Thanksgiving is the holiday when we all indulge in some fantastic foods, and there is no shortage of different variations of the same dish (some better than others – we’re looking at you, Turducken!). However, it is the time of year that we also all gather around family – and sometimes we need to take the edge off a bit. One great way is to pair great beers with your food; not only does this make your day less stressful, but it gives you a chance to introduce the family to great craft beer.
The difficulty comes in, though, when the table is full of food and you want it all on your plate, but also want a beer that can hold its own, not overpowering the meal or being overpowered by the meal. Well, fear not – here are some simple suggestions to keep in mind for creating an even more enjoyable holiday dinner.
For the turkey, rich and earthy beers are the best way to go: something that has a bit of heft to it and caramel character to enhance the turkey, but not to take away from it. One of the best styles that fit the bill for this is Bière de Garde. The lightly toasted malts and subtle sweetness and hopping make it the perfect pairing with turkey. Beers such as Scythe & Sickle from Brewery Ommegang, Southampton Biere De Mars by Southampton Publick House, or Oro De Calabaza by Jolly Pumpkin are all fine examples of the style to try.
The stuffing and other side dishes, such as mashed potatoes or vegetables, need something a bit lighter, but with a fair amount of carbonation to cleanse the palate. There is no better high carbonation-styled beer than the Saison. The subtle spicing adds an extra layer of complexity to even the heartiest of side dishes, but with enough carbonation to really clean up between bites and leave you craving more. The best examples of the Saison style to try are Saison Dupont from Brasserie Dupont, Hennepin from Brewery Ommegang, Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale from Boulevard Brewing Company, or Jack D’or from Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project. The Saison style is also great to have family members who are craft beer virgins try as their first introduction into craft beer.
Finally we move on to everyone’s favorite course: dessert. This leaves a wider variance of possibilities, namely because there are just so many different desserts that are brought out on Thanksgiving, from the simple pie to the decadent Crème brûlée. Let’s split this into lighter desserts and richer desserts.
The lighter desserts, such as pies, whether they be pumpkin, apple, peach or even candied yams, go well with a sweet and spicy pumpkin beer. The hefty body delivers enough spice to match well with the dishes but not overwhelm them, and also has enough carbonation to wash away even the creamiest of pumpkin pies. Some great versions of the style are Punkin Ale from Dogfish Head, Fat Jack from Sam Adams, Imperial Pumpkin from Weyerbacher Brewing Co., or Jack Be Nimble from Nimble Hill Brewing Co.
The heftier desserts need a bit more body and a wider variety of flavors within the beer to stand up to the dessert, such as Crème brûlée, pumpkin cheese cake, or sweet potato cheesecake with brown sugar and pecan topping. The perfect style of beer for these desserts is a Belgian Dubbel. The heavy body, along with subtle fruit characteristics, provides enough might to melt any dish and leave the palate refreshed and invigorated after each bite. Some of the best takes on this style available are Chimay Red from Bières de Chimay, Abbey Ale from Brewery Ommegang, Westmalle Trappist Dubbel from Brouwerij Westmalle, or St. Bernardus Prior 8 from Brouwerij St. Bernardus.
Whatever you decide to pair with your meals, alcoholic or not, be thankful this year that we live in such a country that provides us with a wide variety of options every time that we sit down at the dinner table.