Wine is an obvious choice to accompany your Thanksgiving dinner — versatile, food-friendly varietals like pinot noir in particular — but don’t overlook craft beer to go with your turkey and stuffing.
The Thanksgiving feast tends to be a smorgasbord of dishes ranging from savory to sweet, which means it can be difficult to find a wine or beer that will go with everything you’re about to consume. But as it is with wine, there are some beers more accessible and food-friendly than others. A table beer is a low-alcohol style intentionally crafted to go with much of what’s on your plate, for example.
If you’re looking for specific pairing suggestions, particularly of local beers, St. Elmo Brewing co-founder Tim Bullock is ready to give them. Here are some tips about the styles of beer to turn to for each of the main Thanksgiving dishes. Local beer recommendations are given with each.
Turkey can be prepared any number of ways — smoked, fried, with the skin on, covered in herbs — but chances are good that it’s being served with gravy. To help wash down that combination, Bullock said, seek out “some sharper bitterness to cut through the delicious gravy in the form of a pale ale or an assertive pilsner” such as Austin Beerworks Pearl-Snap Pilsner.
For mashed potatoes:
Pairing food with beer isn’t always about similar or contrasting flavors. Another aspect to consider is the texture of the food such as mashed potatoes, a starch-filled vegetable that tends to be mixed with butter and cream. Contrast that creaminess with a beer that has high carbonation and acidity, such as St. Elmo’s own Roxanne Pink Guava Sour (recently back on tap at the South Austin brewery; crowlers to go are available).
A particular Thanksgiving favorite for Bullock, stuffing calls for a pairing you might not expect — “a solid, West Coast-style IPA to both complement the herbal notes and push past the bread base,” such as Zilker Brewing’s Marco IPA. It’s an easy find in cans around Austin.
The classic fall fruit is a delicate mix of both sweet and tart, even if it’s in the form of that dubious gelatinlike sauce that comes in a can. Contrast the tartness of the cranberry with a crisp lager, Bullock said, whether that’s a lighter offering like the ABGB’s Hell Yes Helles or the richer-flavored Live Oak Oaktoberfest.
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For green bean casserole:
“Since (the dish has) a bit of a vegetal flavor, with butter and nuttiness from slivered almonds, I would recommend going with a witbier like St. Elmo’s Luna,” Bullock said. “Normally, this style would have a bit more of a creamier body, due to its use of wheat. However, ours has more citrus in it from added grapefruit and lemon peel. So that zing will cut through the nutty, fatty sauce and really overpower the vegetal flavor of the green beans.”
For pumpkin or pecan pie:
Pairing dessert with a dessertlike beer such as a stout? Oh, how original. But it’s a go-to combination for a reason — because they’re a perfect complement. It’s all about “matching strength with strength, sweetness with sweetness. Rich flavor with rich flavor,” Bullock said. He recommends having your pie with Jaguar Shark, Pinthouse Pizza’s Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout that was newly released in bottles at the Burnet location.
And if you’re looking for a good table beer that you could enjoy with a bulk of the feast, look no further than Jester King’s Le Petit Prince, which clocks in at a low 3% alcohol by volume. It’s a little funky, a little zesty and definitely refreshing.