Go HAM on 5 Beer-Infused Thanksgiving Recipes

Holiday booze hounds, rejoice! This year, beer has a premier place at your Thanksgiving table. We’ve hunted and gathered five of the best-looking beer-infused recipes to replace your Thanksgiving staples and spice up your spread. Better yet, we’ve spoken with one of the most merited beer and food experts in the country, Brewers Association (BA) craft beer program director and beer and food author, Julia Herz, to make sure you do it right.


Main Course

The Staple: Typical Turkey

The Replacement: Tipsy Turkey by Sean Paxton, AKA The Homebrew Chef

First thing’s first: beer brine your turkey. (Note: you’ll want to do this a day or two before serving.) By soaking your turkey in a salty solution with spiced or holiday beer added, the meat will become moist, savory and better than ever. “I brine my turkey with beer every year now,” Herz told us. “It’s a super rewarding way to incorporate various flavors [in your meal].”

For the best brined bird possible, Herz recommends BA executive chef, Sean Paxton’s Tipsy Turkey recipe from the BA’s consumer-facing news and resource website,, which utilizes sweet malt flavors and contrasts them with herbs and spices like sage and cinnamon sticks. All of the flavors incorporated also work well with the root vegetables likely to show up on your plate, like carrots, celery and onions.

Paxton uses Jubelale, a festive winter ale from Deschutes Brewery, but you can also use Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, New Belgium Brewing Co. 2° Below Winter Ale, or Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale, to name a few.

Watch Herz make a Tipsy Turkey in this step-by-step video from


Side Dishes

The Staple: Stuffing

The Replacement: Chestnut Brown Ale Stuffing by Brooklyn Brew Shop

When it comes to seasonal side dishes, Brooklyn Brew Shop has got the holiday table set. In their Ultimate Beer Thanksgiving, the Beer Making Kit kitchen enthusiasts demonstrate how to make a rich and hearty beer-soaked stuffing by replacing stock with their Chestnut Brown Ale.

Since the brew shop’s beer comes in kit form to make yourself, try something like BAD Brewing Company’s Chestnut Brown Ale or Rogue Ales Hazelnut Brown Nectar for a similar savory, nutty flavor.


The Staple: Cran in a Can

The Replacement: Cranbeer-y Relish by Lisa Morrison, AKA The Beer Goddess

Cran in a can has its place in our hearts, but this year, we dare you try this fresher, flavorful side of cranberry sauce you’ve probably never tasted before. “Cranberry on the dish is a fun variable that will contrast your other foods,” says Herz.

This recipe, published in Diane Morgan’s “The Christmas Table,” combines cranberries, ginger and sugar with a bottle of Lindemans’s Framboise Lambic for a tart, tasty finish that’ll make a great addition to your feast.


The Staple: Soggy Vegetables

The Replacement: Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash in Brown Ale Vinaigrette by Heather Lewis, AKA the Beer Bitty

Brussels sprouts are a weakness of ours. Cover them in beer and bacon, and we’re pretty much drooling. In Lewis’ recipe, you’ll roast your sprouts and squash until they’re nice and crispy, cover them in a warm bacon and brown ale vinaigrette, and top them with sage and toasted pecans for a perfectly balanced, smokey-sweet, squishy-with-a-crunch delight.



The Staple: Pumpkin Pie

The Replacement: Lakefront Pumpkin Lager Pie with Chocolate-Caramel Sauce by Andy Guy, AKA Beer FM

On Thanksgiving, “dessert” is basically synonymous with “pie.”  In this pumpkin pie recipe from BeerFM, Guy uses Lakefront Brewing’s Pumpkin Lager so as not to overpower the crust or pumpkin filling flavor (fun fact: what many of us think when we hear “pumpkin flavored” is really the pumpkin pie spices like cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg that are added). So, “think about beers that would work well with those flavors…Sam Adams Pumpkin Jack Imperial would stand up to some pie recipes and barrel over others.”

For this recipe, rather than use the beer in the pie—which is also totally doable, any almost any mid-range ABV pumpkin beer will do—you’ll make a sauce by reducing the beer (stirring it over low heat until it becomes a syrupy concentrate) and mixing it with semi-sweet chocolate chips, caramel apple dip and maple syrup to drizzle over the pie. Mmm.

There you have it—five easy enough recipes to make your Thanksgiving more delicious then ever. Just make sure you claim dibs on a couch before dinner—this food coma is going to be epic.


Header image by Mike Licht on Flickr, “First Fun Thanksgiving, after J.L.G. Ferris (detail)”