Beer & Food

A Craft Brewer’s Thanksgiving

A Craft Brewer’s Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a diverse meal, where dishes not only vary regionally, but from family to family.  The abundance of types and styles of food leads to endless ways to go about pairing craft beer with Thanksgiving dinner. Some choose one beer that pairs nicely with all the dishes, while others tend to have many bottles open for tasting/experimenting during the meal.

“I’m totally down with the many bottles approach and experimental angle,” says Cory Wentworth, head brewer of Right Brain Brewery in Traverse City, Mich.  “I think our beers speak to that philosophy as well. We are always experimenting with new flavor profiles, new ingredients, and different styles of brewing. Many times there are way too many flavors in the meal to just pair it with one beer.”

We asked a few brewers to share their Thanksgiving specialties, recipes and all, so you can get a regional feel for what the pros will be cooking and pairing on the big day. Don’t forget to search the recipe section for great ideas on how to add craft beer to your dinner table in addition to your standard pairings.

Brewer’s Thanksgiving Day Menu

Duck Confit served over Squash Bisque Cajun-Style Turkey Cranberry Sauce Smoked Porter Apple Crisp

Duck Confit served over Squash Bisque

Fullsuit Belgian Brown Ale | Karl Strauss Brewing Company | San Diego, CA


Squash Bisque

Ingredients 2 butternut squash 1 Tbsp canola oil 1 large onion, diced 1 Tbsp garlic, chopped 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and sliced 3/4 cup apple cider 2 cups Fullsuit Belgian Brown Ale 1 pt heavy cream 1/4 tsp nutmeg 1/4 tsp allspice 1/4 tsp garam masala 1/8 tsp cinnamon Salt and pepper to taste

Directions Cut squash in half lengthwise, drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast in pan cut side down for 30-40 minutes, until soft. Cool, then scoop out squash and discard skins.

In large sauce pot, heat remaining oil and sauté onion until soft. Do not caramelize onions, just cook until translucent. Add chopped garlic and apples and cook three minutes more. Add cooked squash, chicken stock and spices and bring to boil. Simmer for 30 minutes or until ingredients are nice and soft.

Add cream and season with salt and pepper. Puree soup with blender or food processor, then strain with fine mesh sieve. Return to heat and keep warm for serving. Check seasoning and adjust consistency with more stock if necessary. Pair with Karl Strauss’ Fullsuit Belgian Brown Ale.

Duck Confit

Ingredients 2 duck quarters (thigh and leg) 1/2 tsp ground coriander 1/2 tsp ground cumin 1/2 cup canola oil Salt and Pepper 1 portabella, grilled and sliced julienne 1 leek, julienne (white and pale green parts only) 2 Tbsp duck fat

Directions Season duck with spices and some salt and pepper. Place in roasting pan with oil. Cover with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes in 350°F oven. Uncover and cool slightly. Remove skin separate meat from bones, shred meat slightly. Reserve duck fat on side.

In sauté pan, heat 2 Tbsp duck fat and add the leeks. Cook on low for 2-3 minutes, do not brown. Add julienne, portabella and shredded duck to pan. Cook until heated through, 2 more minutes.

To serve, ladle squash soup into bowls and top with duck mixture. Garnish with some toasted almonds, and serve with some herbed crostinis.

Cajun-Style Turkey

LA-31 Bière Pale & Grenade | Bayou Teche Brewery | Arnaudville, LA


Karlos Knott, owner and head brewer shares: My brothers and I tend to start prepping the turkey at dawn. We used to always fry our turkeys, but now have switched to cooking turduckens in a cajun microwave (an outdoor charcoal-fired oven).

Once the turducken is prepped and put in the cajun microwave, we start the important work of tending to both the fire on the microwave, and our beer cocktails.

Bonus! Thanksgiving Craft Beer Cocktails

Bouca-Mary: four parts Boucanèe smoked wheat beer with one part spicy bloody mary mix Cajun Mimosa: equal parts Grenade passion fruit beer and orange juice over ice and garnished with jalapeño slices

A day or two before Thanksgiving, we’ll brine all of the birds for the turducken (boneless turkey, stuffed with a boneless chicken and duck) in brine made with equal amounts of our Grenade passion fruit beer and water, handful of salt, cane syrup, and fresh thyme. The brine helps keep the turkey moist, and infuses the meat with the tropical fruit flavors of the Grenade beer. Those years that we smoke the turkey, I also make a jelly of Grenade, sugar and liquid pectin a few days before Thanksgiving. The jelly is then warmed and used as a baste/glaze for the turkey towards the end of its smoke.

When the turducken is finished, my brothers and I bring it in for carving. Our turduckens are always heavily spiced and stuffed with garlic, onions, cayenne and black pepper. For sides, there are bowls of cornbread stuffing, dirty rice (cooked with our LA-31 Bière Pale), petit pois with white roux and pearl onions, and roasted sweet potatoes. Everything is rich, well-seasoned and heavy, with plenty of starchy sides! To compete with the heavy autumn flavors mixed with cajun spices, we pour bottles of our LA-31 Bière Pale (a hopped-up Belgian Pale Ale). The hoppiness of the beer cuts through the fat and spices and gives us one more thing to be thankful for.

Cranberry Sauce

Chuckanut Strong Ale | Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen | Bellingham, WA


If you prefer a tamer turkey, try adding this cranberry sauce that the good folks at Chuckanut came up with. Try pairing this sauce with their Strong Ale, Alt, or Dunkel Lager.

Ingredients 1.5 cups fresh cranberries 1.5 cups of Chuckanut Strong Ale (or Alt) 1 orange (juice and zest) 1 Tbsp honey 1Tbsp white sugar 1 Tbsp brown sugar

Directions Simmer on very low heat the fresh cranberries in ale, all three sweeteners, and juice of one orange until tender and reduced to a good sauce consistency. Strain sauce to remove seeds and skin. Add zest of one orange. Spoon over meat and serve.

Smoked Porter Apple Crisp

Alaskan Smoked Porter | Alaskan Brewing Company | Juneau, AK


This dessert comes from Alaskan Brew Crew’s Cooking with Alaskan Beer, which is full of winning recipes from Alaskan’s annual Brew Crew and Investor Potluck, held each November for the past 20 years.

Ingredients Topping: 3/4 cup rolled oats 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar 1/4 cup flour 1/2 cup broken and toasted walnuts 4 Tbsp butter

Fruit Filling: 4 large baking apples, peeled and sliced 12 ounces Alaskan Smoked Porter 1/2 cup brown sugar 2 Tbsp butter 1/4 cup broken and toasted walnuts pinch of nutmeg 1 tsp vanilla 1tsp melted butter mixed with 1 Tbsp flour

Directions Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix all dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Cut in butter. Set aside.

Place apples in baking pan and bake until semi-soft.

Place brown sugar, butter, nuts, nutmeg and vanilla in a heavy frying pan. Heat and stir until butter is melted. Add beer and the butter-flour mix to frying pan. Boil and stir constantly, until mixture has reduced and thickened. Pour Porter mixture over apples, mix gently and spread topping over all. Return to oven until apples are soft and topping is golden, about 40 minutes.

With a growing market share and changing palates, there is much to be thankful for as craft brewers gather around the table this holiday season with their families. From all of us here at, we want to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.

What beers do you plan to have on the dinner table this Thanksgiving?

Anthony OrigAnthony Orig is the current Craft Beer Program Intern at the Brewers Association. He attends the University of Colorado at Boulder and will be graduating in December 2011 with degrees in Environmental Studies and Geography. As an avid outdoor enthusiast, he enjoys craft brews the most after long days of exploring in the mountains. Still new to the craft beer brewing world, he looks forward to learning more about the industry and meeting the people behind the beer. Follow his daily beer and mountain adventures on Twitter.