There are Thanksgiving staples you never want to see change -- football on TV, crunchy fried onions atop green bean casserole, the social acceptability of late morning drinking -- but some traditions need re-imagining. Introducing beer to your Thanksgiving feast is worth a disapproving look from the grandparents. So rarely do you sit down to a meal saturated with yeasty, nutty, toasty dishes -- the same flavor profiles you'll find in beer-- that the opportunity must be seized.
Although the bloating effect of beer on an already gluttonous occasion can't be denied, the following selections (with the exception of the first) are meant for sipping and improve as they warm in your hand. Don't be afraid to invest in a growler of something local -- you'll definitely polish it off before the first person falls asleep. This year you'll find us raising a glass in gratitude for the improvements beer has seen since molded jello salad was the height of sophistication.
The Beer for Day Drinking
Eagle Rock Solidarity: English-Style Dark Mild 3.8%
If it was any other work day you'd be on your second or third cup of coffee instead of opening your first beer. For late morning football, there is no better choice than Eagle Rock's Solidarity. A Black Mild, this beer will warm your palate to food-familiar profiles without blasting it with too much bitterness or dark roast. Weighing in at under 4% this session beer is built to help you start slowly when there is ample fooding and boozing to be done.
The Beer for Your Bird
AleSmith Nut Brown: English-Style Nut Brown 5%
With a moderate, malt-forward balance this is a great beer and style for drinking with a mild poultry like turkey. Bready and high-starch dishes such as stuffing, rolls and mashed potatoes will also benefit from the sweet character of the beer and discernable yeast undertones, without being overwhelmed.
The Beer to Buy When in Doubt
Iron Fist Dubbel Fisted: Dubbel 8.1%
Belgian-style beers, as a rule, are good for pairing with food. A well-crafted Dubbel, like this choice from Iron Fist in San Diego County, has a gentle but formidable malt structure, and food-friendly flavors. Some spice and plum notes will complement yams without being too cloyingly sweet to wash down green bean casserole. The drying and cleansing effects of Belgian yeast will prepare you for that next bite.
The Beer for Pumpkin Pie
The Bruery Autumn Maple: Seasonal Ale 10%
Proud of producing a pumpkin beer-alternative, The Bruery shakes up the usual fall lineup by brewing a seasonal beer with yams, maple syrup and molasses. Sweet and spicy, this is an obvious choice for pumpkin pie, but we think it will segue beautifully into gingerbread season if you hang on to a bottle or two. Higher alcohol stands up to the dessert sugar levels and has a warming, digestive effect on the sated imbiber.
The Gift Beer
Firestone 16th Anniversary: American Strong Ale 13%
This Central Coast gem is a big beer, meant for small sips from snifters. It's as strong as wine and pricey, but if you're trying to convince your in-laws why you love beer, this is the bottle to substantiate your claim. Use the complexity of the blend (8 beers from 226 barrels!) as fodder for conversation and pour a glass to prove that if you like caramels and aperitifs, there is a beer for you. Tread lightly when arguing the merits of your generation's beer to a baby boomer.
The Wild Card
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Julian Hard Cider: Cider 6.99%
Fit for your gluten-free cousin and your mom who is certain she doesn't like beer, this clean, Southern California cider will add a pleasant surprise to the table. It has straightforward apple flavor with no funk, and makes for a refreshing palate-cleanser on a day overly encumbered by heavy-handed spice and mouth-coating richness. Move the Martinelli's aside, the cider on your table has finally grown up.
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