Foolproof Turkey Day Beer Pairings

The best beer to pour alongside the big bird.

thanksgivingAmong other treats, the pilgrims feasted on venison, lobster, plums, and cranberries at the first Thanksgiving (wild turkey wasn’t specified, but was a staple food, so, it’s a safe bet they roasted that up, too). And beer? Maybe. They certainly sailed with beer aboard, and planted barley on arrival, but no one’s exactly sure if they had any fresh, pilgrim-brewed pale ale ready for the feast in November of 1621.

No matter. While pilgrims made do without sugar, dairy, and flour, you won’t. And the fatty, rich foods those ingredients are part of—stuffing, gravy, pie, you name it—go amazingly well with beers of many styles.

So where to start? The number one most sociable, adaptive, delicious beer style for the table, all night long? Saison. With a hearty serving of pilsner malt, a touch of wheat, earthy, spicy hops, and peppery yeast bite, saison’s typical flavor profile makes it a great match for most dishes. You can toast the table with it, serve it with salads, and even set it next to the bird. Most versions have the dryness of prosecco or champagne, at about half the alcohol percentage. Many pair well with soft cheeses at the start or finish of your feast. Some of our recent faves: Sante Adarius, Jolly Pumpkin, Prairie Artisan Ales, Oxbow, Brasserie Dunham, Logsdon, Jester King, and 8 Wired.

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish and beer to go with it? Tell us below.

And read on for pointers on beer styles to pair with every course.

Daytime Drinking
You’re home, the game is on, everybody’s cracking beers. Just make sure you go for something low in ABV, like a good German-style helles, American pale ale, or session IPA. It’s going to be a long day, and you want to remember every bite.

Hors d’oeuvres, salads, & soft cheeses
As mentioned, saisons and other farmhouse ales, similar to bières de gardes, are great with salads. To step it up in the acidity department, look for geuze or other tart wild ales and lambics that boast complex, assertive, and mouth-watering flavors. A good, crisp pilsner can also match up with salads containing bitter greens like radicchio.

Main Course
With turkey, stuffing, and cranberry, richer, slightly fruity (but not bitter!) Belgian and American brown ales work well, while the tartness of cranberry cries out for coriander-kissed witbier. Flanders red, oud bruin, kriek, framboise, and other fruity, tangy wild ales can cut through the richness of stuffing and reset the palate over and again. It’s a feast. No one will mind if you have three different kinds of beer on the table.

Dessert
Old ales, quadrupels, and other strong, Belgian-style abbey ales will bring your second serving of apple or pecan pie and ice cream home with a bang. Rich, fruity double IPA pairs well with pumpkin pie. Fulsome, silky, rich coffee stouts like the incredible Peche Mortel from Dieu du Ciel! in Montreal taste like dessert in a glass.

Nightcap
What’s left? A nice bottle of Sierra Nevada Celebration? A light, dry Irish stout? Bingo. We like to wrap up with nice, dry Belgian pale ales like Orval and Flemish Kiss from The Commons. Now those are some great beers to be thankful for.

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