Turkey Day is almost here, and we’ll be running articles geared towards helping you bring craft beer and Thanksgiving together better than ever before.
Thanksgiving is hands-down my favorite holiday. A day dedicated to the bounty of the harvest, the strength of family and community, and the acknowledgment of what is treasured in our lives that we celebrate through preparing and eating a feast. It is a day that calls for a (variety of) craft beer like no other day on our calendars. No matter what your Turkey Day traditions are we’ve got three simple strategies for pairing craft beer with Thanksgiving.
Beer, with its huge variety of styles and flavors, is a great match with the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s about more than simply pairing beer with food; there many different ways to incorporate craft beer into your celebration. During the Turkey Day feasts of my youth beer was present as cans of lager in the fridge or a couple varieties in the cooler. Beer was drank before, during, and after the meal, but it was wine that was the real star of the feast.
Elevating beer into the spotlight on Thanksgiving is about pairing the beer with the whole experience of the holiday, and here are three different ways to get craft beer on the holiday table.
The Craft Alternative
The first option is the most simple. Don’t try to change the way the beer is presented and enjoyed on Thanksgiving; just change what beer is served. Instead of, or in addition to, stocking the fridge with the common American light lagers find a versatile craft beer that works in the same way; something that is approachable, sessionable, and flavorful.
This is a particularly good option if you don’t anticipate a high level of craft beer experience among the attendees at your Thanksgiving feast. Many typical “entry level” craft beers are well suited to the variety of foods served on Thanksgiving. New Belgium’s Fat Tire or Shift pale Lager, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Tumbler brown Ale, or Sam Adams Boston Lager all make for great Turkey Day craft beers that shouldn’t scare anyone off. (And they are all leaps-and-bounds better than the Bud Lite that Uncle Tony will inevitably bring.)
If your crowd is a touch more adventurous your options open-up considerably, but keep the focus on approachable and sessionable brews with a wide appeal. Oktoberfests and pumpkin ales are classic Thanksgiving beers and make for great, versatile choices.
If you’re not alone in your love of craft beer during your Turkey Day celebrations another fun option is to approach the beer’s presentation the way you would wine. No one bats an eye at few open bottles of wine scattered across the holiday table; it gives the wine drinkers some choices and variety. With so many excellent craft beers being packaged in large bottles there is no reason this practice should be confined to wine. Select a few larger format bottles and offer them to your guests to pour at their convenience.
Belgian ales, barley wines, and stouts are all excellent accompaniments to the different foods on the Thanksgiving table, and this approach lets the feasters try different styles and beers that they might not be familiar with without the risk. If you’re hosting the feast it also gives you more opportunities to pair the beers with the phases of the day.
For example you could set out a few aperitif bottles, perhaps a light gueuze, a spicy saison, and a refreshing wit before the meal begins. When the assembled guests have their plates of turkey and stuffing you can present bottles of marzen, Belgian abbey ales, or brown ales for the meal. Once the din of forks-on-plates has died down bottles of stouts, tripels, and Bière de Champagne can be opened to complete the meal.
This approach lets you showcase a wider variety of styles and breweries, and it allows the guests to sample – and maybe fall in love with – new beers.
Dish Specific Pairings
If you want to maximize the interplay of the beer and the food you can serve beers that are more deliberately matched to the dishes. This can be tough as the typical Thanksgiving is a family-style affair, and dishes are not brought out in specific courses. However, if your Thanksgiving tradition is more of a family pot-luck and you’re responsible for bringing a specific dish then this can be a fantastic way of showcasing both the beer and your dish!
We’ll be discussing how to apply basic food pairing concepts to Thanksgiving staples in another post this week, but you can check out Dr. Bill Sysak’s Guide to Thanksgiving Pairings in the mean time.
Be Thankful for Craft Beer
The question of what craft beer to serve with the Thanksgiving feast can seem daunting, but one of the wonderful things about craft beer is its flexibility. It would be tough to find a beer that would be “wrong” to serve at, or bring to, your family’s celebration. Sometimes the best beer to bring is your favorite beer. Don’t feel like the ideas above are strict rules. They’re just guidelines to get you thinking about how to integrate craft beer into your Turkey Day traditions.
The overwhelming choices that we’re presented with when trying to decide what beer to serve at the Thanksgiving feast is a wonderful problem to have. I’m very thankful that the question of “what beer to bring to thanksgiving dinner” has more answers than ever before!
How does beer fit into your Turkey Day traditions? What are you planning to bring to, or serve at, your feast? Tell us about it in the comments, and check back tomorrow for more specific Turkey Day and beer pairings (here’s our post on the basics of pairing beer for Thanksgiving)!