Perfect Brews to Match Your Holiday Meal
Used to be beer came in two flavors: cans or bottles. Now, craft brewing at every scale has filled the beer aisle with a wide range of tastes. Ales, lagers, stouts, and others offer beverage pairings that would impress a master sommelier, so follow our guide to match up your menu with some world-class brews. Everyone will be giving you thanks by the end of the evening.
— Matt Allyn
Caesar Salad + German Hefeweizen
It could be the lightest dish of the day, but the salad’s Parmesan, anchovy, and lemon are a formidable combination worthy of an equally complex, yet light, beer. Weihenstephaner’s Hefeweissbier is a spicy German wheat beer with sweet, bready malts, and clove and banana notes from the unique Bavarian yeast strain.
Recommended: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, 5.4%
Also try: Sierra Nevada Kellerweis, Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse, Schneider Weisse
Turkey + Belgian Saison
First brewed to quench the thirst of farmers, the Belgian saison has evolved into a rich, spicy ale with a dry, hoppy finish. Tank 7’s hints of coriander, orange peel, and floral citrus complement the subtle earthy character of a properly-cooked turkey. For a sharp, biting hop character option, try the classic Belgian Saison Dupont.
Recommended: Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, 8.5%
Also try: Saison Dupont, Ommegang Hennepin, Fantôme Saison
Stuffing + Czech Pilsner
With a soft bitterness, Czech pilsners are a crowd-pleaser thanks to the agreeable hoppy character. The gentle European hops mix nicely with the seasoning of a good stuffing and wash it down as well as any dumbed-down version of the style (commonly known as light beer). Mama's Little Yella Pils out of Colorado is a brilliant take on the style, but the original Pilsner Urquell is always a good choice, too.
Recommended: Oskar Blues Mama's Little Yella Pils, 5.3%
Also try: Pilsner Urquell, Summit Pilsener, Moonlight Reality Czeck
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy + English Brown Ale
Lighter bodied than American-style browns, the original English take on this dark ale features a mix of cocoa, caramel, and light fruit. Paired with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy, the beer brings extra life to the brown sauce with a mild, easy-drinking sweetness.
Recommended: Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale, 5%
Also try: Bell's Best Brown, Cigar City Maduro, Pretty Things Saint Botolph's Town
Buttered Rolls + German Schwarzbier
'Carbing' out with your butter knife? We’ve got a beer for that. Schwarzbier is a black German lager that’s almost as drinkable as a pilsner and holds bready, roasted flavors that could go well with most courses, but creates slightly sweet, toasted experience with a fresh roll.
Recommended: Köstritzer Schwarzbier, 4.8%
Also try: Samuel Adams Black Lager, Sprecher Black Bavarian, Rogue Farms Dirtoir
Green Bean Casserole + American pale ale
This heartland classic of a dish has a little bit of everything, just like an American pale ale. The archetypal example of the style, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, strikes a perfect balance of citrus hops with toasted barley grains to cut through the mushrooms and fried onion.
Recommended: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, 5.6%
Also try: Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale, Deschutes Mirror Pond, Maine Beer Company MO
Ham + Weizenbock
Sweeter and saltier than most savory Thanksgiving options, ham makes a great match with the strong German wheat ale, weizenbock. The style, and Aventinus in particular, offers dark, berry notes and a caramel backbone. It's big enough to stand up to the cured pork, acting more like a fruit glaze to offset the sodium.
Recommended: Aventinus Weizenbock, 8.2%
Also try: Victory Moonglow, Weihenstephaner Vitus, Ayinger Weizenbock
Cranberry Sauce + IPA
The tangy berry goodness of cranberry sauce and rich grapefruit and pine hops make an easy pairing with the bitterness adding a third dimension to the sweet and acidic sauce. But don’t limit a beer like Two Hearted Ale to this side dish. The IPA is one of the most versatile pairing beers and complements heavy, savory dishes in addition to sweeter fare.
Recommended: Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, 7%
Also try: Ballast Point Sculpin, Surly Furious, Stone IPA
Sweet potatoes + Belgian Dubbel
The monk-brewed Belgian ale is lighter-bodied than most beers of similar strength—about 6- to 8-percent alcohol-by-volume. But the dry finish and mix of cocoa, perfumey spice, and light fruit builds on the sweet, candied flavors of this dish without weighing your stomach down. After this pairing, you’ll no doubt be giving thanks to the brothers of Westmalle Abbey.
Recommended: Westmalle Dubbel, 7%
Also try: Chimay Red, Ommegang Abbey Ale, Allagash Dubbel
Turducken + Belgian Tripel
The stronger, golden abbey sibling of the dubbel, the Belgian tripel is a food-pairing star thanks to the earthy spice, gentle hops, and palate-cleansing natural carbonation. Standing up to the three-bird majesty of turducken, Tripel Karmeliet is a three-grain ale with oats added to the barley and wheat tripels usually stick to. The effect is a deeper beer with a slight and smooth apple-tart character mixed in.
Recommended: Bosteels Tripel Karmeliet, 8.4%
Also try: Unibroue La Fin Du Monde, Westmalle Tripel, Maredsous 10
Pumpkin Pie + Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Pumpkin beer runs out of stock by Thanksgiving and probably wouldn’t taste better than your pie anyways. Reach, instead, for a big, ester-filled Belgian strong dark ale. The ineloquent name is a catch-all for the dark, fruity, high-strength brews of Belgian which can stand as a dessert by itself. Or on turkey day, pour a glass with your slice of pumpkin to the let the rich spiced flavors dance on your tongue. The abbey-brewed Rochefort 8 adds a smooth dark chocolate layer over the style’s typical caramel and dark berries.
Recommended: Rochefort 8, 9.2%
Also try: Achel Trappist Extra, Van Steenberge Gulden Draak, Chimay Blue
Pecan Pie + Russian Imperial Stout
Not much can stand up to the (delicious) fat and sugar of pecan pie, but since you’re reaching the end of the meal, go all-in on an equally massive beer: the British-bred Russian imperial stout. North Coast’s Old Rasputin brings deep, chocolate, toffee, and roasted barley flavors to pair off with a sweet carmelized slice of pecan heaven.
Recommended: North Coast Old Rasputin, 9%
Also try: Founders Imperial Stout, AleSmith Speedway Stout, Green Flash Double Stout
Next Up: The Best Beers for Fall