To Pair With That Thanksgiving Bird, Consider Beer

To Pair With That Thanksgiving Bird, Consider Beer


And don’t worry that beer will leave you feeling too full. These styles can satisfy with sips instead of gulps, and have less alcohol than wine.

Here are some general principles and a few good picks for your dinner this year.

Snacks and Appetizers

While your guests graze, start with something light and easy to drink. This is a good time for dry, grassy, European-style hops. Used judiciously in a sharp, golden lager, they whet the appetite without bowling you over with big flavors or alcohol; these tend to clock in at 4 to 5.5 percent A.B.V. (alcohol by volume).

Don’t be afraid of cans — they’re the vessel of choice for many innovative breweries, and they chill down more quickly than glass bottles.

Styles to look for: Pilsner, helles lagers, dunkel lagers and light saisons.

Brands to try: Industrial Arts Metric, Stillwater Artisanal Extra Dry, Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel.

Turkey and Sides

For the main event, stock up on big bottles (750 milliliters) in two styles, and let guests pour for themselves. This lets them try both, allowing an option without overwhelming a table already filled with attractions.

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“When I think about Thanksgiving, it’s a nice dichotomy of lighter, brighter flavors and darker, earthier flavors,” said Greg Engert, the beer director and a partner at the beer-conscious Neighborhood Restaurant Group in Washington, D.C. “It’s like light meat and dark meat.” (Or, if you prefer, like white wine and red.)

On the light end, look for classic saisons, also called farmhouse ales. They have a spicelike tingle thanks to Belgian yeast, with no actual spices added. For the meal, you’ll want a beer that’s heftier than for the appetizers, in the range of 6 to 8 percent A.B.V., which will lend enough body to stand up to gravy and sweet potatoes.

On the dark end, weizenbock is your secret weapon, a beer that will pair with everything on the holiday table. It’s a cross between a hefeweizen (German wheat beer) and a doppelbock (a strong brown lager), and its caramel sweetness is braced by faint acidity from the wheat and the frothy, celebratory carbonation.

Styles to look for: Saisons, weizenbocks and Belgian dubbels.

Brands to try: Sly Fox Saison Vos, Saison Dupont, Schneider Weisse Aventinus, St. Bernardus Prior 8.

Dessert

Beer with dessert is tricky, unless you stick to the basics. Imperial stouts, rich and roasty ales that can exceed 10 percent A.B.V., are one of the few styles that have enough sweetness to match a pumpkin or pecan pie. Skip today’s trendier imperial stouts, which are often laden with gobs of heady vanilla and coconut. Try stouts brewed with coffee, or even better, with no frills at all.

“Avoid a beer that’s too dessert-y,” said Nicole Erny, a beer consultant and educator in the Bay Area. “You want it to almost be like black coffee with sugar.”

Styles to look for: Imperial stouts.

Brands to try: Grimm Double Negative, Oskar Blues Ten Fidy, Evil Twin Even More Jesus, Dieu du Ciel Péché Mortel.

Serving Tips

Banish all hand-wringing over glassware. The appeal of specialized beer glasses is largely aesthetic; short of a champagne flute, there’s scarcely a vessel that will make for a bad sip. Wineglasses are a nice choice because their small size invites guests to taste different beers, even switching between beer and wine if you’re serving both.

The ideal serving temperature for the beers mentioned here is around 45 to 55 degrees. If you pull them from the refrigerator when the turkey comes out the of the oven, they’re safe to keep tableside the rest of the night.

When you shop, as with any beer, buy only at stores that keep their inventory refrigerated. The styles listed here are slow sellers, so if the beer has been sitting around for a few months, make sure it’s been kept properly.

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