Much to my liver’s sorrow, I’ve spent the last several years sampling thousands of different beers, from inky stouts to bitter IPAs and sour ales as tart as lemonade, all in the name of research for my book on the global craft-beer revolution, Brewed Awakening.Turns out beer goes best with food, and there’s no better day to taste the truth of that than Thanksgiving. So to help you decide what to pour, I’ve distilled my research into five beers that pair well with a classic holiday spread.

Victory Brewing Company: Prima Pils

Before snacking on appetizers or jumping directly into tryptophan territory, I like to prime my palate. This bracingly effervescent pilsner from Pennsylvania is stuffed with German and Czech hops, resulting in a snappy beer with an awesome herbal complexity. It starts dry, then closes with a lightly sweet aftertaste that can leave you grabbing for another bottle. Bonus: Prima also slices through the richness of Brie, or complements a sharp cheddar.

Stone Brewing Co.: Levitation Ale

Although this Southern California brewery is known for its aggressively hopped IPAs and burly creations such as the stomach-warming Old Guardian Barley Wine, it’s also created a low-alcohol gem—easy-sipping Levitation checks in at a restrained 4.4 percent ABV. It has a caramel spine and touch of floral hops that ably complement turkey and stuffing. This is a good beer to drink through the entire meal.

Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project: Jack D’Or

Seeking a different direction for the main course? Look to a saison (French for “season”), farmhouse-style Belgian ale. Stylistically speaking, saisons run the gamut from dry and hoppy to sweet and spicy, and from pale straw to deep amber. For me, the best saisons have a beguiling nose and lively flavor, with a peppery quality that makes me crave more. Belgium’s Saison Dupont is the style’s standard-bearer, but lately I’ve loved Pretty Things’ Jack D’Or. Brewed by Massachusetts couple Dann Paquette and Martha Holley-Paquette, Jack is peppery, yeasty, and citrusy, with a whiff of hop bitterness. It cuts through the richness of gravy, but won’t overpower salads and vegetable sides.

Southern Tier Brewing Company: Pumking Imperial Pumpkin Ale

This New York–made ale is a good match for the spiced flavor profile of pumpkin pie. With ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon, the coppery-orange concoction recalls a pie run through the blender. There are hints of vanilla and rum, and a luscious sweetness—heck, you could forego the pie and just serve a goblet of Pumking and a scoop of vanilla ice cream after the meal.

North Coast Brewing Co.: Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

If your dessert tastes run to pecan pie or something chocolaty, opt for a nice imperial stout such as North Coast’s Old Rasputin. While some imperial stouts come with price tags to match their elevated alcohol content, Old Rasputin is extravagant only in flavor. This roasty, jet-black stout releases aromas of chocolate-dipped raisins and espresso, with a restrained sweetness that masks its 9 percent ABV. It’s a beer for sharing long after the last dish has been dried and put away.

Joshua M. Bernstein is the Brooklyn-based author of Brewed Awakening.

Image source: Flickr member jeffhammett under Creative Commons

See more articles