Thanksgiving is one of my favorite food and beer days of the year. The vast array of flavors and textures on the holiday table make for endless pairing options for beer. The best part is there are no wrong answers, drink what you enjoy, but a few thoughtful pairings can help elevate the entire meal!
Some simple concepts to keep in mind to make your next beer and food pairing a delicious success:
- Match intensity
Consider the beer’s intensity of flavor, alcohol, and body with foods of similar character. For example, heavily sauced BBQ ribs will completely drown out the delicate qualities of a German pilsner, making it taste barely anything more than carbonated water. Instead, consider a German Doppelbock with the rich, full body and caramel sweetness to stand up to the sweet sticky ribs. The overall key is to find a balance where one doesn’t overwhelm or compete with the other. This sole approach will turn out a great pairing almost every time.
- Find A Simple Connection
The herbal and floral qualities of a saison with herbed roasted chicken. The caramelized malty nature of an American brown ale with a charcoal-grilled burger. A sweet raspberry Lambic with a slice of cheesecake. Pairings don’t have to be overly complicated or clever. Most of the time just finding a simple connection between the food and beer will work wonders.
- Save Sweet For Last
Sweetness coats the palate and often diminishes many flavors that follow, so there’s a reason why sweeter food and drinks are served last. Save those pastry stouts and fruit smoothie beers for the end of the meal as they are pretty much dessert themselves! Also, remember progression when it comes to meals with multiple courses or beers. Always start with the most delicate of flavors and progress to heaviest. Stronger flavors will always negate anything delicate that follows.
Consider these beers for your holiday table:
Light, Bright, and Easy
Great for lighter fare: Appetizers, salads, sides, or lighter meats (white turkey/chicken meat, pork tenderloin, whitefish).
Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier
A filtered version of a German Hefeweizen, the Kristall Weiss has a very delicate fruitiness with a snappy, effervescent finish.
Noon Whistle Bruski Czech Lager
Noon Whistle’s riff on the classic Pilsner style. Medium, round body with a very fresh grassy and bread-dough character.
Effervescent, Herbal, Floral
Saisons are the all-purpose food beer, making a great match with just about anything on the table. Their high carbonation and dry body cut through richness while their herbal and floral qualities complement roasted meats, vegetables and grains alike!
Baladin Wayan Saison
Solf and round with delicate white-flower, honey, and herb garden aromatics.
Is/Was Will Be Spelt Saison w/ Brettanomyces
Dry and effervescent with subtle stone fruit and almond notes. Is/Was is producing some of the best saisons in the country and just recently cracked Beer & Brewing Magazine’s list of top 20 saison producers.
Toasty, Nutty, Hoppy
Winter IPA’s toasty, nutty, malt character is a perfect match for all the rich, caramelized features on the table, especially roasted meats. Their snappy, citrusy finish helps cut through all the festive richness and refresh the palate.
Half Acre Tend Winter IPA
The perfect balance of toasty, nutty malt character with citrusy orange marmalade hop character. A fireplace or bonfire staple.
Brooklyn Winter IPA
A hoppy red ale with notes of dark fruit, blood orange, juniper, and pine.
Dark, Roasty, Chocolatey
Perfect with darker and sweeter meats: dark turkey meat, glazed ham, pork shoulder, beef roasts. Stellar with mashed potatoes and heavier stuffings. Could even move these over to the dessert table!
Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock
A world class doppelbock. A touch drier with subtle roast than other classic examples – keeping it hearty but approachable.
Tynt Meadow English Trappist Ale
The lates offering in the world of Trappist ales – and the first from England! Notes of milk chocolate, subtle roast, and dried fruit on top of a silky-smooth texture.
Look to big roasty stouts for all sorts of decadent pies or cakes, especially pumpkin or pecan pie. Swap the Kriek in for cheesecakes and chocolate-based cakes. When it comes to fruit beers, sour/dry fruit beers can also be great with dinner, making a solid pairing with glazed meats and side dishes with grains or nuts. Keep sweet fruit beers for dessert!
Revolution Deth’s Tar BA Imperial Stout
This beer is pretty much dessert on its own, but can make a really nice complement to the richest of desserts – dense fudge or flourless chocolate cakes
Could be a dual-purpose beer. Alesong Kriek is pleasantly tart, making it suitable for dinner; but a subtle touch of vanilla bean can surely make its case for the dessert table, offering a nice complement to cheesecakes, creme brulee, and chocolate mousse.