Football, Turkey & Craft Beer: The Ultimate Thanksgiving Pairing Guide



You know it, and I know it: Thanksgiving is awesome. The day is all about bonding: with family, with traditions, with food, with conversation, with sports, with fall and with booze. My family has a tradition we like to call “Ye Ol’ Turkey Fry Tailgate, Just like the Pilgrims.” We sit outside around the turkey fryer, talking, laughing, watching football games and drinking beer, wine or Shirley Temples. JUST LIKE THE PILGRIMS! Okay, maybe not, but the concept is the same…connecting, communicating, BE-ing. And while drinking alcohol and watching football were not in the cards of the Pilgrims on the first Thanksgiving Day, it has become a part of our American tradition (lucky for us) and of course, the feast was, and is, the highlight of this wonderful day. So what better way to celebrate these traditions? As an experienced beer drinker, eater and sports fan, I say let’s pair them up! Football. Food. Beer. Ultimate. Thanksgiving. Day.


Fall1Game #1: Appetizer Pre-Game

According to the NFL, an average 28.4 million viewers watch football on Thanksgiving Day. And we all know that football and beer go hand in hand. That’s a lot of people, drinking a lot of beer. I am especially excited for the afternoon game this year as my Philadelphia Eagles (yes!) will take on the Detroit Lions. (Side note: did you know that the Lions play EVERY Thanksgiving Day? Yep. Since 1934. I just recently discovered this information, and I have to say that I’m intrigued. Want to know why? Read the history here.) Food and beer-wise, you want to start out easy, as you know what’s ahead of you. So choose some simple appetizers with light bodied beers. (Another side note: my husband’s Italian family started off Thanksgiving dinner with A LASAGNA. Yes, a LASAGNA, with meatballs and sausage. RIGHT BEFORE A HUGE THANKSGIVING MEAL. As a Polish-German, I totally cannot comprehend this concept. But if you’re Italian, I suppose you get it.) These less-hoppy beers—such as lagers, pilsners and wheat beers—are light in color, crisp, refreshing and their food-friendliness and lower alcohol content makes them perfect starter beers.

Appetizers: Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip and Stuffed Mushrooms

Beers: “Light Bodied” beers such as a Lager, Pilsner or Wheat

Philly’s Pick: Yuengling Light Lager (Pottsville, Pa.)

Detroit’s Pick: Bell’s Oarsman (Kalamazoo, Mich.)


fall2Game #2: Main Feast Bliss

At this point in the day, you are building up to the big feast, ready to continue your beer/football/food frenzy. The dinnertime game this year is the Carolina Panthers verses the Dallas Cowboys. (Dallas is the one other team that plays every Thanksgiving Day. Having been though 45 Thanksgivings, you’d think I would know that. But again, just found out! Read why here.) Time to break out some of the stronger tasting beers that will enhance various flavors associated with a traditional Thanksgiving meal, from herb roasted turkey to maple glazed sweet potatoes to spiced stuffing. These medium bodied beers—such as ales (amber/red, pale), IPAs and bocks—have malty qualities, intense flavor and higher hops, which makes them perfect pairing beers for your big meal.

Main Meal: Turkey, Stuffing, Sweet Potatoes, Brussel Sprouts

Beers: “Medium Bodied” beers such as Ale, IPA (India Pale Ale), Bock

Carolina’s Pick: Duck-Rabbit Amber Ale (Farmville, N.C.)

Dallas’ Pick: Deep Ellum IPA (Dallas, Texas)


fall3Game #3: Dessert Coma

By this time, you may have put on your stretchy pants, but you know pies are waiting for you. And what’s Thanksgiving without pie? Your nighttime game this year is the Chicago Bears (why do I always want to say DaBears?) and the Green Bay Packers. Sounds like a cold game to me, but you will be warm and toasty in your post-dinner food coma, curled up with pie and beer (umm, yum!) As far as pairings go, you may think I’d suggest a seasonal pumpkin-flavored beer here. But no! A general rule of beer pairing thumb is to stay away from same flavors. So to enhance the brown sugar flavor, along with the cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, try pairing with a full bodied Sweet Stout beer. Stouts, porters and barleywines generally have dark, roasted elements, which produce flavors such as coffee and bitter chocolate, making them ideal parings for spiced pie.

Dessert: Pumpkin Pie (of course) and Pecan Pie

Beers: “Full Bodied” beers such as Stout, Porter, Barleywine

Chicago’s Pick: Revolution Brewing Very Mad Cow (Chicago, Ill.)

Green Bay’s Pick: Milwaukee Brewing Co. Polish Moon (Milwaukee, Wis.)


Now that we ate, and drank, and ate, and drank, and maybe watched some football and enjoyed some new food and beer pairings, you’re happy, relaxed and stuffed. As always with food and beer pairings, DRINK WHAT TASTES GOOD TO YOU. However, if you want a simple guide, check out my previous blog post that contains a pretty cool beer pairing chart. (Can 14,000 pins on Pinterest be wrong?) Enjoy all your blessings on Thanksgiving Day and just BE. Cheers!

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