Tips for the Perfect Thanksgiving Beer Pairings

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Thanksgiving brings family and friends together to eat way too much food and celebrate all the things we’re thankful for, including great beer. It’s probably overwhelming and not realistic to have elaborate, coordinated beer pairings, especially considering the broad range of foods on the average Turkey Day plate. But, you can choose beer styles that work well with the majority of traditional holiday foods.

Not just any good beer will play nice with your Thanksgiving dinner. The always popular IPA doesn’t link up well with the sweet and earthy flavors from your bird or mashed potatoes. Fortunately for you, we’ve done some research, talked to experts and came up with some beer styles that you’ll be thankful for.

Beer Pairing Foundation

On your Thanksgiving plate, you’ll have some serious piles of food exhibiting all sorts of flavors, textures, temperatures and the like, which makes it difficult to pick one style for this meal. In general, you want to consider the beer and the food elements separately and find your flavor harmonies. Think about potential intersections between the food and beer and match the flavor intensities accordingly.

Many Thanksgiving dishes are prepared in the oven: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pies, casseroles, sweet potatoes, you get the point. Food cooked in the oven experiences browning and caramelization, just like some of those darker beers that come in amber and brown colored.


Thanksgiving Homebrew Pairing

Belgian Dubbel

The Belgian Dubbel is high in carbonation, malty and moderately strong. These beers lift the mouth-coating richness of gravy and mashed potatoes from the palate, helping prepare it for the next bite of food.

Flavor-wise, despite the style’s low alcohol warmth, it has a complex malt bill, accentuating raisin and dried fruit flavors, as well as clove-like spiciness that will help compliment the entire meal—especially cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and turkey. It’s rich and complex without being too sweet—something you can enjoy though the meal.

Homebrew Recipes Description
Dubbel Your Pleasure Home Brew Chef Sean Z. Paxton presents this delicious Belgian Dubbel recipe with alternative ingredient additions that will enhance the beer’s presence when used to cook or pair with various proteins.
Phil Keener’s Belgian Dubbel An extract recipe for a Belgian Dubbel, Phil Keener of Ashland, Ohio, took home a gold medal at the 2009 National Homebrew Competition.
Dubbel Trouble Medium-bodied with a malty sweetness and chocolate-like caramel aroma, this beer will taste sweet up front, but finish dry because of the layering of the specialty grains.

The Plate

  • Butternut squash soup
  • Baked turkey with stuffing
  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Green bean casserole
  • Glazed carrots
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Homemade gravy
  • Pumpkin pie

Thanksgiving Homebrew Pairing

American Brown Ale

American Brown Ale is always worth having on the Thanksgiving table. The browned malt flavors of caramel, chocolate, and toasty qualities work well with gravy’s browned flavors, dishes cooked in the oven and most cranberry sauces.

The style has a medium-dry finish provides a great balance to the hops and maltiness. Plus, the restrained hop profile of an American Brown Ale can tame the meal, lessening your palate fatigue—gotta keep your strength up for the big meal! Finally, the higher carbonation of this style helps cleanse the palate, allowing you to taste every bite.

Homebrew Recipes Description
Buffalo Pass Brown Ale Enjoy this delicious American Brown Ale next to a fire after a long day of skiing or any time you want some nice maltiness warming you from within.
Janet’s Brown Ale Nutty, chocolate and toasty notes are what you’ll find in Mike McDole’s, Clayton, Calif., gold medal winning Brown Ale recipe from the 2009 National Homebrew Competition.
Big Brown Ale Hoppy but balanced with the maltiness that comes from an American Brown Ale, you’ll enjoy Brian Linder, Tewksbury, Mass., gold medal recipe from the 2014 National Homebrew Competition.

The Plate

  • Bacon appetizer (crackers, parm cheese, bacon wrapped)
  • Deep fried turkey
  • Southern cornbread stuffing
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Sweet corn bread pudding
  • Sweet potatoes with pecans and maple syrup
  • Southern pecan pie

Thanksgiving Homebrew Pairing

Belgian Golden Strong Ale

The Belgian Golden Strong Ale will pair well with your entire meal. The base malt is Pilsener malt, which has flavors reminiscent of graham crackers. The malt flavors work well with mild white meat rather than dark meat because of dark meat’s iron components.

Flavoring your turkey with a brine introduces a variety of flavors that potentially pair very well with this style. Most stuffings have herbal and toasted bread flavors that also tie-in nicely with a Belgian Golden Strong’s malt and spicy yeast flavors. With this style, you’ll often find white fruit esters like pear, apples and pepper phenols that help freshen and spice up the meal.

The more robust alcohol levels of this style (7-10% ABV) stand up to the richer side dishes that often accompany turkey. However, the style is dryer than many others, so it’s quite sessionable. Lastly, the beer’s higher carbonation levels scrub the tongue and get you ready for the next bite.

Homebrew Recipes Description
Belgian Golden Strong Ale This style usually have a fruity and/or spicy Belgian yeast character along with sweet Pilsner malt and light sugar characters in the the aromatics.
Walkin’ With The Man This style has high alcohol content, which ranges from subtle, to spicy, to downright obvious. Expect a complex yet delicate ale with the hop and malt characters varying from spicy to fruity with a dry finish.

The Plate

  • Roasted butternut squash salad with vinegrette
  • Brined herb crusted turkey with gravy
  • Freshly baked house rolls
  • Baked mashed potatoes with cheese and bread crumbs
  • Green bean casserole
  • Orange-cranberry sauce
  • Your favorite mac ‘n cheese
  • Apple pie with vanilla ice cream

Other Thanksgiving Beer Pairings

If you’re feeling ambitious, try some of these pairings to really focus on how a style can either complement or contrast flavors in food.

Beer Style & Side Dish Description
Berliner Weisse with cranberry sauce A sweet-and-sour pairing that’ll play with your taste buds and keep you interested.
Amber Ale with mushroom and bacon stuffing Because this stuffing includes earthy flavors from mushrooms, the Amber Ale will match nicely with this dish.
Bière de Garde with sweet potatoes This style, with its nutty caramel flavor and slight funk, matches up well with sweet potatoes.
Russian Imperial Stout with pumpkin pie This dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream can take on heavy beers like the Russian Imperial Stout.
Milk Stout with pecan pie Creamy with a smooth finish, the Milk Stout has nuttiness and vanilla that will complement the pecan pie.
Dunkelweizen with apple pie With banana, raisin and nut flavors, this beer will fit right into cinnamon-apple flavor pies.

How to Pair Thanksgiving Dinner with Homebrew


Sources:

  • Beer Pairing: The Essential Guide From the Pairing Pros by Julia Herz & Gwen Conley
  • The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food by Garrett Oliver