Since a big part of my day job (and even more of my free time) is spent deciding which beers will go best with specific foods, I’ve been testing pairings for before, during and after the big turkey dinner. The result is this Thanksgiving Beer Pairing Guide that will fill your fridge with a spectrum of beers to please palates in all sorts of situations (though maybe not your mother-in-law’s).
You’re welcome in advance.
Keep in mind when shopping: There’s no such thing as too much beer.
BEFORE THE MEAL
As people are showing up and grazing, you want beers that appeal to guests with varying palates—beers that might help start a conversation and beers that can go with whatever food is set out for mid-afternoon nibbles. Two beers that accomplish all of this and more are Estate Ale by Sierra Nevada and Forgotten Tales of the Last Gypsy Blender, Series 1 Volume 1 from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales.
Suggestion 1: The Sierra Nevada Estate Ale utilizes ingredients produced on the estate of the brewery in Chico, CA. When your cousin asks if it’s organic, simply respond that she’s annoying for asking that but, yes indeed it is organic and it’s made from locally-sourced barley and hops. Also, as a wet-hop ale, the presence of hops will come across as less bitter than with a traditional IPA. So even though the label features pictures of big juicy hops, your uncle who claims he hates hoppy beers could potentially enjoy it. And if not, more for you!
Suggestion 2: A whiff of Jolly Pumpkin’s Forgotten Tales of the Last Gypsy Blender begins with the trademark funky aromas of open fermentation that all Jolly Pumpkin beers feature, but take a sip and you’ll find the juicy mango and earthy tamarind flavors lingering deeper in the glass. This is the go-to beer to give anyone bitching about not having a mimosa before the meal. It’s the perfect complement to a cheese platter and/or that story you’ve heard a hundred times about that one time your aunt met John Stamos at a White Castle.
Go saison. Saisons are super drinkable and known for citrusy and peppery flavors and aromas that manage to complement everything on your plate — from the turkey to the taters. Conveniently, the saison style should also be able to please finicky guests who are uncomfortable moving away from their cliché glasses of white wine with the meal (except for your mother-in-law, who will still be sucking on that bottle of white zin, and that’s okay!).
Suggestion 1: Sofie from Goose Island Beer Co. is barrel-aged with an orange peel so it offers a deep complexity for the beer nerds at the table while providing maximum drinkability for the novices. This beautiful, bubbly beer goes down easy, so make sure you grab a couple bottles to make it through the whole meal without running out. Keep in mind when shopping: There’s no such thing as too much beer.
Suggestion 2: Tank 7 from Boulevard Brewing Company showcases big Belgian yeast aromas as well as a hefty dose of dry-hopping, two of the main reasons why it has a place at my holiday table every year. This beer is the definition of a crowd-pleaser: smooth going down, approachable for all and an 8.5 percent ABV that will make it that much easier for your dad to pretend he’s having a good time around all of his ex-wives.
Instead of boring pumpkin beers, try to think about beers that are both unique and approachable.
Suggestion 1: I love serving the eccentric Friek from Odell Brewing Company with desserts. Mixing the flavors of tart cherries, fresh raspberries and sour lambic beer, Friek’s light body and high carbonation can provide contrast for even the richest chocolate dessert. Added bonus: the Friek makes it a bit easier to make it through the last course no matter how stuffed you are.
Suggestion 2: On the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ll find the Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti from Great Divide. The rich chocolate and bitter roasty flavors will satisfy coffee lovers and should go way better with dessert than a cup of coffee. From the pumpkin pie to the pecan pie to whatever failed attempt at a Paula Deen recipe your little sister brought, this big beer goes with them all and will definitely help that tryptophan nap kick in.