Let’s get one thing straight: Thanksgiving is about gustatory overindulgence, and that includes the drinking. It’s a long day, and it’s not very nice to either fall asleep in the midst of it or become drunkenly belligerent toward its dusk, no matter how mind-bogglingly irrational your relatives’ politics.
How, then, to pace yourself throughout the national feast? Rather than provide you with a list of individual beers, which might not be widely available where you are, we have run down the best beer styles for the day. Within these styles are several options. We’ve suggested a couple of brands for each style, but you may find different ones, depending on your location.
Two criteria fueled these picks: (1) how they complement the food and (2) how they may affect your ability to eat that much more of it. These are also not too exotic. Instead, they are the sorts of beers to share with guests who may not be reading a column like this. Gose and Scotch ale can remain our little secrets.
Early in the Day
Not necessarily a style so much as an approach, these lighter beers — though not lighter-tasting — are perfect for Thanksgiving’s start. Eminently repeatable, they tend not to overwhelm the belly and therefore leave plenty of room for later. The single biggest-selling point for session beers, though, is that they’re much lower in alcohol. Pace yourself.
Recommended: Stone Go To IPA; Notch Session Pils
India pale ale
When the appetizers come around, especially the spicier ones, it’s time for the spicier beers. Try a souped-up IPA or a double IPA, one with a citrusy, bitter bite from the hops. Caution: Don’t overdo it here. One or two will suffice, as these tend to have double the alcohol as sessions.
Recommended: Anchor Liberty Ale; Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
Unobtrusiveness is key here — you want something that goes along with the big meal rather than gets in the way of it. May we suggest the gentle, and generally overlooked, pilsner? Crisp and dry, these beers go down smoothly and rarely pack that much of an alcoholic punch.
Recommended: Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Pils; Two Roads Ol’ Factory Pils
Porter or stout
Porter and stout may very well be one and the same style —no one really knows (and don’t you believe otherwise). These are broad styles, with stronger iterations often called imperial or Russian imperial. Whatever strength, the defining characteristic of both porters and stouts is a lush richness, one that bitterness rarely encumbers. We’re talking all malty sweetness with these styles, perfect for the similarly sugary pies.
Recommended: D.L. Geary Geary’s London Porter; Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout
The Slow Fade
The Sarlacc that is the modern IPA has all but swallowed this once-popular style in the U.S. Here’s hoping for a comeback. Brown ales are balanced and smooth, ideal for easing into a contented evening.
Recommended: Smuttynose Old Brown Dog; Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale
Tom Acitelli is the author of The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution and the new fine-wine history, American Wine: A Coming-of-Age Story.