Dr. Bill Sysak’s Thanksgiving Pairings

By Dr. Bill Sysak

Thanksgiving marks the ultimate feast in many American households, and it’s no secret that I’m rather fond of feasts. And what better accompaniment to a fine meal than a fine beverage, I say! Beer—being the most versatile of all beverages to pair with food in my opinion—allows for a veritable cornucopia of pairing options, making it perfect for any Thanksgiving celebration.

When creating pairings for a meal, it is important to note whether the food will be served in several courses or family-style. Pairing courses allows you to pair each dish with an individual beer. However, a meal like Thanksgiving dinner is usually served family-style, where the beers selected should incorporate the broad spectrum of flavors found at the table.

Traditionally, I cook a Thanksgiving dinner for around 20 family members and friends and I simply cover the table with a selection of food-friendly beers: bières de gardes, Saisons, and winter warmers. But, should you wish to offer pairings for particular dishes, allow me to offer up a few selections. While many of my suggestions are based on foreign beer styles, the beauty of the craft beer scene in the United States is that all these styles are represented by American brewers, allowing you to pair local craft beers with your dinner.

Turkey

Turkey, the majestic centerpiece of many Thanksgiving feasts, pairs beautifully with a wide variety of beer styles: French bières de gardes, Belgian Dubbels, Saisons, and amber lagers such as German Märzens and Dunkels.

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Stuffing

Stuffing or dressing can be specific to region and family tradition, but almost all stuffings seem to include sage and vegetables such as onions and celery. Because of the many varieties of ingredients, many of these pairings are regionally focused.

Traditional bread stuffing: Saison

Oyster stuffing: dry Irish Stout

Sausage stuffing: dark lager or American Strong Ale

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Roasted Zucchini and Squash

Whether served as a delicious side or a hearty vegetarian main course, roasted zucchini and squash pair famously with Belgian-style Tripels, Hefeweizens, Saisons, and bières de gardes.

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Cranberry Sauce

Both the whole-berry relish and the ubiquitous red jellied cylinder are perfect with the orange and coriander notes found in a Belgian-style Witbier.

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Mashed Potatoes 

Smashed taters really are the perfect vehicle for accents like Parmesan cheese or garlic, and they work extremely well with brown ales and Porters.

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Yams/Sweet Potatoes

Frequently prepared with lots of butter and winter spices, these bright orange tubers make a great match for Dubbels, Dopplebocks or Belgian Strong Ales.

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Pumpkin Pie

My dessert of choice (with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream of course), can take on massive Quadruples, Imperial Stouts or Barley Wines with ease.

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billMUG“Dr.” Bill Sysak is a Certified Cicerone and serves as the Beverage Supervisor for the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens. More of his beer pairing guidelines and recommendations can be found in the literary tome: The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MasterPairings.