Last week, over one million bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau barreled into American grocery stores direct from France, where winemakers have figured out how to sell some of their most mediocre products to a market that either doesn't know any better or is willfully ignorant. It's a scheme that's actually quite admirable in its chutzpah, but admiring the dupe doesn't mean you have to buy into it.
You, our savvy consumer, can spice things up this year by building your own six-pack of beer and bringing that to the table in lieu of aggressively average wine—and for the same price. Kroger, H-E-B, Whole Foods Market, and other grocery stores allow you to pick from a not-too-shabby selection of bottles and cans for, on average, $12 a six-pack. The beers below represent some of our favorites from the standard Houston build-your-own offerings.
Whether you choose to drink all the beers yourself or split them with friends and family as pairings for each course is up to you. Regardless of application, we present a guide to the best beers for your Thanksgiving feast, dish by delectable dish.
Turkey and Dressing
Firestone Walker DBA: An American version of a classic English bitter, the Double Barrel Ale from Firestone Walker holds up brilliantly against roast beasts like turkey and other birds thanks to its own roasty, toasty characteristics. It's a crisp, clean beer than won't overpower the delicate flavor of the turkey, with nutty undertones that will complement a dressing or a stuffing, and final notes of vanilla that will complement a sweet cranberry sauce.
Green Bean Casserole
Stone IPA: Chances are that your family sticks to the tried-and-true green bean casserole recipe that pairs salty cream of mushroom salt with even saltier fried onions, with the green beans themselves as mere background noise. Cut through all that fat and salt with the Instagram filter of beers: Stone IPA, which makes nearly everything taste better. The salt, by the way, will also calm down the bitterness of the hops in the IPA, making for an altogether pleasant pairing all the way around.
Alaskan Brewing Co. Amber: A tough call, as your mashed potatoes could be saturated with garlic, drenched with brown gravy, or gratin-ed with generous helpings of cream and cheese. Either way, an Altbier like Alaskan's Amber will function much as a Pinot Noir does, pairing easily with anything you throw its way thanks to its balance between rich malts and bitter hops. Additionally, the beer has a distinct creaminess to it that will help along any mashed potatoes that may be lacking in that crucial area. (Also, gazing longingly at the icy Alaskan waters on the label may help you forget that it's a balmy 67 degrees outside here in Houston.)
Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co. 1836: Buff calls its 1836 a "Copper Ale," which is their way of saying "we don't know what to call this, but it's copper-colored." You know what else is copper-colored? Those candied yams (or sweet potato casserole) your aunt insists on serving every year. The sugary yams will be toned down by the citrusy American and English hops while still getting a little wink and a nod from the well-balanced beer's sweet Victory malts.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Karbach Brewing Co. Mother in Lager: This seasonal offering from Karbach is similar to a dunkel, made with dark malts and German hops. Well roasted brussels sprouts develop a char that brings a sweet, caramelized flavor to the otherwise bitter, cabbage-like vegetable. Mother in Lager offers a very similar balance between dark, roasty malts and vegetal bitterness, though Karbach itself recommends its Mother in Lager with smoked turkey (with Sympathy for the Lager recommended for roasted turkey and Weekend Warrior Pale Ale for the fried variety).
Pumpkin and/or Pecan Pie
Real Ale Coffee Porter: Leave the actual coffee to the designated drivers. Instead, polish off a piece of pie with this classic Coffee Porter from Real Ale, brewed in Blanco with roasted beans from Houston's own Katz Coffee. Though sweet enough to drink on its own as dessert, the Coffee Porter functions much the same as actual coffee, cutting down on the toothache-inducing sweetness of most corn syrup-laden pecan pies and nutmeg-saturated pumpkin pies, thanks to its surprisingly dry and clean finish. If you really wanted to be on-point, you could sub out the Coffee Porter for an Austin-brewed 512 Pecan Porter; both are excellent examples of the porter genre and both are equally beloved by craft beer fans—or you could go for broke and get a six-pack of each for the family. It's easier than bringing a side.