Beer with Your Bird: 10 Brews to Serve at Your Thanksgiving Feast
The craft movement has done a lot to revamp and refine beer’s reputation. Still, most of us default to wine when sitting down for formal dinners and holiday feasts. That’s a shame, because many beers complement food as well as a fine vino. But just as the wrong wine can mask, muddle, or adulterate a food’s flavor, some beer styles—including one American craft favorite—don’t work well with traditional Thanksgiving foods. “IPAs are overwhelming, and have no place at the table,” says Matt Simpson, a certified beer judge and former instructor of “Beer Education 101” at Emory University. So skip the bitter pale ales—or sip them earlier on Turkey Day, while you’re watching football—and stock your fridge with these brews, many of which are food-friendly Belgian saisons. Each will work well with something you’re serving this Thanksgiving.
This refreshing American pilsner from California’s North Coast Brewing pairs a light, easy drinking profile with a subtle bitter bite, making it ideal for sipping with hors d’oeuvres like shrimp cocktail or mixed nuts.
As you would expect from a German-style wheat beer, this brew from Georgia’s Creature Comforts is lemony and acidic, and a great match for mild, creamy cheeses like chevre, camembert, or brie. (If you can’t find Athena, Oarsman Ale from Michigan’s Bell’s Brewing is another great wheat beer.)
Mildly tart, funky farmhouse ales pack enough flavor to hang with—but not drown out—heavier pre-dinner cheese courses, Simpson says. Especially if you’re serving hard, rich cheeses like gouda or aged cheddar, this spiced brew from New York’s Ommegang is a delicious pick.
Feel free to keep sipping that Hennepin while you’re enjoying your salad course. But if you’re looking to mix things up, another farmhouse ale—Colette from Colorado’s Great Divide Brewing—packs a little less spice and a little more tart fruit to better complement dressed salads.
Dinner is served. And a Belgian saison pairs well with almost everything on the table, Simpson says. Brasserie Dupont’s namesake saison—which is labeled “Vieille Provision” in the U.S.—is widely considered both the archetype and apex of the style. It’s soft, mildly tart, deeply complex flavors are perfect partners for a plate packed with turkey, stuffing, green beans, potatoes, and all your Thanksgiving staples.
The malty, gently hopped character of a mild English ale is well-suited to your Thanksgiving meal, Simpson says. “The problem is, it’s going to be hard to find,” he adds. If you can put your hands on it, this American twist on an English mild from Kansas-based Defiance Brewing is a good one.
Dubbels are another Belgian style that have enough alcohol and complexity to stand up to a range of holiday foods. “I think the spice and fruits notes in dubbels, along with this style’s effervescence, make it a great pairing,” Simpson says. Chimay Red is a can’t-miss choice.
We have a dubbel on this list, so why not a tripel? A special occasion calls for a special beer, and La Fin Du Monde from Canada’s Unibroue makes a lot of beer-drinker’s top-10 lists. The malty, spicy flavors and tangy carbonation of this beer are great dinner companions.
Imperial stouts could be dessert on their own. But Simpson says they also pair well with any after-dinner treats that highlight chocolate or vanilla flavors. This Russian-style imperial from Colorado’s Oskar Blues is a rich, malty, roasty powerhouse—and a perfect way to end a memorable meal.
It’s $200, illegal in 12 states, and—at 28% ABV—is pushing the limits of what could be considered “beer.” Whatever you want to call it, Sam Adams Utopias is phenomenal. Meant to be sipped at room temperature, Utopias features layer after layer of spicy, earthy, caramel and dark fruit flavors. It’s also not bad with pumpkin pie.