Pairing The Right Beer With Your Thanksgiving Day Meal

Posted on November 19th, 2009


On Tuesday we introduced the wonderful world of pairing beer with food. Today we’re going to delve deeper into the topic by exploring the beers that compliment a traditional meal many of us are preparing to have next week- Thanksgiving.

Beer with Thanksgiving isn’t anything new. It was a daily staple for the Pilgrims, as it was for most people in the 17th century. The Pilgrims had planned to sail all the way down to Virginia but were forced to make their home in Plymouth, Massachusetts because they ran out of beer. We think they had the right idea, so join us next Thursday in toasting Thanksgiving with your favorite brew.

When picking beer to pair with Thanksgiving, you can either choose one brew to enjoy throughout the meal, or you can go all out and pick a different beer for each course. If you are going with one beer for the whole meal, you want to pick one that’s versatile enough to cover all the flavors and aromas of Thanksgiving while keeping in mind what the dominant tastes are going to be. In my experience, the rich, savory and slightly sweet flavors of Turkey with gravy, stuffing, sweet potato casserole and pumpkin pie all go great with balanced beers like bock, Oktoberfest and a little known French style, Biere de Garde. All of these beers are somewhat malty but still crisp and refreshing, which is what makes them great with Thanksgiving. Here are some recommendations for each of these styles:

Biere de Garde – This rare French style is smooth and slightly buttery. It’s seen a recent resurgence from American craft brewers like The Lost Abbey and Jolly Pumpkin with their Avant Garde and Oro De Calabaza beers, respectively. 3 Monts from Brasserie De Saint-Sylvestre is the classic French version.

Bock – Although it might be a bit too sweet, Sam Adams Winter Lager is a great bock to try. If you can’t find that, try Anchor Bock from Anchor Steam.

Oktoberfest – If you can still find it this time of year, Paulaner’s a great choice. See are our article on this style for more details.

If you choose this second option – pairing different beers with each course – it’s a good idea to progress toward heavier, more intense beers and not the other way around. A more delicate beer like a wit could seem off if you have it following an intense brew like a barleywine. The different food courses work the same way; you begin a meal with lighter fare like salad and finish it with rich desserts like chocolate. Here’s a list of common Thanksgiving items and some beers that go well with them:

Turkey – Oktoberfest (Paulaner), Biere de Garde (3 Monts), Bock (Anchor Bock).

Sweet potato – Brown Ale (Newcastle), ESB/English Bitter (Fullers), Pumpkin Beer (Dogfish Head Punkin).

Stuffing – Rye Ale (Founder’s Red Rye).

Pumpkin pie – Dunkelweiss (Weihenstephaner Dunkel), Dopplebock (Ayinger), Cream Ale (Sam Adams), Pumpkin Beer (Dogfish Head Punkin).

Green beans/veggies – Pale Ale (Sam Smith).

Cranberry sauce – Lambic (Lindemans Framboise).

Of course, these are just suggestions. The best beer and food pairing is the one you like the most. What are you planning to drink with Thanksgiving? Let us know in the comments.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Beeriety team!