Thanksgiving. Time for giving thanks. Time for thinking about Pilgrims and Natives and American origins. Time also for overeating, napping on the couch, football (often bad football,) relatives you love, relatives you have to try very hard to love, family pictures, and a lot of really good food. And nothing goes better with really good food than really good beer.
While the football game’s on, we’ll all be inundated with hilarious commercials brought to us by gigantic companies that produce mediocre beer. Those beers might be perfect while watching the game and settling in, as all beer has its time and place, but when that dinner bell rings, it might be time to reach for something to be taken as seriously as grandma’s efforts in the kitchen.
The interesting thing about pairing beverages with Thanksgiving is the sheer variety of food options available. So there are really two ways to go: pair up a different beer with every staple, which could be fun if you’ve got a beer-drinking crowd you can share with, or find a couple of beers that can last you through all of the classics.
In the interest of being helpful, we can walk through both. First, we’ll match up the main features.
Stuffing: Oh man. Writing this, Thanksgiving can’t come soon enough, seeing as how I could eat stuffing all day every day. The rich, salty flavor of stuffing will be well complemented by the malty flavors of amber ale, such as the Full Sail Amber Ale.
Cranberry Sauce/Relish: Some folks are particular about their Thanksgiving food remaining separate on their plate, and some others push everything together. If it weren’t for cranberry relish, I might be a separatist, but to me it’s the magic glue that makes everything pop. For eating the relish/sauce on its own, I would pair up a witbeir, which will allow the cranberry flavors to dominate but will provide an almost dessert-like combination. Victory Whirlwind Witbier is a great one.
Turkey: The big dance. Everyone (except for our vegetarian friends) knows it’s all about the bird. Rich, savory, oven-roasted goodness, white and dark meat alike. Lots of us are beginning to bust out the deep-fryers, too, which makes for an even more interesting time with beer and family. There are a couple of options for big bird, but my recommendation would be a Belgian Strong Ale, such as the world-famous Duvel. This beer has a great rich flavor and a deceptively round body and is a solid alternative to wine. Strange to drink a beer named after the Devil on a family holiday, but we’ll roll with it.
Dessert: I almost typed dessert in all caps, just because Thanksgiving dessert is really something to get stoked about. Equally stoke-worthy is the flexibility of beer pairing for dessert. This is where you can really play to personal taste. Whether it’s not too late for an Oktoberfest for you, or you’re ready to jump into Winter Warmers, you can pretty much do your thing. Since one of my favorites is Pecan Pie, I’ll recommend the Nectar Ales Black Xantus Imperial Stout, since I think those two would be a home run.
For those of you that want something that’s going to take you straight through the meal without having to worry about something different for each dish or side, or someone who wants to grab a couple of bottles to take care of everybody, there are two simple options to check out. A good Saison or cider should roll through everything smoothly, complementing each facet of the meal in its own special way. Saisons are easy drinking yet complex, and an apple cider is about as fall-traditional as it gets, and traditional also to the tables of early settlers.
Two standout examples are Saison Dupont and J.K. Scrumpy Hard Cider.
So now that you know what beers can take you through the meal, you can pick up some of those or similar and make sure that at least the beverage that gets you through the family time won’t be an issue of concern. Happy Thanksgiving!
Hunter W. Smith