Thanksgiving beers part one – Pour a satisfying brew to complement the feast

It’s time to talk turkey about beer. While wine is the standard Thanksgiving drink, beer has more variety and can actually pair better with certain dishes. Below are some excellent autumnal offerings that would be the hit of any turkey day celebration.

The most obvious choice is also a most excellent one: Mayflower’s Thanksgiving Ale. Half-English old ale and half American strong ale, this 8% ABV beer doesn’t pull any punches. A deep copper brew, this malty, caramelly, brew has hints of vanilla, maple syrup, and nuts. It only comes in a 22-ounce “bomber”, so make sure to share it with others or Thanksgiving could become a blur (unless, of course, that’s your goal).

The biggest revelation from the Battleship Brewfest in October was Rising Tide Brewing, from Portland, ME. Their copper-colored altbier Ishmael is that perfectly-balanced brew that could accompany any part of your Thanksgiving meal. Vaguely bitter, deeply amber, and completely delicious, let Ishmael harpoon your great white turkey dinner.

Another great meal-accompaniment is Buzzards’ Bay’s Boo! – an easy-drinking and reasonably-priced low-alcohol sipper that’s packed with flavor. Lighter than a stout, this slightly-reddish dark-brown beer is faintly sweet, slightly smoky, malty, and has a broad-enough appeal to make a wide-array of drinkers happy. It has enough flavor to compliment Avó’s chourico stuffing without overpowering the mashed potatoes.

Cranberries are a Thanksgiving dinner staple, but they can also be a great addition to your beer. Harpoon’s Grateful Harvest Ale is a 5.9% amber ale fits that “stronger than average, but not overpowering” middle ground of craft beer strength. Harpoon donates $1 to local charities for each 6-pack bought, so feel free to buy a bunch! Plus, the cranberries come from AD Makepeace in Wareham, so it’s extra-local.

Any hopheads in your party will celebrate with you if you serve Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale. Brewed with incredibly fresh hops from the fall harvest, this turbo IPA is remarkably easy-drinking for such a super-hoppy beer. It’s a beautiful deep red 6.8% brew loaded with piney, citrusy aromas. The strong flavors might overpower some dishes, but it’s so good that you won’t care.

When the main course is done and Aunt Petunia’s stories have stretched you to the end of your rope, you need a brew with enough punch to dull the nerves. Try the excellent, year-round offering Raison D’Etre, by Delaware’s Dogfish Head Brewery. Another 8% beer, this one comes in regular 12-ounce bottles, so no need to share. Brewed with beet sugar and raisins, it’s a fascinating addition to the dessert course and can soften the impact of family time overload.

If you’d prefer a dessert beer that’s less likely to leave you on the floor, try Lakeville’s Goodfellows Brewery’s Scottish Maple 80/-. It was just released, and I haven’t had it yet, but word is that it’s an excellent half-Scottish, half porter ale with enough maple flavor to make one think back to those pancakes they had on their trip to the Scottish Highlands. Or something like that.

At the end of the night, try Sam Adams’ White Christmas, which just hit the shelves. A spiced witbier with shocking amounts of flavors, the beer somehow manages to pack flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, molasses, ginger, and citrus into a beer that’s still easy-drinking. Try it with dessert, or heck, AS dessert.

Find more Thanksgiving beer suggestions in part 2.

Originally published on November 7, 2013