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Bartenders Tell Us The Best Beers To Pair With Thanksgiving Desserts

This Thursday — once you’ve had your fill of roasted turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and a dozen other belly-busting sides — be sure to leave room for dessert. Holiday favorites include pumpkin pie, Tollhouse pie, pecan pie, and any number of fruit-based pies and cakes. We encourage you to try them all. Twice.

And what to wash it all down with? You could definitely go with bourbon. But there are also more than enough beers that would be perfectly suited to take on that role. Plus, instead of just washing down your sweet treats, many porters, stouts, and sour ales help add to the flavor experience.

Graham Courter, bar manager at Main Street Meats in Chattanooga, Tennessee opts for sour beers.

“Years ago, I worked in a craft beer bar, and I really got into bringing Belgium beers to Thanksgiving for my family to try,” he says. “Rodenbach Gran Cru Flemish Sour is still talked about at our gatherings. It’s not super sweet, but well-balanced with a bright tartness. Paired with my uncle’s pumpkin cheesecake and homemade Chantilly, it was the perfect cap to an evening of excess.”

Others opt for the rich, bold notes of a well-made stout. This includes Ben Rojo, bartender at Black Emperor in New York City.

“My favorite beer with Thanksgiving dessert is the Morticia Stout from Barrier Brewing, made right here in the Rockaways,” he says. “A full-flavored, full-bodied Russian Imperial Stout, Morticia’s roasted nose and chocolate-driven palate pair perfectly with the entire pecan pie set aside for me each year.”

Those aren’t the only options when it comes to pairing beer and desserts. That’s why we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their go-to’s.

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout

Patrick Turner, bartender at B & O Brasserie in Baltimore

Autumn is a great season for beer. After the pumpkin beers leave the shelves, several fantastic porters and stouts start popping up. My go-to is Goose Island’s Bourbon Barrel-Aged Stout. It pairs great with a slice of pecan pie, my favorite dessert.

Brouwerij Verhaeghe Duchesse du Bourgogne

Drew Hairston, beverage manager at Dirty Habit in Washington, DC

I love Flemish ales like Brouwerij Verhaeghe’s Duchesse du Bourgogne. The dark cherry flavor and oak aging goes very well with baking spice from pumpkin or apple pie.

Guinness Stout

Danny Caffall, lead bartender at The Mansion Bar in Dallas, Texas

Guinness Stout. It has bold rich flavors with notes of coffee and chocolate, but it also has some bitterness to help balance out the sweetness of any sugary dessert.

Folksbier Pilsner

Lauren Mathews, lead bartender at Urbana in Washington, DC

I love just a solid Pilsner with dessert to not overwhelm any sweeter flavors. Folksbier has a great Pilsner I’m going to keep stocked in my fridge for any dessert pairings.

Hill Farmstead Earl Coffee Oatmeal Stout

Matt Catchpole, general manager at Terra in Columbia, South Carolina

Hill Farmstead ‘Earl’ Coffee Oatmeal Stout or one of the other dark aged Hill Farmstead beers would pair perfectly with rich, sweet Thanksgiving desserts. Those guys are monsters.

Samuel Adams Winter Lager

Tony Gonzales, lead bartender at District in Los Angeles

For pairing with Thanksgiving desserts, I really like the Sam Adams Winter Lager because it’s a fresh, crisp beer that’s great for fall.

Terrapin Moo-Hoo Stout

Benjamin Rouse, head bartender at Henley in Nashville

It is Porter and Stout season for this option. Terrapin Brewing makes a killer stout called Moo-Hoo and it has the perfect balance of chocolaty creaminess to finish that last bite of pie.

Yards Washington Porter

Casey Faden, bartender at Sabroso+Sorbo in Philadelphia

With sweets, I like to pair a nice Porter. The Yards Washington Porter is a local favorite that is heavy and rich, just like dessert.

Samuel Smith Taddy Porter

Justin Miller, executive chef at Anthony’s Chophouse in Hamilton County, Indiana

After eating a large Thanksgiving meal, comes dessert. If I am going to be drinking a beer with a slice of pecan pie, I would definitely steer towards a beer that won’t make you feel overstuffed but yet still has a backbone to hold up to the sweetness of the holiday desserts. I would choose Sam Smith’s Taddy Porter. It has some deep cocoa and caramel flavors yet is light enough that you won’t need to unlatch your belt.

Lost Abbey Judgment Day

John Walter, lead bartender at Outlier in Seattles

Definitely the Lost Abbey Judgment Day. A large bottle of overt, dark flavors to pair with whatever opulent dessert is being served. You should feel ashamed at the end of a Thanksgiving meal by your amount of consumption and not worry about “oooh, this might be a little too rich for me.

Modern Times Black House

Keith Zintakmon, bartender at JRDN in San Diego

Depending on what’s for dessert, I would go with a stout or a gose. Modern Times makes some great stouts (like Black House) and Mikkeller makes a great gose.

Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout

Dan Schuettinger, beverage director at Oak Steakhouse in Alexandria, Virginia

Left Hand’s Nitro Milk Stout, it’s a rich stout with a vanilla/coffee character that would pair perfectly with that pumpkin pie.

Chimay Grande Reserve

Cole Newton, bartender at Twelve Mile Limit in New Orleans

It’s hard to imagine a better dessert beer than Chimay Grande Reserve, the masterful Belgian Trappist brew. Its rich sweetness, high ABV, and notes of dried fig and raisin make it drink almost more like a port than a beer. Also, it comes in 750ml bottles with a champagne-style cork and has special stemmed glassware, so you can feel like a total boss when opening and pouring it for friends and family.

Coors Light

Steve Yang, co-bar manager at Tavola in Charlottesville, Virginia

Coors Light, because in our family, it’s probably what you’ve already been drinking all day. However, if you want a more classic gastronomical pairing, Guinness Over the Moon Milk Stout has creamy chocolate notes without being cloyingly sweet.

The perfect pairing for pecan pie.

Destihl Cranberry Criek

Lucas Siegel, bar manager at Von Elrod’s Beer Hall & Kitchen in Nashville

When it’s time to break out the thanksgiving dessert, be it sweet or savory, surprise your friends and family with a perfect pairing: a nice tart sour. Destihl’s Cranberry Criek has been a personal favorite and a big hit with the varied flavor profiles in our restaurant, and it makes just as good a side as your grandma’s cranberry sauce.

Allagash Farm To Face

Maxwell Reis, beverage director at Gracias Madre is Los Angeles

I’ve really been digging the Allagash Farm To Face sour peach ale. Its light, high acid, fruity and goes great with basically any dessert that’s going to hit the table.

New Holland Dragon’s Milk

Brad Pickle, bourbon master at Bar Bourbon in Arlington, Texas

When it comes to Thanksgiving desserts, any kind of Milk Stout will do. Dragons Milk is a great one because it accentuates the sweetness of Pumpkin Pie and again, it’s high in ABV to cope with the family drama.

Deschutes Black Butte Porter

Denis Cote, bartender at The Limelight in Ketchum, Idaho

Deschutes Black Butte Porter paired with a pumpkin pie makes the perfect balance, with the coffee and chocolate notes from the beer plus the nice soft spice from the pumpkin… it’s delicious.

Montauk Wavechaser IPA

Jarhn Blutstein, area beverage manager at Gurney’s Star Island Resort & Marina in Montauk, New York

For sweet and rich desserts like my mom’s apple pie and cheesecake, I like a hop-forward beer like Wavechaser IPA from our friends at Montauk Brew Co.

Delirium Tremmens

Melissa Crisafulli, bartender at Salt Wood Kitchen & Oysterette in Monterey County, California

The best beer to pair with Thanksgiving desserts would be Delirium Tremmens, a strong Belgium that is still light in taste.

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