Thanksgiving is right around the corner and, for us at Craft Beer Cellar, it brings up one of our favorite questions: What beer to drink with Thanksgiving dinner?
We’ve asked this question before here on our blog, and it’s amazing to see the array of styles our stores and their Beer Geeks come up with. You’ll note a theme to this year’s choices from the Craft Beer Cellar team: Belgian styles and dark beers. Both categories offer a range of possibilities and flavors to match a large Thanksgiving spread (and the leftovers, of course).
So, what does our team suggest for Turkey Day this year? Let’s find out:
Craft Beer Cellar DC – Larisa Baste and Kara Britanik, Beer Geeks
Mocha Merlin – Firestone Walker – Paso Robles, CA
Larisa: To me, Thanksgiving dinner is about two things: 1) finding the minimal amount of turkey to justify a plate full of sweet potatoes and two rounds of dessert, and 2) leftovers for breakfast. Firestone Walker’s new Mocha Merlin oatmeal stout is a great match for both of these. It’s equal parts roasty and sweet. The chocolaty cocoa nibs smooth out the bite of coffee, and the use of both oatmeal and lactose (milk sugar) makes for a creamy, rounded body. It is rich enough to stand up to the liberal use of cinnamon and spices, yet light enough in body and sweetness not to overpower, because the food has to be the star. The moderate roast character and nutty grainy notes will also play well with the savory roasted cold turkey and stuffing sandwich.
With its easy drinking character and moderate 5.5% ABV, it’s fit to enjoy both over the long nosh of the evening and during the morning fridge raid.
Nectar of the Bogs – 3 Stars – Washington, DC
Kara: One of my favorite beers to pair with Thanksgiving dinner is 3 Stars’ Nectar of the Bogs. This cranberry saison is an easy-drinking beer, with a relatively low ABV (5.2%), which will balance out the big spread on turkey day. Starting before dinner, saisons are a great pairing for creamy, and funky cheeses. The fruitiness of Nectar of the Bogs adds a nice sweetness as well – whether your guests are craft beer fanatics, or just getting familiar with different beer styles, Nectar of the Bogs should please everyone.
When it comes to cooking, they say, ‘what grows together, goes together’, and I think the same can be said for pairing beers with food. Saisons originate on the farm, often having some grassy and floral notes, which will pair nicely with the turkey, and the herbs that are often used to cook poultry. Plus, the effervescence and dryness, reminiscent of white wine, will help balance out some of the richer side dishes. The bubbles really cleanse your palate so you can distinctly taste all the great individual flavors in the big meal. The slight sweetness from the cranberries not only pairs with the cranberry sauce, but also helps tie the whole meal together.
Cellar Door – Stillwater Artisanal – Baltimore, MD
Delicate, yet complex, Stillwater’s Cellar Door is one of our favorites all year round. But this year we’re looking forward to pairing this with one of our favorite Thanksgiving meals: the leftover sandwich! Turkey breast, cranberry, dressing/stuffing, a little lettuce and spicy mustard between two pieces of hearty bread; maybe some swiss cheese? Yes, please! Combine that with Cellar Door and you’ll have a perfect match – just enough light, crisp hoppiness with that smooth wheat backbone to stand up to the turkey breast and bread, while the tart bite of cranberry and spicy mustard provides some contrast. The subtle earthy sage notes will enhance the seasonings from the stuffing and the effervescence will cut through the decadence of condensing an entire meal into one sandwich. YUM.
Sin Eater – Dragonmead Microbrewery – Warren, MI
If you’re also looking to pair your turkey dinner and dessert with an afternoon nap, you can’t do much better than Dragonmead’s Sin Eater. This beer is malt-forward, caramelly with hints of dark fruits, and bubbly, but with a nice dry finish, making it excellent for a nice, big piece of salty turkey leg or roast pork, creamy mashed potatoes – all covered in gravy!
Once you’ve finished that, you can keep on sipping into your dessert course with some pecan or pumpkin pie, or in my case, whatever cheesecake creation my mom has dreamed up; probably some kind of chocolate cheesecake with sea salted caramel sauce. And at a whopping, but incredibly drinkable, 11% ABV, you’ll get to that late afternoon nap in no time.
Craft Beer Cellar Amesbury – Dan Morrison, Owner
Yorkshire Porter – Queen City Brewery – Burlington, VT
Thanksgiving is a day of flavors, and experimentation with them has been an integral part ever since the first person dropped a turkey into a deep fryer. Not all combinations need to be so extreme, and for that, thankfully (all puns intended there), beer has presented us instead with an appropriate pairing option.
Upon first sip, the Yorkshire Porter, from Queen City Brewery, brings forth the roasty notes of any porter that will invite a mouthful of gravy coated mashed potatoes, or simply a witty remark at the day’s football games. The real enjoyment I feel comes with the third or fourth sip; this is where I see a beer full of endless possibilities at any food in the traditional Thanksgiving feast. Simply put, this is a beer to drink. No need to sip or savor; just enjoy it as the pairing in a whole. It’s as much a part of the meal as the stuffing or, dare I say, the turkey itself.
On the note of recipes, during the later period of cooking a turkey when it starts to get dry, try basting it in this awesome beer. Or, if you’re making a water based gravy, opt in a cup of this porter instead for added depth to the flavor and subtle smokiness.
Craft Beer Cellar Plymouth – Angela Ahlstedt, Assistant Store Manager
Thanksgiving Ale – Mayflower Brewing – Plymouth, MA
Ahhh, it’s back! The first and only perennial offering in Mayflower’s Cooper’s Series of limited batch beers. Thanksgiving Ale is an inspired blend of two brewing styles: American strong ale and English old ale. Aged on American white oak, this full-bodied brew warms the soul with hints of caramel, vanilla and spicy nuts. These flavors will complement most desserts on your table, but the richness of this beer will stand up to the hearty fare during the main meal.
No Beer Geek Thanksgiving is complete without it!
1620 – Ipswich Ale Brewery – Ipswich, MA
Our Beer Geeks were truly thrilled with this release. A New England-style IPA – hazy, juicy, citrusy with a solid hop profile. They use a blend of Citra, Amarillo, Mosaic and Idaho 7 to make this full-bodied brew. Not only is it a great beer, but it also pays homage to our favorite pieces of history with the Mayflower right on the can. And they used the 1620 font from Plymouth Rock! Call us biased, but this is our favorite beer thus far by our friends at Ipswich.
Craft Beer Cellar Headquarters – Mark Goodman, Public Beer Relationist
Tripel – Brouwerij Westmalle – Westmalle, Belgium
A classic beer for a classic meal. The melange of aromas and flavors that come with Westmalle Tripel is a great accompaniment to Thanksgiving dinner. While this beer features several fruity characteristics – banana and pear being the most prominent – there is also a notably herbal hop profile that provides this beer with remarkable balance. Hints of pepper and spice round a complex palate.
What makes this beer such a good pairing with your Thanksgiving meal is that all of these flavors subtly combine together. None of them dominate, so you can sip this beer after a piece of turkey, or a bite of cranberry sauce, and it will work equally well. An impressively dry finish leaves you wanting more (beer and food). And while it checks in at 9.5% ABV, the body won’t overpower any lighter dishes or desserts.
Buy a couple small bottles, or a 750ml, and share and enjoy with family and friends.