13 Craft Beers You Need to Drink This Thanksgiving

Photo by Newburgh Brewing Co.

Photo by Newburgh Brewing Co.

Thanksgiving is America’s most food-centric holiday, but don’t forget to dedicate a bit of braintime deciding what beers to drink to truly guarantee a memorable meal. In my case, that could mean a fresh can of New England-style IPA (to learn more about this cultish craze in craft beer, hop on the Gram and start with these three hashtags: #freshie, #juicy, #hazefordays) to “complement” my colorblind mother’s green bean casserole (it’s not very green, or edible), and later, an imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels to soothe the tragedy of my two delinquent second cousins stealing the turkey for a fiendish game of fowl football.

Whatever the impetus for my, err, your imbibing of beer this Thanksgiving, one thing is certain: with a rapidly expanding craft-beer industry now giving drinkers an estimated 30,000 different choices from more than 4,000 breweries, picking what to consume for this fete seems as tough as gnawing at last year’s leftovers. So, to get a diverse range of informed opinions, I asked some local friends in the industry—including bar owners and beer judges—to recommend beers versatile enough to pair with any part of a typical feast.

Before we dive into them, though, I have one question for you: Who’s inviting me to drink this Thanksgiving? If you do, I’ll bring along some of my mother’s green bean casserole; it’s fantastic!

1. Autumn Maple, The Bruery
ABV: 10%

When you’re working as a beer director there’s a certain responsibility you have to your friends and family to show up at Thanksgiving with something of proper merit. Everyone from grandma to picky uncle Jim are going to voice their opinion on the matter for an entire year to come, so it’s important you make the right choice. And for me that choice is Autumn Maple from California innovator The Bruery. Clocking in at 10 percent alcohol, this Belgian-style brown ale is brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, molasses, maple syrup, and enough yams to fill the Mayflower. But it manages to be well balanced and not overly sweet with spice and yeast flavors. It’s also off-centered enough to pique the interest of your guests without being overly esoteric in its inception or delivery to be off-putting. Lastly, but maybe most importantly, the large bottle and high alcohol content make it a perfect choice to share with some loved ones. — Terence Daly, beer director at Brewology

2. Pumpkick, New Belgium Brewing
ABV: 6.0%

Pumpkin beer is the gateway to craft beer—at least that’s how I got started. It all began at the new-closed John Harvard’s in Lake Grove, which was known for their pumpkin ale with the novelty of a sugar and spice rim. It was so unique, like a beer cocktail, and who doesn’t like a drink with an accessory? Since then I’ve tried at least 100 varieties of pumpkin ale. But this year I had perhaps my favorite ever: New Belgium’s Pumpkick. Smelling it you get cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin and an overall sweet aroma. In tasting it you’re greeted by a rich pumpkin-spice flavor and then an exepected “kick” with a slightly tart finish from cranberry and lemongrass. With pumpkin and spice, and everything nice, I can’t think of a better beer to pair with your turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce! — Sophia Del Gigante, founder of Beer + Yoga and editor of NY Foodgasm

3. Mofosaic, Sand City Brewing
ABV: 7.2%

Tastes just as good on a Tuesday… all 10 taps flowing strong. Cheers! #sandcity #drinkingweather #drinkgoodbeer

A photo posted by brendan@sandcitybeer.com (@sandcitybrewery) on

I decided to go with something juicy, bright, and refreshing, as well as made right here on Long Island. Sand City over in Northport has blown my mind with its array of great IPAs since opening, one of which is Mofosaic, with its hazy golden color, beautifully bright peach and floral aromas, and not much bitterness at all. This is a perfect showcase of one of craft beer’s most popular hop varietals Mosaic, and this style of IPA is what’s popular in craft beer right now. I could easily pair this local gem with an herb-roasted turkey or the sweetness of cranberry sauce. — David Bivona, manager at Croxley Ales (Rockville Centre)

4. Roe’s Orchard Ale, Newburgh Brewing
ABV: 8.0%

BEER RELEASE TOMORROW Roe's Orchard Ale 8.0% ABV Brett-fermented Farmhouse Ale with freshly pressed apple cider from local Roe's Orchard Taproom release at 4pm tomorrow, limited distribution in the Hudson Valley & NYC end of this week • The 2nd annual batch of "Roe's Orchard Ale", our 8% Farmhouse Ale showcasing one of New York's finest agricultural products: apples. Freshly pressed cider, obtained from the Hudson Valley's own Roe's Orchard, is added during fermentation. The result is a beer that is medium bodied and dry, with a little farmhouse funk and just the right amount of apple flavoring • Taproom release at 4pm tomorrow, and then hitting select Hudson Valley & NYC bars/restaurants over the next few weeks. If Johnny Appleseed was alive today, he would drink this beer and say "I am 242 years old and really tired and old" (also his real name was "John Chapman" and when you search for him on Google, Google notes that when people search for 'Johnny Appleseed', they also search for 'James Earl Jones', which is nice) #newburghbrewing #craftbeer #craftbrewery #cider #apples #hudsonvalley #farmhouseale #beer #thinknydrinkny #newyork

A photo posted by Newburgh Brewing Co. (@newburghbrewing) on

From the foods we eat to the traditions we celebrate, Thanksgiving is a day that represents America. And what’s more American than apple cider, essentially our country’s first national drink? Here’s the thing: I don’t personally love cider but what I do love is off-centered beers made with cider, an esoteric category no other brewery does better than Hudson Valley’s Newburgh Brewing, one of our favorites here at Hoptron. Roe’s Orchard Ale is a farmhouse ale—a style pretty much made for mind-blowing food pairings—mixed with freshly pressed local apple cider and, just to kick it to 11 in terms of flavors, fermented with Brettanomyces, a wild yeast. What this creates is a drink light in both body and color with bright carbonation, a lovely apple aroma, flavors of cider and Belgian-y funk, and a dry finish. Roe’s just feels like a drink designed for America and for Thanksgiving: It’s a little different but great. And I hope we can all appreciate that. — Amanda Danielsen, co-owner of Hoptron Brewtique

5. Oktoberfest, Spaten
ABV: 5.9%

Beer is all German to me, so don’t even try to put a pumpkin ale on my Thanksgiving table. Instead you’ll find an German lager we’ve proudly carried at the bar since the seventies, back when you couldn’t find imported beer in many places on Long Island: Spaten Oktoberfest. Packed with a creamy, caramel-sweet flavor that can’t be replicated, this is a true classic that pairs perfectly with Peconic Bay scallops which are in season right now. — Steve Haller, owner of Fadeley’s Deli Pub

6. Saison Dupont, Brasserie Dupont
ABV: 6.5%

Saison Dupont was the first beer that opened my eyes to a new world of complexity and sophistication in beer. Not only is it the perfect beer for any dinner table, but it’s especially great for a rich meal like Thanksgiving dinner. Pairing well with turkey or even turducken, this light golden Belgian ale serves as a devastatingly refreshing palate cleanser. Light lemon zest and subtle pear esters flutter and dance about in this sparkling, delicate masterpiece. — Derrick Sherman, manager and beer buyer at Monarch Beverage

7. Imperial Mexican Biscotti Cake Break, Westbrook
ABV: 10.5%

When he's good, he's good! @eviltwinbrewing

A photo posted by Morgan SeBlonka-Westbrook (@westbrookbrewingco) on

Our Thanksgiving tradition is to eat as much humanly possible, so I’m going to save my one Thanksgiving beer for dessert. My selection is the recently released Imperial Mexican Biscotti Cake Break, a dreamy union of Evil Twin’s Imperial Biscotti Break and Westbrook’s Mexican Cake, both fantastic adjunct-packed imperial stouts in their own right. The ingredient list is nearly the length of your Thanksgiving shopping list: coffee, cinnamon, almonds, cocoa nibs, vanilla, and habanero peppers. The result? A sweet, spicy, high-octane symphony of an imperial stout, so sip it as it warms for the various ingredients to take their solos. Though Cake Break is naturally a perfect pairing with the 14 assorted sweets I’ll have on my dessert plate, the real plan is to leave a bottle to drink with my leftover sandwich on Friday morning. — Shelby Poole, co-owner of Jackson’s and Morrison’s

8. Rosetta, Brewery Ommegang
ABV: 5.6%

From all of us at Brewery Ommegang: Thank you, Veterans. ??? #veteransday

A photo posted by Brewery Ommegang (@breweryommegang) on

There’s a moderately high level of acidity and lively carbonation in this kriek, a Flemish sour brown ale brewed with tart cherries, that helps cut and lift the heaviness and richness of traditional Thanksgiving fare. The tart cherries can play off and enhance the herbaceous character common in many Thanksgiving dishes, adding an additional level of complexity to both beer and food. Also, the malty sweetness matches well against foods like roasted sweet potatoes or pecan pie without feeling overly cloying. Leave the cranberry sauce at home and pick up a four pack of Rosetta instead. — Andrew Luberto, president of the Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts and Beer Judge Certification Program Master Judge

9. Saint Lamvinus, Cantillon
ABV: 5.0%

Back in Brussels and on the Cantillon. A great one.

A photo posted by Swills and Swallows (@swillsandswallows) on

This Thanksgiving I’ll be drinking Cantillon’s Saint Lamvinus, and you will be too if you know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy, or if you’re a savvy online beer trader. Stateside rarity aside, this world-class Belgian lambic is aged in oak Bordeaux barrels with merlot and cabernet franc grapes; the result is a beer as complex and distinctive as a fine wine. Similar to the cranberry sauce on the table, Lamvinus’ fruitiness will play nicely off of lean turkey and roasted veggies, while its soft tartness and light funk imparted by the naturally occurring yeast and bacteria that shepherd lambic-making’s open, spontaneous fermentation is just enough to cut through umami-rich turkey gravy, sausage stuffing, buttery mashed potatoes, and the occasional marshmallow-root vegetable mashup. Additionally, being a sort of wine-beer hybrid, Saint Lamvinus will be a crowdpleaser for guests accustomed to a nice pinot with their meal. To summarize, since you know a guy let me know if you’d like to swing by my house for dinner. — Vince Minutella, owner of The Black Sheep Ale House

10. Farkin Wheaton w00tstout, Stone Brewing
ABV: 13.0%

It's juuussst starting to feel like autumn is on the way at @StoneBrewingRVA! #StoneBrewing ? @amrecc

A photo posted by Stone Brewing (@stonebrewingco) on

This is the time of year I like to move to darker, heavier beers, and I usually like something on the stronger side during the holidays for a number of reasons—mainly because you can’t pick your family! That’s why I’m going with Stone’s intense, slow-sipping Farkin Wheaton w00tstout as my Thanksgiving beer, which should help me deal with those awkward family interrogations. When are you having a baby? Are you pregnant now? Well if I’m drinking this imperial stout brewed with pecans, wheat, and flaked rye, and aged in bourbon barrels, it’s a clear no. While I love all the things happening with every sip—cocoa, coffee, oak, vanilla, nut, and bourbon aroma and flavor, with a slight alcohol and hoppy, bitter finish—the coolest part about this beer is Wil Wheaton’s involvement, as he is an actor and advocate for all things nerd. And to top it all off, the label honors Star Wars, enough said! — Kimberly Stoehr, bartender at Bobbique

11. Golden Delicious, Captain Lawrence Brewing
ABV: 10.0%

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday of the year, and I make it a point to close the restaurant so my staff can spend time with their loved ones. On this day of giving thanks it’s become a ritual of mine to share a vintage bottle of this great Belgian-style tripel aged in apple-brandy barrels with my family and friends. It’s important to note that I always age this beer in refrigeration for an entire year before opening it, as it allows everything to balance perfectly; the barrel character mellows out a bit, as well as the tropical-fruit aroma from the American hops used. Because of its complexity and it being so easy to drink I’ve paired it up and down on Thanksgiving, everything from sausage stuffing to apple pie. — Ralph Perrazzo, chef and owner of BBD’s

12. Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, Boulevard Brewing
ABV: 8.5%

Turkey Day means food, beer, and having a rare day off from work! One beer in particular that I plan to indulge on, which just sounds like a beer I should be drinking while watching football, is the farmhouse ale Tank 7 from Boulevard. Ever since the Kansas City brewery started distributing to New York last year, Tank 7 has become one of my favorite saisons to drink and I always try to have it available at one or both of our two spots. From its big citrusy aromatics to its soft, slightly sweet taste to its dry, peppery finish, Tank has the complexity to pair with most everything on the table. — James Bonanno, co-owner of The Tap Room

13. Black Duck Porter, Greenport Harbor Brewing
ABV: 4.7%

As the publisher of an online guide to Long Island beer, I’m proud to see such great beers being made locally now, many of which have stepped up to become personal favorites on special occasions like Thanksgiving. On this holiday I’ll be reaching for Black Duck Porter, coming from Greenport Harbor on the North Fork, a beer that has taken the spot of Anchor’s Porter, which has held a special place in my heart since 1986 when my wife and I first enjoyed it in San Francisco on our honeymoon. It was a revelation to taste this smooth dark ale with rich malty flavor and wonderful notes of chocolate and coffee. It became a staple for us at the holidays, especially paired at Thanksgiving dessert with pecan or pumpkin pie. Black Duck Porter is the equal of Anchor Porter in roasty malt flavor and a creamy, dry finish. But it ups the ante with a lower alcohol percent that makes it surprisingly light on the palate. On Thanksgiving Black Duck is perfect for dessert but can also be a delicious pairing with the main meal, especially with the crispy dark meat of the turkey and for hearty sides like stuffing and roasted vegetables. — Bernie Kilkelly, publisher of LIBeerGuide.com

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