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A Perfect Beer for Thanksgiving Dinner

Photo of four different beers in glasses.

Legendary craft beer ambassador Dr. Bill Sysak taught me a lot about pairing beer with food– especially when it involves Thanksgiving Dinner. The big idea I learned about the annual feast? There are beer styles for every course.

Photo of a flight of beers at Knotty Brewing San Diego.

For example, Dr. Bill taught me Bièrs de Gardes, Dubbels, and Dunkels pair well with turkey; Witbiers go great with salad and cranberry sauce; and Imperial Stouts and Quadruples are delicious with roasts, vanilla ice cream, and/or pumpkin pie.

Whether you serve four courses at Thanksgiving like Martha Stewart, or seven courses like Linda Stradley, to pair a different beer with each course you are going to need four to seven beers.

On the other hand, if you serve your Thanksgiving feast family style, like I do, you could actually pair each dish with one versatile beer: Saison.

Photo of pale ale in pint glass on the bar at Knotty Brewing.

There’s a saying I once heard which has resonated with me over the years: “Farmhouse beers for farmhouse food.” Because traditional Thanksgiving foods are farmhouse in nature, it makes sense farmhouse beers pair well with them. And since Saison is a notable farmhouse ale, it’s the perfect beer for all foods served at Thanksgiving.

Why Saison? Because it is a complex beer. Bright, crisp, and golden-hued, it has a spicy, fruity, earthy aroma and flavor. The style is also a little tart, and sweetness and bitterness are balanced. Its effervescence makes it refreshing to drink and cleanses the palate when needed. Saison is light enough for salad, crackers, and cheese, but robust enough for turkey, stuffing, and roasted root vegetables. It is the one beer that is perfect for pairing with farmhouse foods.

Going to someone’s home for Thanksgiving Dinner and need to take along a beer which will pair with any course? Take a Saison. Your hostess and/or host will appreciate it.

Photo of a growler bottle

I have a passion for brewery-fresh beers and a Saison is no exception. The day before Thanksgiving I will fill a growler at one of the breweries that has it available, then serve it the next day with dinner.

Currently, breweries with fresh Saison beers I like are: Council Brewing’s Beatitude Tart Saison; Lost Abbey’s Saison Blanc; Benchmark Brewing’s Table Beer; and Blood Saison by Border X.

If you can’t get to a brewery you can always settle for a Saison in a bottle or can. Available at most liquor stores, I recommend these tasty brews: Modern Times– Lomaland or Universal Friend; Stone– Saison; and Coronado– Señor Saison.

Beer cans from Modern Times Brewing

What if you personally do not like Saisons? No worries! Drink whatever beer works for your palate. Remember what Dr. Bill taught me: there are beer styles for pairing with every food dish. And another thing he taught me:

“Just allow yourself to enjoy a good friggin’ beer without over thinking it.”


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