Expert Beer Pairings That Will Make Your Thanksgiving Dinner Even More Delicious
Yes, you want to invite beer to Thanksgiving dinner.
If you ask beer enthusiasts why they love to drink beer on Thanksgiving, they might tell you that the reason dates back to the Mayflower. The myth goes that in 1620, the Pilgrims were planning to settle further south, but decided to remain further north because their beer supply was running low.
The tale, it turns out, is not necessarily true, though there’s some debate about whether the story is entirely false or possibly plausible. Regardless, the story is still a popular one among the ale-obsessed.
It’s no surprise, then, that beer lovers today insist on inviting the beverage to Thanksgiving dinner. Even more — with craft brewery in America more popular than ever — there’s probably no more exciting time to pair turkey with one of the amazingly complex beers out there.
To find some less conventional recommendations, we turned to Brendon O’Brien, craft beer and bar manager at DeCicco & Sons, a family-owned, New York-based market with one of the most impressive beer selections we’ve ever seen. The store offers several thousand different beers from all over the world, and two of their locations feature craft beer bars on-site.
“The styles I like to feature on my table are saisons, wild and sour ales, pumpkin ales or stouts, ” O’Brien told HuffPost Taste over email. Each style offers vastly different flavors, so we asked O’Brien to break them down below.
Saisons: “This farmhouse ale can be rustic, slightly tart and quite drinkable. If you’re looking for something to leisurely sip on while everything is still cooking, this is your brew.”
Wild and Sour Ales: “These beers can be created by a few different methods. Either the brew undergoes spontaneous fermentation, the addition of lactic acid, or a process called ‘sour mashing.’ Their taste, though not for everyone, appeals to those who prefer wine.”
Pumpkin Ales: “Probably the single most overdone seasonal beer, but it’s Thanksgiving. How are you not going to have a pumpkin beer on the table to celebrate the year’s harvest?”
Stouts: “Rich, chocolatey, roasty and full of flavor. It’s coffee, chocolate pie and smiles all in one.”
When it comes to styles to avoid, O’Brien says he steers clear from macro lagers that use ingredients that water down rather than enhance flavors. “On a holiday like Thanksgiving, there’s no point to a flavorless beverage that will fill you with bubbles,” O’Brien warns. “Instead, reach for a smaller pour of something with 10 times the flavor.”
We asked O’Brien to recommend a few specific brands based on the styles he prefers above; check out his suggestions and descriptions below. Some of these particular brews might be more difficult to find than others, but fear not — just ask your local store to recommend a solid saison, sour ale, pumpkin brew or stout, and we have no doubt that your Thanksgiving beer experience will be well on its way.
Saison: Prairie Ale
From: Prairie Artisan Ales in Tulsa, Oklahoma
“A light body dominated by pilsner malt makes this an easy beer for everyone at your table to enjoy. Slight grape notes on the palate are enhanced by an intriguing blend of yeast used to create this beer,” O’Brien says.
Saison: Surette Provision Saison
From: Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project in Denver, Colorado
“I’m a sucker for a beer with good acidity. This lively Saison is quenching and sure to change people’s perception of how beer can be made,” says O’Brien.
Wild/Sour Ale: Echt Kriekenbier
From: Verhaeghe in Vichte, Belgium
“This reddish, brown ale is matured in oak barrels and dosed with Belgian cherries, so it has a dry, tart finish. This is the beverage for your fussy aunt who’s scowling that you only have beer at your Thanksgiving table,” O’Brien notes.
Wild/Sour Ale: Gueuze Tilquin A L’Ancienne
From: Gueuzerie Tilquin in Bierghes, Belgium
“A blend of 3, 2 and 1-year-old Lambics, this beer is funky and barnyard-like, with an overwhelming amount of character,” adds O’Brien.
Pumpkin: Autumn Maple
From: The Bruery in Placentia, California
“A big, Belgian-style brown ale that is packed full of yams. A little goes a long away with this 10 percent elixir. It’s what would happen if sweet potato pie and maple bourbon had a love child,” states O’Brien.
Pumpkin: Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine
From: Almanac Beer Company in San Francisco, California
“Another rich, malty beer dosed with pumpkin. A portion is aged in brandy and rye barrels,” O’Brien says.
From: Elysian Brewing Company in Seattle, Washington
“Yes — pumpkin, coffee, cinnamon and nutmeg. Enough said,” states O’Brien.
Evil Twin/DeCicco’s Imperial Biscotti Break
From: Evil Twin Brewing
“This decadent imperial stout is enhanced with hazelnuts, chili peppers, vanilla and espresso. On it’s own, it could qualify as dessert, but don’t be shy if you have s’mores ingredients at hand,” O’Brien says.
Stout: Narwhal Imperial Stout
From: Sierra Nevada in Chico, California
“Another beauty from the iconic American brewery. Baker’s Chocolate, molasses and roast notes dominate the palate,” O’Brien notes.