Thanksgiving Day Beer Pairings to be Thankful For

Andrew DickeyBy Andrew Dickey for Indiana On Tap

I really wanted to write this article because Thanksgiving is one my favorite days to drink beer. Since the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is a big drinking holiday as well, I am sure some people instead choose to take it easy.  All the same, I have spent a great deal of time in the hospitality industry and have always been interested in food and beer pairings.   So with excitement for the upcoming holiday, I offer the following beer styles as great pairings with foods everyone loves on Thanksgiving.

For a family get together, beer drinking may occur all day with football possibly as a background.  Many a winter sampler pack has been shared at homes I’ve celebrated at.  A lot of the beers in the samplers have a winter holiday in mind.  Since Thanksgiving is actually a harvest holiday,  I suggest picking up any straggler fall/autumn sampler because many of them will be natural pairings with Thanksgiving food.  I will discuss that later, but first I will look at good parings that may accompany any hors d’oeuvres or appetizers.

If you’re serving cheese and crackers, a Belgian Abbey Ale pairs perfectly.  Leffe is a great choice as is Chimay, and so would any other Belgian ale you might have.  If sausage is included with the cheese or by itself, Dunkels or another dark German beer would pair excellently.  Brown ales also work, especially if you add veggies to the mix.  I also find Gose or Geuze to be a natural pairing, as well as Rauchbiers(smoked beers), and I’ll cover them later.

If you are doing chicken wings for any reason, they will pair up with my Thanksgiving main-course beers.  These parings are historic, and can be found easily in any good liquor store.  I would also like to mention that all the beers mentioned above would be great to serve with the Thanksgiving main course as well.

So good beer can be enjoyed all day, but when the main course is served, I recommend a Marzen.  Michael Jackson, beer expert emeritus, wrote endlessly on beer pairings and says the Marzen’s spicy sweetness goes well with poultry.  I agree on every level, and it’s not hard to find a straggling Oktoberfest somewhere.  Certainly a six pack of Goose Island, or Upland, or Leinenkugels is available at a retailer near you.  If you should go to a good liquor store, other Marzens might be available as well.  Oktoberfest might be the most well-known Marzen for many, and the medium strong lager style is quintessential to a good meal.

While there are plenty of Oktoberfests to be found, I also have another Marzen I think would pair up well with the turkey.  Aecht Schlenkerla Rachbier is a smoked Marzen that recommends meat pairings.  While the turkey is not usually smoked, it gathers the right flavors when cooked to accentuate the Rachbier, and the herbs and spices with the turkey do justice to the beer style.  I already have a bottle ready, and I’m looking forward to drinking one with the turkey this year.

For dessert, I hope you get to enjoy some pumpkin pie.  The pumpkin beer craze has put a lot of pumpkin beers on the shelves this time of year, and many of them would be an excellent pairing for the pie.  I think Flat 12’s Flat Jack or Blue Moon’s Harvest Pumpkin Ale would be excellent choices.

For those who still have the interest in more beer while the football or family games go on after dinner, a nice sour could finish the night well.   Sours are very popular right now, and some delicious ones are currently available, and would put a fine finish on the holiday celebration.

I did not intend to discuss Thanksgiving like a beer dinner, but it certainly could be treated like one.  If you are like me, you appreciate good beer and I hope this article gives some ideas on the best beers for this wondrous holiday for giving thanks.


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