Thanksgiving is almost here! You may have thought about which wines you should put on the table, but have you ever thought of having beer instead? Or better yet, have both?! We often think of Thanksgiving as a fancy occasion and automatically rule beer out. However, beer can be just as beautiful as wine. Serve it in a wine glass! The many colors and bubbles from the carbonation will put on quite a show for your guests. Beer is also a fraction of the price of most wines, so I can’t think of why you wouldn’t serve beer with Thanksgiving dinner!
I’ve put my favorite styles to serve with Thanksgiving below. But in general, follow these guidelines and you’ll be all set for your Thanksgiving celebration:
- Choose beers with low hops/low bitterness. In general, this rules out a lot of American styles, including Pale Ales, IPAs, Barleywines, and Amber Ales.
- Malty beers are your best matches (think German or Belgian styles)
- Lighter-colored beers will generally pair better than darker ones
- Choose styles that are funky, earthy, or spicy. Stay away from smoked and roasted styles, as those will just mess with your food flavors
If there is one beer that must be on the dinner table, it is Saison. I have had Saison DuPont for the last few years and can’t imagine Thanksgiving without it. Saisons work better than any other beer because they are light and earthy, a perfect complement to just about everything on the table (besides the pie!). They are highly carbonated, (moreso than most beers) so they cleanse your palate after each sip, making each new bite taste like the first all over again. Plus many of them come in 750ml bottles, which makes for a pretty presentation on the table.
- Saison DuPont, Belgium
- Brasserie de Silly Saison, Belgium
- North Coast Brewery, Le Merle Saison, California
- Goose Island Brewery, Sofie Saison/Farmhouse Ale, Illinois
Biere de Garde
As Saison’s cousin across the French border, Biere de Gardes go just as well with thanksgiving dinner as Saisons. They are even earthier than Saisons, adding a little more funkiness to the whole experience. However, finding one of these beers is difficult in this country. My advice to you—if you come across a Biere de Garde anytime throughout the year, buy a few bottles and save them for Thanksgiving. After all, Biere de Garde means “beer for holding”!
Helles is Germany’s most popular beer style. So why haven’t you ever heard of a Helles? Because beers that are technically in the “helles” category are often mistaken for German Pilsners here in America. Helles is German for “light”, and these beers indeed are light-bodied, refreshing, and very malty, making them great components for Thanksgiving dinner. You’d be surprised that these beers actually all fall under the Helles category, and they’re all delicious:
- Paulaner Premium Lager, Germany
- Spaten Premium Lager, Germany
- Penn Brewery, Penn Gold, Pennsylvania
Belgian Blond Ale
The Belgians seem to be winning this game of Thanksgiving beer pairings, but that’s because the majority of their beers are low in hops and high in carbonation. Belgian Blond Ale is a relatively recent style developed to appeal to pilsner drinkers, and although it is as crisp and refreshing as pilsner, it has the typical earthy/spicy characteristic of Belgian yeast. The best thing about these beers is that they are widely distributed, so you can find them at almost any liquor store. But be careful: these beers are around 7.5% alcohol, so eat plenty of food with them!
- Leffe Blond Ale, Belgium
- Troubadour Blond Ale, Belgium
- Grimbergen Blond Ale, Belgium
Sour Ales are the next “It” drink in the craft beer world. And quite frankly, I don’t understand why they are just now coming around, as they are the oldest style on this earth and one of my favorites to drink. Sours resemble more of a wine than they do beer. They have ripping, mouth-quenching acidity that begs to be accompanied by food. They almost never have bitter hop flavors, and usually have great funky, fruity elements that other beers wish they had. All of these reasons support why they will go great with your Thanksgiving meal. Serve this to your usual wine drinkers who may scoff at the thought of beer and see if you can change their minds. After all, not all beers are alike!
- The Bruery, Sour in the Rye, California
- Brasserie de Silly Sour, Belgium
- New Belgium, La Folie, Colorado
- Lindemans Kriek or Framboise, Belgium (fruit lambics that are great for sweet-tooths)
Have fun trying these different styles with your meal this year!