What beer goes with Thanksgiving dinner?

Ah, Thanksgiving. That one day a year when we gather with family and friends, embrace our gluttony and feast upon kitchens full of food we rarely eat any of the other 364 days of the year.

In our house, we have roasted turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, corn pudding, bread, sweet potatoes, and canned cranberry sauce in all of its cubed, gelatinous goodness.

It’s fat on top of salt on top of carbs. And it’s damned delicious.

Due to the richness of it, I usually drink a tall glass of ice water with dinner so, other than the IPA I traditionally drink while carving the turkey, I never really gave much thought to a complimentary beer. That is, until a friend asked me about it recently.

The advice she had received from others varied from, “cheap and lots of it,” to “the highest alcohol content you can find so your family is tolerable.” Not being satisfied with either of these, she asked me what I would recommend for her.

It turns out her menu is traditional, so she needed something that was going to work with familiar flavors.

Starting with the turkey, you’ll find a lower fat content in the white meat, and a higher one in the dark meat, but it almost always has a saltiness to it from things like butter (or bacon) used on the skin. The buttery fat and saltiness continues into the mashed potatoes and stuffing, corn, green vegetables and, well, if there’s not enough of it, we can double-down on the gravy.

So what kind of beer would I recommend? For my money, I’d recommend a darker, German beer like a Marzen, Oktoberfest, or Dunkel. Like their cousins, Lagers, they have a clean, refreshing finish that will help cleanse those rich, fatty flavors from your mouth, and their malty, sweeter taste will compliment the saltiness of the meal. Plus, they’re mildly hoppy with low bitterness, so it won’t kill any of the great flavors of the food.

If you can’t find one of these, an alternative would be an English style amber or red ale, or even an ESB. They’ll be a bit drier than the German beers, but should still have a nice maltiness that will go great with the food.

The cranberry, however, is really just a big, pungent mess, so don’t try chasing it with beer.

When it comes to dessert, however, I’d go with a darker beer like a stout or porter. Since Thanksgiving desserts are usually VERY sweet, a stout or porter will be mildly bitter with a drier finish that should balance out the sugar. If you want to one-up it, I think a bourbon barrel aged stout would be great with something rich like pumpkin pie.

No matter what you end up having, just be careful about over doing it. Just remember – whether it’s from food or booze, hangovers on Black Friday are miserable.

Cheers, and happy Thanksgiving!

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