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.
We’ve given you some ideas on how to get craft beer on the Thanksgiving table, and we’ve discussed the basic concepts of pairing craft beer and the Turkey Day feast, and here are some more suggestions for specific beers to pick-up before the big meal.
As a veteran host and cook of many Thanksgiving meals I know how stressful the shopping, preparations, and travel can be during the holiday weekend; devising beer-pairings and serving ideas may be the last thing you want to worry about today. We’re taking the guess-work and stress out of your Turkey Day beer selections by focusing on locally available craft beers (most of which you can find in a super market) that can’t miss at the feast.
Before the Meal
The family and friends are gathering, and most of the cooking is wrapping up. Time for a beer! You can keep it light and refreshing, or go for something more like a traditional Apéritif.
- Pique your appetite: A light and funky saison is my favorite aperitif, and the style-defying Jack D’Or by Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project is my go-to, though it can be tough to find. A more easily found saison would be the hallmark of the style: Saison Dupont. The Ommegang Hennepin is another widely available version, and all three of these farmhouse ales would also work with the Turkey Day meal.
- The perfect time for classic styles: a German Pilsner is another fantastic aperitif beer. It is light, crisp, and refreshing, and the assertive herbal hops will help stimulate the appetite for all that turkey and stuffing. Victory’s Prima Pils is my go-to, but any quality craft brewed pilsner will fit the bill (and could even work as a gateway into craft beer for your macro-brewed drinking relatives.)
- Tart it up: The bracing zing of a sour ale can energize the palate and prepare you for the mounds of rich foods to come. Anything from a fruited lambic to a Flanders red ale to a light Berliner Weisse make for pleasing pre-meal tipple. The champagne-like Leifman’s Cuvee Brut is a festive beer in a festive package perfect for a feast-opening toast.
The Main Event
Versatility is the name of the game when you’re looking for a beer that fits the myriad of different dishes, and different diner’s tastes. A beer that is well-balanced with a crisp, bitter finish to help refresh the palate and enough malt presence to stand-up to the food is ideal.
- Hoppy: Eagle Rock Brewing’s Populist (or Revolution) are nicely drinkable and work well with the rich meal, and Golden Road Brewing’s Burning Bush would be a nice match if there is a ham (or smoked turkey) on the table.
- Malty: I think Octoberfests are perfect for the feast, but it can be frustratingly difficult to find them still on store shelves (I horde a couple of six-packs in anticipation of Turkey Day.) If you can’t find an Octoberfest beer you can use Sam Adams Boston Lager as a comparable substitute. (Pumpkin beers also seem like the perfect accompaniment, but they are (ridiculously) likewise tough to find this late in the year.)
- Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale (DBA) is a great choice that is easy to find throughout California. It balances bitter and malty, and the fruity yeast and subtle oak notes match the Thanksgiving fare nicely.
Dessert and Digestifs
The richer and bolder beers are perfect for after-dinner, and a big barrel aged stout or barley wine can be a nice digestif to slowly savor while you and your guests fall into the turkey-stupor.
- For the pies: Coffee stouts are my first choice here, and Dogfish Head’s Chicory Stout is a nice choice that’s packed with flavor but remains under 6%ABV. It also makes a damn fine beer float. Maui Brewing’s CocoNUT Porter is a classic craft can that works nicely with desert.
- When the Beer is the Dessert: Hangar 24 Chocolate Porter, Stone’s collaboration Mint Chocolate Stout, and Epic Brewing’s Fermentation with out Representation are great for when you are so full you need dessert in liquid form.
- Snifter sippers: Some Old Rasputin, Ballast Point Sea Monster, or Stone Old Guardian shouldn’t be too hard to come by, and a little will go a long way with all of them. This would also be a nice time to get into the big Belgian ales. An abbey quad or strong dark ale are great after-dinner sippers.
We’ve talked a lot about integrating craft beer with the holiday this week, but beer is such a natural and splendid match for everything that makes Thanksgiving wonderful that it really doesn’t take much effort or thought. Thinking about the phases of the meal and about pairing the beers with the flavors and dishes is fun for many people (me obviously included), but the real magic of beer, any beer, is the way it fits into a celebration no matter what the style of beer or food being served.
Beer is about many things, but it is, above all, social, and any craft beer you pick for your holiday celebrations is the right choice as long as you enjoy it!
So grab a few bottles of your favorite craft beer this Thanksgiving, raise your glass, and give thanks for yeast, and hops, and malted barley, and for friends and family to share it all with!
Cheers, and be safe this weekend!