The best and worst part about Thanksgiving is reuniting with family. It's a joy when you see long-lost cousins, and agony when you have to listen to Aunt Shelley talk about politics and her multi-level marketing program. Either way, you're gonna need a drink or seven. And pairing the best Thanksgiving beers against all of the grub you're going to be chowing down on has never been easier, what with the ever-expanding world of craft beer churning out more imaginative brews than ever before. Even if your family is still the same old mess it's always been, you've got plenty of new beers on your side.
And when we're talking about the best Thanksgiving beers, we're not offering up a bevy of new and obscure IPAs or barrel-aged sours. No no, we're talking about the best beers that literally taste like Thanksgiving. Think roast turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberries, and maybe even a chocolate pie or two. And if we find a green bean casserole-flavored beer, we'll come back and revise this article as necessary. But for now, let's talk about some of the best Thanksgiving beer pairings that are more about providing a liquid meal, rather than delicate beer flowers. Unbuckle your belt and grab a bottle opener.
The Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner Snack-Fest: Martin House Brewing's Pretzel Stout
Normally, the only time a pretzel ends up in beer is when you accidentally drop one in while snacking (nice work, butter fingers). But in the case of Martin House Brewing Company's Pretzel Stout, sourdough pretzels go right into the brew itself. This stout pours dark and thick, which might not make it your first beer of the day were it not for the fact that each barrel contains six pounds of crushed sourdough pretzels. Pretzel Stout blends roasted malt flavor with a hint of salty sourdough goodness, making this beer a great place to start your Thanksgiving boozing.
Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes: The Bruery's Autumn Maple
Southern California is known for being home to some of the United States' best craft breweries, and The Bruery is among the best of the bunch. This craft brewery is dedicated to all things experimental—whether that means aging beers in funky barrels, brewing with unique ingredients, or concocting recipes that come out of left-field and yet still end up tasting great. The Bruery made Autumn Maple to pair well with Thanksgiving favorites, as each batch was brewed with 15 pounds of yams. The Bruery's Autumn Maple is Belgian-style ale has notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, molasses, and maple syrup. In other words, this is like Thanksgiving in a glass.
Cranberry Sauce: Bronx Brewery's Bog Smash Pale Ale
No roundup of the best beer pairings for Thanksgiving would be complete without a nod to that perennial Thanksgiving table favorite, the humble cranberry sauce. Whether you like to make one from scratch, or live for that satisfying plop that only a can of cranberries can provide, cranberries never shine more brightly than at Thanksgiving. And this year, the brew crew at Bronx Brewery came up with Bog Smash Pale Ale, an easy-sipping, sessionable pale ale brewed with apples and cranberries from bogs in New York and Massachusetts. The flavor isn't overwhelmingly cranberry-ish, which means you can reach for another while you wait for the turkey to brown in the oven.
Sausage Stuffing: Dogfish Head's Beer for Breakfast Stout
I'm not going to wade into the Thanksgiving stuffing wars here. I'll leave that for the pros. What I know is beer, and this beer's as close as you're gonna get to having stuffing in a glass. Dogfish Head's Beer for Breakfast Stout isn't your regular breakfast stout. Unless you consider scrapple in a beer to be a totally normal occurrence. To make Beer for Breakfast Stout, Dogfish Head combined stouty goodness with coffee, maple syrup, and heaping portions of pork scrapple. Now this beer might not taste quite like your typical stuffing, but this sausage beer is probably a lot better than a real stuffing beer would ever be, anyway.
Thanksgiving Turkey: Samuel Adams Campfire Blonde
Sure, brewing a beer with bacon or sausage is possible, but how do you capture the essence of a well-cooked turkey through beer? For this, we turn to Samuel Adams' Bonfire Blonde, a rauchbier that captures the smoky essence of a wood-burning stove inside a 12-ounce bottle. Rauchbiers make for fantastic fall drinking, given their smoky, malty profile and clean finish. And for a holiday like Thanksgiving, these flavors stack up excellently against the rich, hearty foods that come along with the season. If you're looking to get the essence of a slow-roasted turkey in a bottle, look no further.
Pumpkin Pie: Elysian Brewing Company's The Great Pumpkin
Now that we've gone through the main dishes and their respective beers, it's time to move on to dessert. Let's begin with pumpkin pie, which is captured perfectly in Elysian Brewing Company's The Great Pumpkin. This year saw more pumpkin ales hit shelves than ever before, but not all of them hold up on their own. Some rely too heavily on pumpkin spices to carry most of the flavor, and don't end up having the right kind of mouthfeel that one might expect from a pint of pumpkiny goodness. But Elysian's The Great Pumpkin blends the rich, creamy flavors of a pumpkin pie with the spices that you'd expect from the season's favorite brew. And at eight percent alcohol by volume, this beer will help you stomach those unique political views they're sure to expound upon at the table this year.
Chocolate Cake: Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout
There's no better way to round out Thanksgiving than with a bit of chocolate. And the same applies to Thanksgiving beer selections too. Samuel Smith Brewery has been cranking out quality beers since 1758, using tried-and-true techniques that have withstood generations of new brews. The brewery's Organic Chocolate Stout is one of its perennial favorites, and is available in the U.S. almost as much as it is in it's U.K. homebase. Whereas most chocolate stouts give off more of a coffee flavor than a chocolate profile, Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout has been likened to chocolate cake in a bottle. Or as one Reddit user put it, "Alcoholic Yoohoo." If you're looking to satisfy your sweet tooth at the end of your Thanksgiving bacchanalia, look no further.