Blog contributed by Stephanie Grant
I get incredible joy from hosting Thanksgiving dinner. It starts with a spreadsheet filled with all the details for the day—from what to cook to what dish it’ll be served in.
Preparation for the day begins in early November. As the month moves closer to the big day, the planning intensifies, all to ensure that everything runs smoothly once I step into that kitchen on Thanksgiving morning.
If you’ve ever prepared Thanksgiving dinner, it rarely goes exactly as planned. But it’s all worth it once it’s time to tuck into a comforting, and perhaps heaping, plate of food surrounded by some of your favorite people.
In my family, the best part of the day isn’t the dinner, but dessert. There are many options you can have on your Thanksgiving table, but this holiday is synonymous with pies. And while many people, myself included, enjoy drinking a beer with dinner. This year, make sure you save room for pie and its complementary beer.
Pumpkin Pie with North Sky
Perhaps one of the most famous pies for this time of year, the love for pumpkin pie has transcended the crust and become something all on its own. The warming flavors of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice have become synonymous with fall.
Top this ubiquitous Thanksgiving dessert with a dollop of whipped cream, and then pair with North Sky, a smooth Belgian-inspired stout with light notes of fruit, sweetness, and roasty malt. The sweet, dense pie is a great complement to the roasted malt in North Sky, making the pairing similar to a pumpkin spice latte, but more balanced.
Sweet Potato Pie with Nocturna
While pumpkin pie gets all the fame and glory, in the South, you’ll likely see sweet potato pie on the table. And while they look similar and use some of the same ingredients (cinnamon and nutmeg), the texture and taste are completely different. Sweet potatoes are full of rich flavor, especially when roasted, and have an inherent sweetness that’s perfect for a dessert. In my house, we eat our sweet potato pie warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
This year, I’m pairing my pie with Nocturna, a silky stout aged in bourbon barrels with vanilla bean. When paired with the sweet potato pie and ice cream, the vanilla notes in the beer sing before a delicious wave of chocolate and oak notes wash over your palate.
Bonus: Barrel & Bean is also spectacular with sweet potato pie. Together, the pairing is like an unexpected sweet potato bourbon cocktail.
Apple Pie with Allagash White
We can argue about what variety of apples are best (I’m a fan of Granny Smith), but we can all agree that apple pie is America’s favorite. The flaky crust, the kiss of cinnamon, and the ooey gooey filling turns even a gloomy fall day into something magical. Pairing America’s favorite pie with Allagash White, an award-winning Belgian-style wheat beer with notes of coriander and Curaçao orange peel, is the right thing to do.
Start by topping your apple pie with a mandatory scoop of vanilla ice cream, and then pour a glass of Allagash White. In this pairing, the pie brings out the delicate notes of coriander, elevating both the eating and drinking experience. Then the effervescence of the beer cleans the sweetness from your tongue, making it way too easy to go in for another bite.
Pecan Pie with Barrel & Bean
Pecan pie is another speciality of the south, combining sweet and salty into an unforgettable dessert. If a pecan pie is on your Thanksgiving table this year, pair it with Barrel & Bean, a Belgian-style golden ale aged in bourbon barrels for close to two months. The beer is then blended with cold-brewed coffee from Speckled Ax, a Maine coffee roaster. When paired with the pecan pie, the coffee notes in Barrel & Bean shine brightly and create a lovely symphony of flavors in your mouth.
While there are many rules on how to pair beer and dessert, I’ll leave you with three.
No matter which dessert is on your Thanksgiving table this year, make sure to pair it with a beer that perceives as sweet as your dessert to keep the flavors in balance. Don’t take pairings too seriously; it should be a fun experience. Imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that Barrel & Bean paired so well with sweet potato and pecan pie—both highlighting different notes in the beer. And lastly, share your pairing adventures with someone you love.
Stephanie Grant is a beer journalist, content writer, storyteller, and content creator based in Atlanta (NEVER call it Hotlanta, please). You can find her writing in Good Beer Hunting, Atlanta Magazine, Craftbeer.com, The New Brewer, and across the interwebs. She was one of four recipients of the North American Guild of Beer Writers 2020 Diversity in Beer Writing Grant and recognized in Imbibe Magazine’s 75 People to Watch in 2021. You can also hear her interview people on Good Beer Hunting’s podcast.