The Best Beer Pairings for Thanksgiving Dinner

Make It Beer This Year!

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You’re building your Thanksgiving dinner at the supermarket. You’ve carefully planned your menu – turkey, ham, yams, mashed potatoes, gravy, something with too many cranberries, salad, rolls, pumpkin pie and maybe even pecan pie. Your cart is creaking under the weight of all the stuff required to assemble this great feast when it occurs to you; the wine!

So, heaving your body’s whole weight into the cart, you shove it over to the liquor department. Now you stand in front of the wine racks pondering. What goes with, well, all of this stuff in your cart? The meat is pretty rich so it needs a rich wine like, say, a cabernet sauvignon. You reach for a promising looking bottle then it occurs to you that this won’t go very well with the oyster dressing that you're making this year. And it might not do too well with the marshmallows on the yams and don’t even get me started with the cranberries!

OK, you tell yourself, what about something white? It will have to be substantial to stand up to the turkey; maybe an oaky chardonnay?

Then you think that it might not do well with that gravy and, once again, those cranberries are looming. What to do? How about a pinot noir? It doesn’t have tannins so it might do…but from somewhere deep within the heaps of groceries in your cart, you clearly hear those cranberries chuckling at you.

This annual question puzzles even the most sophisticated of sommeliers. Since wine pairing creates issues with so many foods, it is virtually impossible to find one bottle that will pair nicely with everything that shows up on the holiday plate.

So, don’t serve wine. Make beer your choice of libation this season. It will raise your holiday spread to heights you never anticipated. Trust me on this.

A wide range of really great beer is now common almost everywhere. And beer pairs so much easier with so many more foods. Besides, what did the pilgrims drink with their Thanksgiving feast? It’s far more likely that it was good ale than wine.

What Beer Styles to Pair With Thanksgiving Dinner

What beers should you serve? Here are some suggestions courtesy of the Brewers Association:

  • Traditional Turkey – Amber ale or a lager like Oktoberfest, brown ale or a strong golden ale like triple
  • Smoked Turkey – a hoppy brown ale, Scotch ale or porter
  • Ham – Weizen, wiezenbock, dubbel or dark lager
  • Pumpkin Pie – Spiced ale, winter warmer or old ale

Don’t think that these are the only choices. These are just a few suggestions. Most of these pairing are interchangeable with very pleasing results and the traditional sides will also do quite nicely with anything listed here. And what about those cranberries? They will certainly better behave with beer. In fact, there are even a few beers with cranberry in them that would make an interesting addition to your menu.

Now that you’re considering the idea of replacing wine you might be squirming about in your seat over the idea of serving beer with your best china. After all, it is a beverage whose reputation more commonly associates it with swilling in front of a football game than fine dining, but don't worry. The many fine beers that are available are not only rich and flavorful but they come in very tasteful packaging. There are even some that come corked if the bottle opening ritual is part of your tradition. Give it a try. You’ll find that the ol’ stuffed turkey never tasted so good.