What to Drink at Thanksgiving

turkey In my house, beer is on almost every celebratory table, but for many Americans, Thanksgiving often leans toward wine–red, in particular. Now I have absolutely nothing against a lovely dinner with wine, but I wanted to remind everyone in their Thanksgiving planning that beer also deserves some serious consideration! I’m thankful for beer. Aren’t you? 

Great Options for Thanksgiving beers

Pre-Feast: appetizers and hors d’oeuvres call for something light, regardless of what flavors are present. If you’re due to have a kitchen full of helpers or a dining room full of hungry friends, why not start with a lager? Lots of options there. Stick with a crisp pilsner that finishes dry. You don’t want to fill up too early! You could also go for a session IPA to switch it up and still keep it low ABV.

Amber Ales, ESBs or Red Ales. These are all typically slightly malty beers with more chocolate malt than roast malt, making them rounded and a bit caramely. The light sweetness accompanies the earthy flavors of turkey (or duck or chicken, whatever bird is your style) and stuffing nicely without being so sweet as to overwhelm.

Recommendations: Backwoods Copperline Amber, Silver City’s Ridgetop Red, Boneyard’s Diablo Rojo (note: draft only, fill growlers where possible), Stoup’s NW Red, Fuller’s ESB.

brussels sprouts

Dark Milds, Black Lagers, Schwarzbiers or Altbiers. These are fairly light-bodied beers with a backbone of roast malts and often a spicy hop presence, and they go great with bold flavors like brussels sprouts and apples. They are also generally lower in alcohol–which works well with a big plate of often-heavy food, multiple rounds of eating and long evenings!  

Recommendations: Kostritzter’s Black Lager, Holy Mountain’s Black Beer, Machine House’s Dark Mild, Uerige Altbier.

Smoked beers. These are variable in style, but all provide a nice smoky sweetness to go alongside meats or roasted vegetables. Because smoke is magic.

Recommendations: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbiers–either the Marzen or the Doppelbock, Chuckanut Rauch Helles (when available). Or find a local version and try it yourself!

For dessert: Imperial and/or Barrel-Aged Ales. If you’ve been hanging onto a big, boozy aged beer for a while, now’s the time to break it out, alongside pumpkin or apple pie or other Thanksgiving desserts! These beers are meant to be shared, and a little goes a long way. You have a lot of options here these days.

Recommendations: Fremont Coffee Cinnamon B-Bomb, Founders Sumatra Mountain Imperial Brown, Deschutes Abyss, Oskar Blues Ten-Fidy, Great Divide Espresso Yeti. This list could go on–pick your favorite!


And then a quick word on what not to drink. Avoid IPAs–this includes juicy IPAs and also hoppy Pale ales!

While delicious, these will generally take up too much real estate on your palate as well as in your belly.

Don’t you want room for that giant piece of pie? Of course, everyone has their own tastes, so improvise as you will–but personally on this day I’d chose pie.

Hope this advice brings you to a local bottleshop or brewery in advance of my favorite holiday of the year! Ask your favorite bartender or shopkeep their recommendations too, and please send your favorite pairings if you find them!

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