairing suggestions for common Thanksgiving courses.

Appetizers and Hors D'oeuvres

There are a lot of options for beer pairing over the course of Thanksgiving day, so let's start at the beginning and work our way to dessert.

Cheese and Crackers - While pairing beer and cheese together could be an article of it's own, I'm going to go the simple route and just provide a beer pairing for Cheddar as it's very common to find in your typical cheese platter. A Pale ale is where you'll want to turn here. It's bright, smooth, fruity, a little bitter, and balances out the cheddar well. A stout will also work (technically speaking), but as this is an appetizer, a stout may serve better later in the day. The easy solution here is the amply available Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Shrimp cocktail - A little spicy, a little salty, a little shrimpy. You're going to want something with a bit of spice of it's own, but is still crisp and light. It's for this reason that a saison is a great-choice to serve with a shrimp cocktail. If you need a recommendation, Tank 7 by Boulevard brewing is a great saison to serve.

Thanksgiving Dinner Beer Pairings

thanksgiving beer pairings main course
Now this goes without saying, but after the turkey and stuffing, everybody's meal gets a bit different, and that's okay, because you're likely not going to be pausing Thanksgiving to have a beer pairing for each side, so the best thing to do is find something in common with most of the dishes you'll be having and find the pairing that fits the most.

Many of the Thanksgiving dishes people serve are roasted in the oven, which cause the food to undergo Maillard reactions, creating a sweet caramel-like flavor. Turkey, roasted brussels sprouts,  twice baked sweet potatoes, and potatoes Au-gratin all typically undergo varying levels of this.

If you can get it, Korbinian from Weihenstephaner is an excellent beer pairing option. This doppelbock has enough alcohol to help you tolerate your in-laws, but more importantly it has a sweetness that highlights a lot of the foods listed above.  In addition to that, it's generally around $3-5 for 16oz of world class beer, meaning you can pour for 10 people (8oz each) for no more than 25 bucks.

Another great option for the main course is Sam Adams Octoberfest. It features some of the same notes Korbinian has but with less alcohol and more subdued flavors.

Continuing the trend of yeast character driven beers from the appetizer section, a Belgian Dubbel is another great beer to pair with many of the dishes served at your typical Thanksgiving feast. It's got a decent malt backbone with that spicy crisp finish. There are a lot of options out there but a few quality examples would be Allagash Dubbel, Ommegang Abbey Ale, and Chimay Premiere (Red label).

Beer Pairings for Thanksgiving Dessert

beer pairings for thanksgiving dessert

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Let's talk about the elephant in the room, and I'm not talking about your grouchy Uncle who's pants grew two sizes that day. I'm talking about pies.

Apple Pie - Fruity, bready, and delicious. A perfect way to cap off eating for three people in around 45 minutes. In this case, you have to roll with a milk stout, or oatmeal stout. Something with good body and sweet roasty flavors play really well with the acidic sugary treat. Sam Smith's Oatmeal Stout and Left Hand Milk Stout NITRO are two great options for beer pairing.

If you're into mead, you can have your apple pie and drink it too with Kurt's Apple Pie from Moonlight Meadery. You should be warned: it's a very sweet mead, but has some amazing vanilla and apple characteristics.

Pumpkin Pie - Pumpkin pie is one of my favorite pies on the planet. In fact, It's probably my favorite type of pie period. While you may think the obvious option of a pumpkin beer here is in order, I disagree. You're already getting a big dose of pumpkin spice in the pie, so you want something a little more fresh and crisp. I have two options here, one being more open ended than an actual recommendation.

First, the open ended one. A blonde ale goes really well with pumpkin pie. Guinness Blonde Lager (yeah not an ale-I know), but this beer should be available everywhere. The open ended portion of that is you can likely find a great local blonde ale that works better than a mass distributed one. A blonde ale is also a great option to wrap up the evening as you're probobly full, and downing an Imperial Stout is the last thing on your mind.

Next, and I find myself selecting a Belgian Style beer again. Blanche de Chambly from Unibroue is a Belgian Witbier that will rejuvenate the pumpkin spice and sweetness with every new bite after a sip. It's very clean and neutral and won't get in the way of the pumpkin spice.

Of course, you don't have to buy a craft beer to bring to the table if you already have some of the styles above brewed up already. What are some local favorites that you'll be drinking this Thanksgiving?

by David Doucette
David is a full blown fermentation enthusiast who has dedicated much of his free time to learning and sharing the art of homebrewing. He's spent several years documenting and writing homebrewing information on his blog Hive Mind Mead. He's written over 60 articles between Homebrew Talk and Homebrew Supply.

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written by David Doucette

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