Beer Banter

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The Best Beers for Thanksgiving Dinner

The Best Beers for Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, gratitude, and of course, great food and drink. The official kick off to the holiday season to round out the year is an amazing feast to be shared with those you love the most. Of course, when celebrating the festivities, people often look to consume cocktails and wine with their turkey dinner. This year, leave the Beaujolais nouveau behind, and try these beer pairings!

Fundamentals of beer and food pairing

To quickly review the key components of pairing a beer with food, you should look to cut, complement and match intensities with the liquid and the food. Something fatty? Cut it with something tart or hoppy. Something rich? Choose something sweet and malty to match that richness. Salads? Pair them with something light so as not to overpower the dish.

Since beer is cooked like food, the same flavor compounds exist in both. A quick cheat sheet to pairing is to match the color of the liquid to the color of the food. This works because the Maillard reaction is the same with malt as it is with proteins in food.

Remember, have fun with your pairings and experiment to see what works for your palate! Now down to the Turkey Day business...

Choose something hoppy

IPAs and hop forward beer styles continue to dominate the palates of American craft beer drinkers. The refreshing, crisp and often bitter ales are popular because their flavor is so potent. These hoppy ales are a welcome addition to the Thanksgiving meal because of this brightness and bitterness.

Since the meal on the big day is so rich, the hoppiness of a beer can help to cut that richness. Gravy, turkey and stuffing are all very fatty foods, and the bitterness of an IPA or American Pale Ale will help to make each bite as satisfying as the next, and prevent palate fatigue from being so coated with fat!

Also, the natural bitterness of dishes including Brussel sprouts can match the bitterness of a hoppy ale. This versatility makes bringing hoppy beers a welcome addition to the table!

Suggested beers - Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, Ballast Point Grunion Pale Ale

Choose something Belgian

Belgian beers offer numerous styles that can play a part in any meal, including Thanksgiving. Big, luscious Quads and Dubbels act as a good complement to the rich meal. Flavors of stone fruits, bready yeastiness and toffee can play just as well with desserts and the main course. And of course light and crisp beers like Witbiers can offer some relief from all the fatty goodness.

Tripels and Saisions are kind of in between, offering some crisp and hoppy notes as well as some richness. There is a reason that when paring beer with food, the general rule of thumb is to go Belgian when questioning what to pair!

Suggested beers - Ommegang Three Philosophers, Duvel Golden Ale, Boulevard Tank 7, Ommegang Witte

Choose something tart

Sour beers are starting to gain popularity in a world of craft beer drinkers looking for something as complex and challenging as hoppy beers once were to their palates. Therefore, there are now many more beers offering a good amount of tartness that can be found. Tartness, or acidity, in a beer is again, a much welcome relief from the richness of the big meal. Sour beers often feature fruit notes, either from the souring agent or from added fruit to the beer, that can make sour beers a nice dessert beer as well.

A side bar to the tart beer is cider. This offers many of the characteristics of sour beers, as well as wine(!) that can make the turkey dinner even more enjoyable. Look for a cider on the drier side to help cut the rich meal. And of course it goes perfectly with apple pie!

Suggested beers - Long Trail Cranberry Gose (perfect with cranberry sauce!), Rodenbach
Suggested ciders - 1911 Original, Champlain Orchard Heirloom

Choose something dark

Let's face it, the best park of dinner is dessert, and the Thanksgiving table is not complete without a whole array of fruity, chocolatey and sweet treats! Deep, dark stouts with their notes of chocolate and coffee are a great addition to the dessert course.

And of course, the best complement to the main attraction, the bird, is a brown ale or an amber ale. The brown skin on the turkey matches up perfectly with a brown ale or an amber, and each sip will keep you coming back for one more bite.

Suggested beers - Ballast Point Victory at Sea, Keegan Mother's Milk, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Harpoon Flannel Friday

Remember, there is no wrong answer when it comes to beer pairings. These pairings are just suggestions on how to bring your favorite beverage to the Thanksgiving table. The key is to experiment and have fun with it! The holidays can be stressful enough, you don't need to stress over your beer choice!

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Matt Zaloga
Matt Zaloga

Matt Zaloga (aka Bow Tie Matt or Matty) is a man who is after the epitome of sensory experiences. Whether it be tasting the latest and greatest beer, testing out a new culinary experience or checking out a new band, his search for anything to excite and mystify his senses is never ending. Matt is as comfortable at home in the kitchen as he is out on the street, ensuring the public is well stocked with finely brewed liquid. You can find him wherever there is good food, tunes, and of course, great beer! Just look for the bow tie!

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