Pairing beers with Thanksgiving dinner isn’t rocket science, but it’s also not as simple as grabbing the nearest six-pack as you rush through your final dinner shopping.
No matter what’s on your table, beers from the seven regions of Oregon go perfectly with your time of gratitude and togetherness. In fact, the right beer pairings can transform your holiday meal into an Oregon craft beer tour you can take right from your Thanksgiving table.
The Challenge of Thanksgiving Beer Pairing
Your main difficulty? A traditional Thanksgiving meal is heavy on white and brown, rich foods that are typically, shall we say, “gently seasoned.” While delicious, a feast of proteins, starches and fats can quickly dull the palate and leave you feeling as stuffed as the bird in the oven.
But the palate-refreshing acidity and bitterness of the right mix of Oregon craft beers balance out that belly-busting feast. A solid Thanksgiving beer selection can both complement what’s on the table for your starters, main course and desserts, while further enhancing the social aspects of the big day.
And that’s where Oregon beers shine. Just as Thanksgiving can be broken down into pre-meal/mingling time appetizers, the main meal, and a pie-centric dessert spread, Oregon can be broken down into seven regions: Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge, Southern Oregon, Portland, Central Oregon, Eastern Oregon, the Oregon Coast and the Willamette Valley. Here’s how to pair the right Oregon beers with each course.
As people arrive and mingle — and while final steps are underway in the kitchen — there’s nothing like a good beer to help guests relax and get into the spirit of the day.
Whatever your appetizer spread — cheeses, fruits, pickles, crackers — beers from the Mt. Hood/Columbia River Gorge region and Southern Oregon will shine in helping attendees settle in, complement your starters and warm up palates for the feast to come.
Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge
pFriem German-Style Pilsner, 4.9% ABV
With aromas evoking wildflowers and growing grass, pFriem’s Pilsner is a smile-inducing, conviviality-spurring touch of spring in the midst of a gray Oregon fall. After taking home silver at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival, this rock-solid pils will be perfect for whetting the appetite.
Double Mountain The Vaporizer Dry-Hopped Pale Ale, 6.0% ABV
Getting ready for the big meal is all about getting your mouth watering, while not getting full or blasted before you get to the table. The Challenger hops and house yeast of The Vaporizer from Double Mountain accomplish both. Balanced bitterness and herbal notes help reset the palate — this beer isn’t so strong you’re tanked come turkey time.
Klamath Basin River Days Session Ale, 4.9% ABV
Thanksgiving is not a meal, it’s a day. A big, long full day of feasting, friends, family, football and fellowship. If you want the beer to continue to flow while keeping things chill, the session-style River Days is lower in alcohol and right on target. A balanced hoppy/malty profile gains body and crispness from malted wheat, for a golden, hazy color, reminding you of the sun you probably won’t be seeing for a while.
Caldera Mother Pucker Raspberry Sour, ABV 6.0%
When it comes to palate-pleasing, taste-teasing pre-turkey goodness, it’s hard to beat a solid sour. Raspberries remind us to be grateful for the seasons while lactobacillus kettle souring gives a solid, well, pucker. While the name might get a raised eyebrow, a glass of Mother Pucker will get two raised eyebrows, wide eyes, and solid nod before everyone goes back for more. Don’t be surprised if a glass or two also finds its way to the table.
Turkey, vegetarian, ham, carb fest, gluten-free or even — strangely — a balance of grains, produce and legumes: today’s Thanksgiving table can take more forms than there are ways to season a turkey. No matter what, the right beers can sharpen a rich-food-dulled palate and prevent you from feeling too full — well, maybe at least for the first and second helpings.
Today’s delicious diversity means it’s also time to turn to the state’s heavy-hitting craft beer regions: Portland, Central Oregon and the Willamette Valley.
Lompoc C-Note IPA, 6.9% ABV
Combine 100 IBUs of hard-hitting bitterness with a punch of citrus, and you’ve got C-Note. This IPA can cut through every bite of gravy, turkey, mashed potatoes and rolls on your plate. Pine and herbaceous notes lift your spirits and freshen the taste buds, while caramel hints on the finish add depth.
Upright Saison Vert, 4.75% ABV
In his seminal The Brewmaster’s Table, Garrett Oliver said he considered saison a beer that can go with anything. Brewed with Pils and Vienna malts plus wheat, this mixed-fermentation saison can indeed meld with every dish on the Thanksgiving table. It’ll also finish clean and dry, with a touch of mineral earthiness to help you be ready for another serving of everything.
Cascade Lakes 20” Brown, 5.2% ABV
Assertive enough to be refreshing but subtle enough not to overwhelm your palate, a solid brown is another all-purpose beer worthy of your glass. Brewed with six varieties of Northwest malt and a mix of Centennial and Willamette hops, 20” Brown will be a considerate yet reliable dinner partner.
Deschutes Black Butte Porter, 5.2% ABV
Thirty years ago in 1988, Black Butte Porter became one of the first three beers released by the then-brand-spankin’-new Deschutes Brewing in Bend. Today, Black Butte remains a classic, taste-setting example of Northwest porter. Its creamy, chocolate and roasty notes also make it a vibrant regional companion. Rich mouthfeel, sharp effervescence, rough malty flavors and just enough hoppy bitterness combine into a beer for all Thanksgivings.
Alesong Visions, 6.5% ABV
Fermented and barrel-conditioned with mixed cultures, Alesong’s Visions is matured in French oak barrels for a year. After blending, each bottle is bottle conditioned with juice from muscat grapes. The light body and medium acidity of this brew makes it hearty enough to stand up to a substantial meal, but tart and fruity enough to round out the flavors and aromas of Thanksgiving. You’ll find hints of melon, citrus blossoms and Asian pear, all in a hybrid beer that truly offers the best of both worlds.
Gluten-free Evasion Hophoria IPA, 5.2% ABV
If gluten is not on the menu, that doesn’t mean you have to be without a solid Thanksgiving beer. McMinnville’s Evasion Brewing is not evading standout beers as full of flavor as they are devoid of gluten. Hophoria IPA puts the hops back in your glass, with Citra and Mosaic bitterness weaving through notes of stone fruits, blueberries and oranges. A mix of millet, rice, buckwheat and oats combines to a complex grain bill that satisfies.
The table is cleared, the pants are loosened and everyone is unwinding and digesting. Time to bust out dessert!
Whatever Turkey-day treats are on your after-dinner menu, these Eastern Oregon and Oregon Coast beers will enhance with maximum flavor and enjoyment. At the Oregon Beer Growler, we hope they’re the perfect end to a wonderful Thanksgiving Day for you and yours.
Barley Brown’s Twisted Whisker Scotch Ale, 7.2% ABV
Baker City knows beer. When you’re passing around the pie, the complex malt notes of a Scotch ale offer a beautiful balance to sweets. With refreshing earthy and honey notes from East Kent Goldings hops, Barley Brown’s take on a traditional Scotch ale combines Maris Otter barley, dark crystal and a hint of peat-smoked barley for a touch of the Scottish Highlands in the Northwest.
Beer Valley Black Flag Imperial Stout, 11% ABV
Big meal? Big finish. The Ontario’s brewery’s first beer continues as a “monstrously huge” Imperial Stout, combining four hops and eight malts for a vastly complex brew. Sip it slow, like a brandy or Scotch, to take in the brew’s depth. Let it suffuse your dessert time and enrich your conversation as the evening comes to a close.
Yachats Salal Sour Ale, 6.6% ABV
The region’s indigenous people know a thing or two about the tart salal berry, and the folks at Yachats Brewing aim both to honor that knowledge and put a unique spin on it by combining farmhouse-style freshness with a classic Oregon berry. Rely on Salal Sour’s bright tartness and acidity to perk you up and add a nice counterpoint to your slice of pie.
de Garde The Kriek, 7.0% ABV
Known for its complex and innovative aged and blended beers — all complemented by the rich microbial environment of Tillamook — de Garde’s spontaneous wild ales present a surprise in every bottle. Aged in oak barrels with Montmorency and Morello cherries, The Kriek pours a conversation-inducing purple and complements dessert with a rich character and cherry brightness. May it be the cherry on top for your Thanksgiving! •