Thanksgiving Beer & Wine Pairing Guide
Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that many of us look forward to throughout the year. Sitting back and giving thanks while surrounded by friends, family, and delicious food can be reminiscent of childhood idyll, or at the very least, a welcomed day off. Yet expectation doesn’t always meet reality, especially when you’re the one in charge of hosting and coordinating the food and beverages.
Beer and wine pairings at Thanksgiving can be complex and overwhelming, even if you’re shooting for a pretty basic Thanksgiving meal. But a few simple tricks can quell the stress and suit all your guests’ pallets, while still complementing the various dishes. Here are some wine and beer pairing ideas to take the stress out of Thanksgiving so you can focus on what matters to you.
Let’s start by breaking it down to just wine. Whether you choose to have one wine to take you through appetizers to dessert, or opt to have multiple options for guests to choose themselves, you really only need 3-4 different styles and you’ll be set.
Pinot Noir is a classic, elegant red and a crowd favorite on any occasion. It is one of the safest red wines as it is lighter than most red wines and has low tannin, meaning it’s less bitter. The flavor of Pinot Noir is fruit-forward and will accentuate the cranberry flavors in your Thanksgiving meal. It may also have warm spice notes that will deliver as earthy and cinnamony. This style of wine plays nicely with both the turkey and side cream dishes.
Far from your typical, light-bodied Pinot, the Ghost Pines Pinot Noir is an altogether bigger, bolder expression. Crafted from grapes grown in Sonoma and Monterey Counties, this Pinot is smooth, with intense flavor and richness and a vibrant, deep red color.
The Noble Vines Pinot Noir offers a modern expression of the classic French style. It’s smooth and rich with low tannins and has notes of cherry, blackberry, and floral.
Another wine that can’t lead you astray is Red Zinfandel. This wine is bolder and spicier than Pinot Noir due to its higher tannin and acidity levels. It’s also one of the highest percentages of ABV in the market for wine, so it might be wise to give guests a heads up to avoid someone falling asleep before dessert. Its most prominent flavors are black pepper, cherry, plum, cranberry, blueberry, and licorice.
The Ghost Pines Zinfandel has aromas of raspberry jam, cracked pepper and toasty oak. On the palate are flavors of black cherry, boysenberry, and brown spice. Do we even need to explain why this is perfect for Thanksgiving dinner?
The red wines, however glorious, aren’t necessarily going to appease the white wine lovers, however. Enter: Riesling. This wine often has fruit-forward aromas as the aforementioned red, however, it is more citrusy rather than red-berry. Specifically, it will have one or multiple of the following: nectarine, honey-crisp apple, pear, lemon, lime, peach, apricot, and orange. It can come either sweet or dry, but an in-between is recommended for this occasion.
The Maryhill Reisling is a reliable choice. It is more on the sweet side, but neutral enough to satisfy different pallets. It has lively citrus flavors with honey and pear, as well as a slight lemongrass aroma complemented by lilac.
What’s a holiday without a little bit of sparkling wine like Champagne? Honestly, any variety of Champagne will do, but for this holiday Brut might be a safer bet, as it’s the most popular type of sparkling wine. It’s a bit sweeter than its counterparts but remains dry.
The Andre Brut Champagne has fruity flavors with a dry mouthfeel and a lively mid-palate finish. It’s most definitely a drink that can be taken from the beginning to the end of the evening.
Chances are, you’ve got people attending that are either wine only or beer only, so lets dive into beer pairings for Thanksgiving dinner.
Let’s ease into the beer with a classic Pilsner. A Pilsner is going to be golden in color, refreshing, and easy to drink. It has a nicely balanced hop and malt so that neither stands out to profusely yet it still has more body than a domestic, such as Coors Light (not that there’s anything wrong with a Coors Light, who doesn’t love cracking one open when the mountains are blue?). This choice of beer is sure to suit the beer drinkers who aren’t feeling too adventurous, and it will be palatable with just about anything at the table.
The Firestone Walker Pivo Pilsner is a classic Pilsner with a West Coast dry-hopping twist. It balances floral aromatics, spicy herbal nuances, and bergamot zest and lemongrass notes.
You really can’t go wrong with the Chuckanut Brewery Pilsner Lager. It’s golden, slightly bitter, floral, crisp, and refreshing. Not to mention it has won two Great American Brew Fest Medals and a Gold World Beer Cup medal.
Another beer that’s light in color but has a stronger flavor profile that fits the occasion is a Pale Ale. The bitterness will enhance sweet flavors like a dessert or sweet potato casserole. It also pairs well with turkey, its medium hop bitterness cutting through the fat.
If you’re feeling a little adventurous with your Pale Ale, Black Raven Brewing’s Kitty Kat Blues Infused Pale Ale adds an unexpected twist to a classic Pale Ale. The beer is infused with dried blueberries, vanilla beans, and hibiscus.
This next beer is an all-time favorite for Thanksgiving pairings. The Amber Ale or Brown Ale have a presence of caramal and crystal malts that complement the turkey and gravy, no matter how they’re cooked. It has a medium body with a medium-high malt character.
Alaskan Brewing Co. makes a classic Amber that is richly malty and long on the palate.
Payette Brewing Co., based out of Boise, makes a notable Brown Ale, Mutton Buster. It’s rich, roasted nutty sweetness of cocoa and malt are balanced with a mild kick of earthy, hop bitterness. It’s complex while remaining relatively tame.
Okay, so up until now this list contained styles that can be served throughout the meal or at a specific point. This last one should probably be saved for dessert, but the list wouldn’t have been complete without it. A Porter/Stout is the perfect way to end the night, preferably with notes of chocolate or vanilla.
Founders Brewing Porter is a great match for when it’s finally pie time. It pours silky black with a creamy tan head. The aroma is sweet with strong chocolate and caramel malt presence. This beer is full-bodied and if ‘cozy’ had a taste this would be it.
Here’s a quick guide on how to cook your bird as well, from Blog Your Wine.
Written by Jade Lee