What to Drink with What You Eat for Thanksgiving

Learn to what beers pair well with Thanksgiving!

Learn to what beers pair well with Thanksgiving!

Everyone always knows what food to bring to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, whether it’s the turkey, cranberries, or Aunt Edna’s family-secret pecan pie.  But do you know what beer to bring too?  Below is your beer pairing guide for every traditional Thanksgiving dish.  Widely available local beers are used where applicable, but some styles are not in season or available at all in North Texas, so other widely available beers may be used.

With your traditional roasted turkey for Thanksgiving you are going to want to find a beer that matches the crispy crackly skin, but nothing too strong that will overpower the more delicate flavors of the meat.  Beers that utilizes a good amount of caramel and crystal malts but aren’t overly bitter or roasty, will do the trick here.  Look for styles like Vienna Lager (Lakewood Lager), British Pale Ale (Peticolas Royal Scandal), or American Amber Lager (Rahr Texas Red).

If your family tends to forgo the traditional turkey or just needs even more meat for a larger gathering, ham has been a typical go to.  Ham tends to be a bit more flavorful than turkey, so it needs a beer with more flavor as well.  For milder hams, a good American Porter (Texas Ale Project Somethin’ Shady) will work, or an American Stout (Revolver Mother’s Little Fracker) for the spicier and more intense hams.  And if you are getting really creative this holiday season and want to do a citrus glazed ham, a Witbier (Community Wit) would match those same bright flavors with its orange peel and coriander additions.

Stuffing & Dressing
Whether you prepare stuffing or dressing, the savory mix of herbs and bread is a must have for Thanksgiving.  Here a Brown Ale would work here, whether it is an English Brown Ale (Grapevine Brewing Sir William’s) or American Brown Ale (Rabbit Hole Rapture); with the latter working well with more robust versions.

Green Bean Casserole
This dish melds the earthy tones of cream of mushroom soup, crunchy onion strings, and fresh green beans.  To pair with this, you will need something that has the same kind of earthy tones prevalent in darker malt flavors, without too much roast.  A Bock (Revolver Bock) would a nice match here, especially with a little residual sweetness on finish.  Shiner Bock would also work here, though technically speaking, it is an International Dark Lager, and not a traditional Bock style due to its lower alcohol strength.

Whether you’re having gelled cranberries from a can or fresh cranberry salad, you are going to want a beer that can handle the tartness of the fruit.  Wheat beers are most commonly used as a base for fruit beers, which makes them a perfect match here.  Look for German Weissbier (Ayinger Brauweisse) or American Wheat Ales (Wild Acre Moonlight Shine, Revolver Blood & Honey).

Mashed Potatoes
With mashed potatoes, especially loaded mashed potatoes, you want to have a malt-forward beer with some bitterness to balance out the savory elements.  An English Extra Special Bitter (Community Public Ale) would be perfect here, which is also why it works well with the more traditional English Bangers and Mash.

Sweet Potatoes
Everyone loves sweet potatoes, especially when loaded up with butter, brown sugar, and a handful of toasted marshmallows.  With all of the sugar in this dish, you are going to want something with a similar profile to match, and even if you don’t add all those sweet ingredients, the natural sweetness of the potatoes is still very prevalent.  A good Doppelbock (Paulaner Salvator) will be a great option, with or without marshmallows and brown sugar.

Pecan Pie
Between all the corn syrup, vanilla, and brown sugar in Pecan Pie, you are going to end up with a very sweet dessert.  To cut back on that sweetness, you are going want a dark bitter roasty beer to balance it out.  Imperial Stouts (TUPPS Full Grown Man, Great Divide Yeti) are an amped version of your traditional stout and usually pack quite a punch.

Pumpkin Pie
This dessert is a little trickier since it balances between sweetness of the toppings and the savory elements of the pumpkin itself.  The first instinct is to suggest a British Barleywine (Peticolas The Duke) since it is traditionally less bitter than its American cousin, and thus less likely to clash with the dessert.  Since there are not many widely available in the area, less bitter versions of the American Barleywine (Martin House Sugar & Spice) will do just fine here.

Overall Dinner Pairing
If you are planning to serve just one beer with the entire Thanksgiving meal, you are going to want a beer that plays well with many different flavors and not too intense in one aspect over another.  Scottish Ales (Rahr Iron Thistle, Peticolas Great Scot!) match well with most meat and more subtle cooked vegetables because of the more earthy qualities of the low-acid European hops and sweetness of the malts present.  Saisons (Ommegang Hennepin, Saison Dupont) are similar in that one aspect of the beer does not overpower anything, but provides a crisp refreshing bite on the finish and is not as heavy as the Scottish Ales.  The earthy and peppery are also echoed in a lot of traditional Thanksgiving dishes.  Of course you can always go a light crisp German lager that even your macro-drinking uncle will like and still provide plenty of flavor without dominating the food.  Look for styles like German Pilsner (Real Ale Hans Pils), Helles Lager (Rahr Blonde), or Dortmunder Export (Oak Highlands Golden Mustache).

*Note: All Peticolas beers are draught only and will require a growler/crowler fill from a retail location in order to enjoy it off-site.