Between pumpkin ales at Halloween and spiced beers at Christmas, it can be easy to overlook Thanksgiving as one of the best beer holidays of the year. Unlike the two major holidays before and after it, Thanksgiving isn’t defined by any singular style. So what should you drink this Turkey Day?
In truth, it’s not too late for pumpkin ales, if you’re a fan. They’re more seasonally appropriate now than ever, and pair well with a number of classic Thanksgiving dishes. The problem here is that often breweries release their pumpkin ales late in the summer, and many sold out weeks ago. You might use Thanksgiving as a springboard into Christmas beers, but those are best saved for colder December days.
As is the case with the meal itself, the focus should be on comfort. Thanksgiving is a great holiday precisely because it’s not bound by a specific type of beer. With notes of dark bread, roast and chocolate, many malt-forward styles do complement the heartier-than-usual fare. But given the wide variety of plates and palates at any given table, you’ll be best served with a more diverse selection of beers.
Fortunately we live in a city with an incredibly diverse beer scene, as is evident by these newly released beers (and some to come).
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The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery Bauern Bock: Though Thanksgiving beers are anything but common, OMB releases this doppelbock ahead of the holiday every year (it’s currently out in the market). The strong lager is rich and flavorful without being overpowering, making it an ideal match for just about anything on the table.
Birdsong Bourbon Barrel-Aged St. Tuber Abbey Ale: Whereas some breweries look to pumpkins for their fall seasonals, Birdsong turns instead to one of North Carolina’s most popular crops: the sweet potato. They also add whole cloves to the Belgian dubbel, and if that’s not enough they release a version of the beer aged in bourbon barrels. Birdsong released four-pack cans of the barrel-aged version at the brewery on Thursday, so call ahead to make sure this one is still available at their taproom.
NoDa Cranberry Gose: NoDa Brewing Co. has released a variety of different versions of its gose, but this cranberry-infused option is ideal for the Thanksgiving table. At just 4 percent ABV, this lightly tart beer is a great pre-dinner choice (or, like an acidic vinaigrette, would work with a salad). The brewery will release four-packs of cans at its taproom on Nov. 16.
Triple C Up All Night Breakfast Porter: One of Triple C Brewing’s most popular seasonals, Up All Night is brewed with honey, lactose, flaked oats, chocolate malt and coffee from Charlotte’s Magnolia Coffee Co. The beer makes its return on Nov. 17, when the brewery will sell bottles and tap a special draft-only version brewed with vanilla, cinnamon, cayenne and cacao nibs. While you’re at it, go ahead and clear your calendar for Dec. 8, when the brewery will release its bourbon-barrel-aged version of the beer.
Bold Missy Barrel-Aged Tripel: Wine is the beverage of choice for many on Thanksgiving, and if your guests prefer grapes to grain you might appease them with Bold Missy Brewery’s second bottle release. The crew at Bold Missy aged their Belgian tripel in oak barrels that once held California red wine, creating a beer with something for wine and beer lovers alike. Bottles will be available when the brewery opens at 4 p.m. on Nov. 21 — the day before Thanksgiving.
Sycamore Christmas Cookie: Earlier I mentioned that you might hold off on the Christmas beers, but if your tree’s already up and your house is already decorated, who am I to stop you? Sycamore Brewing will kick off Thanksgiving Eve by releasing its Christmas Cookie Winter Ale. Just remember to save a couple cans for Santa.