Thanksgiving may be the ultimate food holiday, but it also coincides with maltier fall styles that make it a match in pairing heaven. But how to pair with great craft beers? Read on.
We know that when families get together, the drinking tends to start early. If IPAs and the hoppy like are your thing, this is the time to drink them. Come mealtime, the food has so many flavors that hops will overwhelm your palate. Similarly, you don't want to overwhelm your palate with massive stouts or barleywines. Bust them out too early and you’ll be the turkey at this feast. Save those for dessert and a nightcap, if you're still standing.
If you can't find the beers listed below, follow this rule: match the darker foods with darker beer and lighter colored meat and trimmings with light beer (again, nothing too hoppy). There's no "right" way to pair with turkey, especially because it's impossible to predict what fixins you'll have. If there's a lighter gravy with more green veggies like sprouts, saisons like the ones I've selected below are perfect. Get any heavier and you might want to switch to brown ales or even a German-style Bock.
Patience is key for a successful meal, as is pacing yourself. Remember, you don’t want to shotgun five beers right before the meal gets underway! Happy (responsible) Thanksdrinking to all!
The “Lions Game” Beer: Founders Brewing Company — All-Day IPA
Nothing screams Michigan like beer and football, and hey ,the Detroit Lions might actually have a chance for back-to-back Thanksgiving Day wins (how bout that!?). Though Founders are from Grand Rapids, they represent day drinkers all over Michigan with this tasty hop nugget, which packs a huge blast of Simcoe and Amarillo hops into a tiny 4.7% ABV package. If you want to have a couple during the game but don’t want to be too full or drunk for semi-civilized feasting, this is your go-to beer. Also note, if you’re planning on any Black Friday shenanigans, skip the rest of this list and stick with this brew.
Appetizers: Crooked Stave Brewery — Vieille Artisanal Saison
The feast usually doesn’t start until after the first game is over but you’ll want something to tide you over till the big meal. Whether you satrt with cheeses or prosciutto-wrapped avocado, you’ll want a beer that is light and delicate but flavorful. Known for their funk forward beers, Denver’s Crooked Stave might not seem like the most obvious choice here, but their 4.2% ABV Vieille Saison is perfect to warm up your palate with flavors of lemon and pepper.
Main Course: Boulevard Brewing Company — Tank 7 Saison
Although you could easily go for a more malt-forward option (Weinstephaner’s Korbanian dopplebock could be a heftier winner), I like continuing on the lighter side of things, at least in appearance. This saison from Missouri’s best craft brewery does pack quite a punch at 8.5%, but you’ll hardly feel it. It’s smooth but bursts with lemon citrus and peppery flavors. Where Boulevard’s Tank 7 excels is in its balance — the flavors aren’t so delicate, nor do they overwhelm hearty foods.
Pumpkin Pie (or Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream) Dessert: Almanac Beer Co. – Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine
Almanac is well known for their excellent sour brews, which feature puckering fruits like cherry, citrons and blackberrys. Their fall seasonal, Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine, is another beast entirely, clocking in at 12%. It sounds like it should be more trick than treat, but the alcohol is barely noticeable, smoothed out from aging in brandy barrels. Huge brandy flavors, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and pumpkin make this a standout. Above all the other flavors, pumpkin shines through and steals the show. This is one of the few pumpkin beers I absolutely would drink year round and it would be a perfect compliment to the festive fall spices of pumpkin pie.
Spiked Pecan Pie Dessert: Clown Shoes – Pecan Pie Porter
This is a brand new version of this beer (formerly Genghis Pecan Porter). The new and improved version is now aged partially in bourbon barrels and features a different roasting method. At 8%, it’s got enough heft to counterbalance the richness of the pie but isn’t so heavy that it will put you to sleep. Lots of nutty pecan flavors pervade in the beer but also chocolate, bourbon, vanilla and oak. This beer begs to be paired with dessert and if you’ve got a pecan pie, you’ve got a match made in nutty heaven.
Nightcap: Hair of the Dog – Adam
Hair of the Dog? But you’re still awake! Despite the irony of their name, Portland, Oregon’s Hair of the Dog makes perhaps the best nightcap beers in the world. Sure enough, this clocks in at a mighty 10% ABV, and by this point, you’ll probably be thankful for the extra booziness in the beer, though you won’t be able to detect much. This is a masterfully blended brew with huge notes of sweet and sticky raisins, dates, plums and other dark fruits, with hints of molasses, tobacco and oak (even though it’s not oak aged). It’s hard to find outside Oregon, so you can sub other old ales or barleywines here, but the memorable taste of Adam is worth the extra mile(s) to track this down.
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