Ah yes, Thanksgiving. The 2nd most happysad holiday of the year. Yay food! Boo Aunt Marie asking why you don’t have a family yet. The only thing that makes Christmas more happysad is that relatives use the excuse of a New Year to give you backhanded compliments: “A handsome fella like you has to get a girlfriend eventually. 2017 is the year you finally bring a girl home, I can feel it.”
What better way to ease into the cold months than by eating and drinking until you’re uncomfortable? There’s no question as to what you’ll be eating. Unless you’re vegan or un-American, you’ll be eating your Turkey and stuffing like the rest of the free world. The only question about the third Thursday in November is what you’ll be drinking. There are a handful of beers on shelves nowadays so how will you know which will be best for your day of 4th plates? At Saint Brewis, we’ve done the thinking so you can focus on the drinking.
We’re gonna drill down pretty deep in just a second, pairing beer with turkey, sides and desserts, so if you want to know what beer to drink with everything, we’ll get that out of the way now.
Best Beer for Your Whole Meal
Local: Scratch Brewing Company - Black Trumpet Biere de Mars
National: Two Brothers Brewing - Domaine DuPage
French Biere de Garde and Biere de Mars are styles that can seamlessly blend in with almost any food you throw at it, whether they’re big on flavor like your fried turkey or mild like your potato dishes. They have a lot of earthiness, caramel malt character and even toastiness that will compliment everything on your plate. While Domaine DuPage exemplifies these flavors traditionally, the Black Trumpet from Scratch throws in their black trumpet mushrooms and takes earthiness to a whole new level. The only down side to the Scratch beer is that it was brewed in limited quantity so unless you have one in your cellar, you won’t be drinking one on Thanksgiving. Give the Domaine DuPage a shot though because you should be able to snag that, no problem.
Alright, now that half the readers have moved on, let’s explore a little deeper, shall we? While the Biere de Mars and Biere de Garde styles will go well with your whole meal, we’ll look at beers now that will definitely be okay to drink with everything, but will make one aspect of the meal blow your mind.
Local: Old Bakery Beer Company - Oktoberfest
National: Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest
Deep Fried Turkey
Local: 4 Hands Brewing - City Wide Pale Ale
National: Lagunitas Brewing - IPA
I don’t care what Martha Stewart says, these are the only two ways to cook a turkey so that’s why we’re dealing with them. If you throw your turkey in the oven, you’re going to get a toasty, crisp skin that’s delicate with a nice, lean flavor to the meat. That bronze skin will be a perfect match for the caramel flavors in the Oktoberfest style lager and the herbs will compliment the subtly spicy German hops. If you’re eating deep fried gobbler, then your turkey’s skin is going to be considerably more brown and crisp, and the meat will be very rich. All of that fatty richness will contrast nicely with the bittter hoppiness of the beer and will let those malts play well with the browned bird.
Local: Public House Brewing Company - Cranberry Ale
National: Gueuzerie Tilquin - Oude Gueuze Tilquin
Cranberry sauce is the divider of the Thanksgiving dinner. Do you get the kind that plops out of the can, complete with lines from the can itself, or do you...actually, I don’t think there’s another option. I’m pretty sure they grow that way. Regardless, they’re gonna be on the table and if they’re your favorite, do yourself a favor and pick up the Public House's Cranberry Ale. It’s made with real cranberry juice, not extract so you can bet it’ll be a dream. If you’re looking to match more of the tartness of the cranberry, grab an Oude Gueuze Tilquin. This traditional gueuze will make that tartness pop and its high carbonation will scrub your palate so you’re ready for the next bite.
Local: Piney River Brewing Company - Sweet Potato Ale
National: Unibroue - La Fin Du Monde
This was a tough one because there’s a million ways to make sweet potatoes. Luckily, local brewery Piney River made this a no-brainer by making a Sweet Potato Ale. Pair it for obvious reasons but to provide SOME insight, yes, there is some sweet and earthy sweet potato in the beer that will match whatever dish you decide to make. If you can’t find any of those, your next bet may be a Belgian Tripel like La fin du Monde. The earthy character of the yeast and the sweetness of the beer will work in harmony with the same flavors you find in the sweet potato.
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Local: Logboat Brewing Company - Mamoot
National: New Belgium Brewing Company - 1554
Thanksgiving at my household could easily be renamed “The Day of Carbs.” The beers I recommend for this dish might also be easy substitutes for beers to drink with the whole meal. We’re big fan’s of Logboat’s Mamoot and for good reason. This low ABV beer has big, dark malt character while also being light on the palate. The dark, rich gravy will match the malts while the carbonation will be a good match for the thick potatoes. Similarly, the 1554 has dark malts for the gravy and will have a crisp clean finish to make sure your next bite is as good as the last.
Local: Schlafly - APA
National: Deschutes Brewing Company - Pinedrops
Now stuffing is where people get real weird. You’re either Team Stovetop or Team GetTheHellOuttaMyHouseWithYourBoxedStuffing. You're either "Put it in the bird" or "Ewww! I don't want it after it's been inside of the turkey! Now pass me that leg so I can gnaw it down to the bone." Personally, gimme some Stovetop and I don't care where it's been. I digress. The important thing is that stuffing is rich and spiced. For that reason a nice, piney IPA or Pale Ale is going to be your best bet. The richness is easily cut through by the bitterness but the piney hops will also compliment the spices in the mix.
Desserts have some of the most fun food pairings of all. The big sweetness in most dishes make them good to match or contrast so there’s a big range of beers to be used for each dish. I’m not saying the next three dishes are the only things you should eat for dessert on Thanksgiving but you should be eating something similar to one of them so use your imagination.
Local: Urban Chestnut Brewing Company - STLIPA
National: Destihl Brewery - Lynnbrook Raspberry Berliner Weiss
It’s beer pairing 101 that you put an IPA with a cheesecake. The malts will match the crust, the bitterness will contrast the sweetness and the citrus will make it all fun. Another lesson in food pairing 101 is to evoke ideas of another food altogether. Drinking a tart raspberry beer with the cheesecake will add the fruit to the cake that may not be topped on it. You like raspberry cheesecake but don’t have raspberries? Pop open a Lynnbrook and it’ll do the job.
Local: O'Fallon Brewery - Pumpkin Ale
National: Oskar Blues Brewing Company - Ten Fidy
Pairing a pumpkin beer with a pumpkin pie may sound like an easy thought but this was actually a little tough. We’re blessed with a TON of great pumpkin beers here in STL so choosing just one was hard. I settled on O’Fallon’s because it’s definitely got the whole “pumpkin pie in a glass” flavor down perfectly. The Ten Fidy on the other hand was chosen because it’s sweet and rich, just like the pie but it’s big roasted flavor and the high ABV will help break up all that sweetness.
Local: Rock Bridge Brewing Company - Option #2
National: North Coast Brewing Company - Old Rasputin
One of the hidden gems in the STL beer scene is Rock Bridge’s Option #2. It’s a big, bold Imperial Stout that’s made with vanilla-hazelnut coffee beans. The nuttiness in the aroma is huge and it might be even bigger in the flavor. Add in the coffee and vanilla flavors and it may be the only beer to ever pair with any chocolate dessert...ever. If we have to choose another beer, however, we’ll go with Old Rasputin. This beer is a classic for the style, is as roasty and complex as they come, and will pair perfectly with the sweet, rich cake. If you wanna take it to the next level, make the cake batter using one of the beers. You’re welcome.