**Yummy pie header image courtesy of Boundary Bay Brewery

The holidays are upon us, and in Bellingham that means the days get much shorter, the weather gets much wetter and for some, the beer gets much darker. Along with the hustle of the holidays, comes the stress of figuring out what to cook or bring along to holiday gatherings. Maybe you’re stressing to find the time to make your famous yams and marshmallow dish, or want to make a green bean casserole but have to travel for the holidays and can’t make it ahead of time. Why worry about cooking when there’s a perfect substitute contribution to your Thanksgiving meal? Something that pairs perfectly with everything else that we all look forward to eating every Thanksgiving- that’s right, beer.

There’s a plethora of beer that’s perfect to bring to your family gathering or Friendsgiving, but here are some things to consider:

  • How many people are you bringing beer for? You may want to steer clear of a spendy beer like a specialty barrel-aged stout if you’re providing beer for 10 people.
  • The alcohol content is important, especially if you’re driving home. Maybe instead of a heavy, 14% imperial porter, consider a hoppy amber or less boozy winter ale.
  • Are you eating traditional Thanksgiving food? If you’re limited to bringing one kind of beer, something with a strong malt backbone like an Oktoberfest Marzen or a scotch is a safe bet when it comes to pairing beer with Thanksgiving cuisine.
  • You can always consider bringing a dessert beer! Some people may want to drink their wine or cider throughout the night or just may not think they like beer. A dessert beer is usually a smaller pour and less intimidating for family members who aren’t necessarily “into beer”.

If you’re attending a traditional Thanksgiving and want to capitalize on your beer and food experience, here are some ideas as to what you should drink while you prepare for your post-dinner nap.

Sweet potato/yam and marshmallow dish & a hop-forward IPA

IPAs aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but when it comes to rich foods, IPAs are a refreshing and crisp break from the sweetness or buttery texture you can get from a rich dish like sweet potatoes and those darn marshmallows your aunt puts on top of them. Cutting through the extra sugar as well as the fatty layer we get on our tongues after eating these foods, a nice hop-forward and resinous IPA (avoid hazy’s and NE style IPAs for sweeter dishes) will be the perfect pairing for rich foods whether it’s sweet potatoes, a sweet butternut squash dish, or your pie and ice cream.

If you are firm on disliking IPA’s, try something lighter but still crisp and super refreshing, like a pilsner.

Local Options: Traverse IPA from Boundary Bay Brewery, Bastard Kat IPA from Kulshan Brewing, Walking Distance IPA from Menace.

Mashed potatoes and gravy & a Belgian or Weizen

Weizens and certain Belgian beers have a certain spice note to them. It could be the general funkiness of Belgian yeast, but in many instances, these styles are some of the easiest to hone in on when it comes to picking out certain flavors. For instance, some people get a lot of banana and cloves from Weiss biers. This characteristic goes well with the consistency and creaminess of the mashed potatoes and gravy we will all have probably way too much of this year.


Local Options: Illuminati Brewing Company’s Grim Reaper Dunkelweiss, Wander Brewing’s Wanderale Belgian Blonde

Roasted turkey and stuffing & Oktoberfest Märzen Lager or Red Ale

Honestly, turkey is the biggest part of Thanksgiving dinner as well as the most versatile when it comes to beer pairing. Maybe your’e someone who mixes their turkey with everything and winds up with a plate of mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and gravy mixed with turkey. The savory turkey and it’s crispy skin goes so well with the strong malt backbone and subtle sweetness of an Oktoberfest Marzen lager or red ale. If you’re family goes the route of smoking the turkey, consider a smoky rauchbier to go with it.

Local options: Kulshan Brewing Company Red Cap red ale, Chuckanut Brewery’s rauchbier or festbier 

Anything smothered in cranberry sauce & a gose or fruited sour

Cranberry sauce seems to be either the crowd favorite or it gets a bad wrap. Many find it to be the perfect sweet and tart balance to the abundance of savory food eaten on Thanksgiving. Pile of mashed potatoes and gravy? Cranberry sauce on top. Giant chunk of turkey? Smear some cranberry sauce on it. Sweet potatoes accidentally touched your cranberry sauce and other food? Honestly, mix it all together and take a sip of your delicious and fruited kettle sour. Breweries are coming out with some pretty refreshing and creative versions of a gose, it’s a style that’s seen a lot of development in the last year, pairing perfectly with a dinner that’s so traditional and the total opposite of a sweet and tart super bubbly beer.

Local options: Kulshan Brewing Company Blood Orange Gose, The North Fork Brewery’s Electric Strawberryland 

Pumpkin Pie and a Winter Warmer or bourbon barrel-aged stout

As soon as the first leaf falls in Bellingham, everyone seems to crave pumpkin everything, whether it’s pie or beer, Thanksgiving is the grand finale of the fall pumpkin craze. There are so many distinct spice flavors that have the potential to be highlighted in pumpkin pie; nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves just to name a few. A perfect beer to pair for easy drinking with pumpkin pie is a winter warmer, or a winter ale if you wanna go a little darker. If you’re really looking to make the last few bites of Thanksgiving last, try a super sippable barrel-aged beer, maybe one you’ve been saving for a couple years? Some darker beers have strong tasting notes of coffee, the perfect pairing with dessert.

Local options: Aslan Brewing Co. Winter Warmer, Kulshan Brewing Co. Kitten Mittens, Structures Brewing Cafe Bier, Boundary Bay Brewery’s Cabin Fever