Thanksgiving is the perfect time of year to discover the beauty of pairing food with beer. The cooler weather lends the opportunity to embrace the flavors of brown ales and barrel-aged beer that we don’t tend to reach for in the warmer seasons. Bonus: Those boozier styles are absolutely perfect for sharing, making them a great conversation starter for new friends or a way to avoid having to talk to your family about why you still don’t have a job. They may even help lower your blood pressure during political chats.
There are so many different flavors served on Thanksgiving, and all that translates to a wider array of beer pairing. From appetizers, salads and sides to the main protein and desserts, there are a plethora of fantastic and local(!) options to share. Pick up a bold pairing for each course or maybe a specialty to accentuate your favorite part of the big meal.
Pairing with food doesn’t have to be a complex task. The easiest route is to choose complementary flavors. If you’re feeling adventurous, use a more complex beer to bring out subtle flavors in the food (which sometimes works vice versa with the food bringing out flavor in the beer). Acidic beers cut through rich and fatty foods, maltier beers can bring out sweetness and caramelization, and hoppier beers pair well with spicy foods (both types of spicy—hot/warm and also well-seasoned salty or sweet).
APPETIZERS: Sierra Nevada Celebration, released annually, is a fresh hop IPA that goes well with just about any flavor profile. It can cut through the fattiness of charcuterie, pair with the nuttiness or creaminess of a great cheese board, compliment the sweetness in a French onion dip, and cleanse your palate between bites of a crab or shrimp cocktail. If you’re looking for something local, Burgeon Canopy Tour (pale ale) is a great opener with any hors d’oeuvres spread.
SALADS & SIDE DISHES: Second Chance Tabula Rasa, a toasted porter, is medium bodied while refreshing and dry, and does not overpower most foods. The flavor is light enough to cut through the richness of mashed potatoes and gravy but also won’t ruin your palate next to a fresh green salad. It’s also a complement to any roasted or charred vegetable like Brussels sprouts or carrots, and can also bring out the sweetness in their toppings like toasted pine nuts or pancetta. My family’s spread isn’t complete without the addition of my dad’s famous oyster stuffing, and Tabula Rasa shines alongside a flavorful dish like this as well. Is your plate incomplete without a glop of green bean casserole or sweet potatoes with roasted marshmallows? This works so well with those, too.
TURKEY: Perfectly roasted, smoked, fried, or cooked all to hell because this was your first attempt at cooking anything other than a frozen pizza in your oven and you completely blew it, Burning Beard Banksy should be your go-to. My favorite ESB (extra special bitter) is going to bring out all the sweetness in your bird—dark and white meat alike. If Tofurkey is your preference, Banksy is going to cut through that little vegan salt bomb for you like a champ. It’s a diverse style of beer that will truly complement everything on your plate, allowing you to enjoy every bite. In a completely different direction, Russian River Intinction works beautifully here as well. A pilsner base aged in Sauvignon Blanc barrels, this beer almost drinks like a gueuze (Belgian lambic) and is perfect if your plate also includes cranberry sauce.
PIES: There is obviously an abundance of holiday desserts and flavors of pie to choose from to cap off your meal, so just one suggestion isn’t enough here. For lighter desserts, such as fruit cobblers or lemon meringue pie, Avery White Rascal is your beer. For pumpkin and pecan pies, go bold with a bourbon barrel-aged beer like Lost Abbey Serpent’s Stout. The big notes of oak and vanilla complement the creamy spice of pumpkin, while the roasty, brown sugar/maple flavors bring out the sweet nuttiness in pecan pie. Rhubarb and apple pies will dance in your mouth with the fruity esters of a French saison. Locally, Resident Golden Kiss is a perfect pairing for these fruit-forward, pastry desserts. Moreover, if you’re like me and enjoy the addition of a little gouda or sharp cheddar cheese melted onto your apple pie, then Resident’s saison is a clear winner.
One thing I’ve learned in pairing food with beer is that the rules are not all hard and fast. Get creative and enjoy the moment. You have a week to procure your bottles and growler fills for the big dinner—good luck and have a safe holiday. Cheers!