It turns out that this week is Thanksgiving. Did it sneak up on anyone else? We here at DCBeer.com wish you and yours a very happy, healthy, and beer-filled Thanksgiving this week. Safe travels if you’re headed out of town!
Thanksgiving is a day filled with food, food, and mostly more food, but also libation. The question of which libation to spend your day consuming is what we’ll tackle today. Below, some of our writers will share what their favorite beers are and what Thanksgiving foods and courses they pair them with. Enjoy!
I love dark & roasty beers with most desserts. My family almost always has a pumpkin or sweet potato pie and a pecan pie. Pair these pies with a pint of porter and you’ll have more than alliteration to be thankful for.
Pumpkin Pie with Port City Porter – Maybe it was because I was the kid who preferred his marshmallows flambéed, but I’ve always loved the combination of sweet & creamy with roasty. The thought of a nice pumpkin pie with a good porter (Port City’s being one of my recent favorites) just puts a smile on my face.
Maple-Pecan Pie with Bluegrass Brewing Company’s Bourbon Barrel Stout – I read about people losing their minds and mortgaging their kids for a taste of Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout. I am not one of those people, but I am still curious about the combination of flavors. My MacGyver solution is pairing an excellent bourbon barrel stout with a maple-pecan pie. Note: you can get Bluegrass beers in Virginia but not in the District or Maryland. Some stand-ins for the Bluegrass Bourbon Stout are Goose Island Bourbon County Stout or Flying Dog Barrel-Aged Gonzo
If you don’t like pie but are intrigued by these flavor combinations, consider picking up one of the following beers:
Epic Brewing & DC Brau’s collaboration beer, Fermentation Without Representation; an Imperial Pumpkin Porter.
Cape Ann Brewing’s Fisherman’s Pumpkin Stout
Starr Hill Brewing’s Boxcar Pumpkin Porter
During the majority of the year (read: not Thanksgiving week), I tend to shy away from eating vast amounts of rich food. It’s not that I don’t like it – it’s that on most days I just can’t eat a ton of it at once. At Thanksgiving, however, I throw all of that out of the window and hit those rich, creamy, roasty, waistband-busting foods like there’s no tomorrow until I am reduced to a quivering mass of satisfaction who is curled up in the fetal position on the couch whispering “pie” to himself as he rocks back and forth. I don’t mess with my Thanksgiving foods. Naturally, you need to have some beers to match.
For Thanksgiving pairing, many will go to the old Garrett Oliver standby of bière de garde (such as Jenlain) or the beer nerd go-to pairing beer, saison (such as Ommegang Hennepin). While those are great beers to pair with any meal, Thanksgiving included, I like to go a little bolder with my Thanksgiving brews.
For the main meal, I like something roasty but with some boozy firepower to get through the richness of the food. Try something like The Bruery’s Autumn Maple or Flying Dog’s The Fear if you’re into spices and yams. If not, head for a dark German brew, such as Schneider-Weisse Aventinus, a wonderfully complex wheat doppelbock with less roasty character but more dried fruit, clove, and banana flavors that pair interestingly with food. Look for the roasted flavors of all of these beers to match with crisp turkey skin and salty stuffing. The roastiness can also slice through the sweetness of sweet potatoes and dessert.
If something a tad bit hoppier is your game, try Tallgrass IPA. This beer is a malt bomb and, while not really an IPA in my eyes, has some bitterness to counter the richness. Note: Tallgrass is not available in the District or Maryland. A good substitute for this beer is Dogfish Head’s India Brown Ale.
For a new experience, snag some Brasserie des Franches Montagnes Abbaye de Saint Bon Chien. I like to think of this beer as a half sour, with dark fruit to match roast meats and a light vinous acidity to keep you refreshed. Can’t find the BFM? Try Bourgogne de Flandres or Duchesse de Bourgogne, which are much easier to find.
With dessert, I’d grab a bottle of Allagash Curieux. The whiskey barrel aging of this beer gives it a depth of flavor that ensures your tastes buds won’t experience death by pie. Of course, if chocolate desserts are your game, snag some Founders Breakfast Stout. It’ll stand up to whatever you throw at it.
Like most people around the holidays, I tend to think about traditions. My traditions, however, just happen to revolve around what I will be drinking. While Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season and ushers in a solid few months of porters, stouts, and so on, I prefer to begin elsewhere.
One of my favorites to start Thanksgiving is Southampton Double White Ale. It’s a great way to start the day, and it pairs nicely with all of the cheese and deviled eggs being consumed prior to the actual meal. If you can’t find that, Allagash White will stand in nicely. New Belgium Kick is another favorite for early drinking. The combination of pumpkin and cranberry raises the anticipation of the upcoming meal, and while it is a sour beer, I find that to be rather refreshing.
As the day moves on, I find myself most commonly making the switch to a porter. Evolution Lucky 7 tends to be the go-to for this occasion, as it seems to pair well with any course. Two other options are Starr Hill Brewing’s Boxcar Pumpkin Porter and Oliver’s Pagan Porter (assuming you can make the stop in Baltimore to get a growler filled).
Finally, there are two options that I prefer to drink with dessert and for simply ending the evening. The first is Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. Perhaps it is a bit much to pair a chocolate stout with dessert, but if I’m already indulging, I’m going all out. Last, but certainly not least, is what has come to be known to me simply as “Christmas.” It is a mix of Troegs Mad Elf and Troegs Java Head. The combination of cherry, roasted espresso, and chocolate makes for a perfect way to end any night. I can almost skip dessert altogether just to get right to drinking this.
I always enjoy a Troegs Mad Elf with my Thanksgiving dinner. While it is really too strong for my tastes for most of the year, I indulge and have one or two on Thanksgiving Day. The dryness of the ale pairs well with dry turkey, and the hints of cherry and extra-dry character from the honey (which ferments to leave the beer dry, not sweet) both pair well with a sweet homemade cranberry sauce; made with cranberries, orange peel, cinnamon, allspice, and a sprig of fresh thyme. This year we will have some ’09, ’10 and ’11 Mad Elf before during and after Thanksgiving dinner. If you can’t find any aged Mad Elf, buy a case this year, and then buy a case next year. The year after, you’ll have enough for your very own “vertical” tasting and you can showcase the differences in three-year-old ale (likely the tastiest of the tasting!). I have found nothing goes further to extend the value of good beer than time. Likewise, I have yet to find a Thanksgiving that wouldn’t have been better with mom’s homemade cranberry recipe.
Per usual, my colleagues have done a good job so that I don’t have to. I agree with everything they’ve said above, but they did miss one of my favorites. I’ll be drinking Stillwater Cellar Door all through Thanksgiving dinner. The crispness of this saison will help to cut through the richness and fat of a lot of Thanksgiving dishes. The white sage in this beer should also pair nicely with the savoriness of stuffing. Don’t restrict yourself just to the main course though, for dips, spreads, breads, and cheeses beforehand, this will work to clean your palette in between all of those rich bites.
What are some of your favorite beer pairings for Thanksgiving? Be sure to let us know in the comments! Happy Thanksgiving from your DCBeer.com team!