Beer Pairings for Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving Dinner

Your pushy, sexually ambiguous friend (she seems to be flirting with you all the time, but spends an awful lot of time with this other girl who’s always calling her “sir”) has somehow found herself with nothing to do on Thanksgiving. Naturally, she invites herself and two of her apparently family-less friends to your house for dinner as you’re packing stuff into your station wagon for the long, bumpy ride to your grandmother’s condo. You don’t have time for this, but she never stops talking and you can’t get a word in edgewise.

So your “guests” show up, and they show up hungry—immediately demanding food. And of course you have no food, because you’re going to grandma’s. And you don’t even want to go to grandma’s because you called in sick Wednesday to hit the state’s beer trail, and all those hazy IPAs in your beer fridge are calling your name. Aaargh! Nothing ever seems to go your way.

But your beagle and his sidekick—a species-ambiguous little yellow bird who sucks at flying—step up and throw together whatever they can find in the kitchen, and then serve it up in the driveway on an old ping pong table. Wow, someone cares about you, even if you are a total blockhead. Maybe it’s time to just roll with the situation. I mean, that beer fridge is pretty well-stocked. Who even cares if you make it to grandma’s. Let’s party!

But when you get to the table, you find the dinner a bit…let’s say unconventional. In fact, your friend who forced her way into your holiday has the nerve to complain that this isn’t what she was expecting at all. Good grief! Here are some suggested beer pairings to get you through this ridiculous meal:

Buttered toast: If I were you, I’d skip the toast. Seriously, unless you like beagle fur mixed in with your butter, skip it. But if you insist on digging in, a beer with a biscuity malt base will accentuate the toast’s flavor. Try a light, crisp, refreshing pilsner. Czech and German versions have less alcohol (4.5 to 5.4%), while American versions can go up to 6% alcohol by volume. The slight spicy bitterness of the Saaz hops will cut through the creamy fat in the butter. Or if you’re still feeling stressed and have decided to ditch the drive to grandma’s, go with a higher alcohol (7.5 to 9.5%) option like a Belgian tripel. It’s still light and biscuity with a slightly spicy hop profile, but the Belgian yeast brings some pleasant fruity complexity that will make the toast seem like more than an afterthought. And the high carbonation is great for cleansing your palate of fur.

Popcorn: Animals, with their miniscule attention spans and many other shortcomings, aren’t so adept in the kitchen. They cooked the popcorn on the stovetop, and let it overflow while they were trying to multitask. A lot of it ended up on the floor. Rats! Again, it’s up to you whether to eat it. If you do, try something with some darker malts and more hop flavor. The English style pale ale called an extra-special bitter (ESB) is a nice choice. This style has some nice caramel sweetness, and often a slight nuttiness, that work well with popcorn. Kind of like Cracker Jacks when they’re all in your mouth together. Traditionally, the English hops used in this style have earthy or floral notes that will pair nicely with the dirt on the popcorn from the kitchen floor.

Pretzels: You’ve been to beerfests. You know that pretzels work with any beer, and help clear your palate when you’re moving from one beer to another. So do whatever you want. You know you want to pull out one of those hazy IPAs from your Wednesday road trip and go to town. The big grapefruit flavor from the Citra hops and the smooth, creamy mouthfeel from the added oats and lactose, will start preparing you for the too-sweet dessert that for some reason is on the same plate as the main meal. Sigh! Just save a few pretzels for after you finish your beer to get ready for the next course.

Jellybeans: The first couple of jellybeans are always good, but almost inevitably the pure sugar becomes sickening. Here’s what’s interesting, though: sugar and malt are in the same category (malting helps grains convert starches to sugars during the mash stage of making beer). So super-sugary foods like jellybeans kind of just blend with the malt in beer and heighten the other flavors. Try a hoppy double IPA with jellybeans—it will taste hoppier and juicier. Or a porter, stout, or IPA with hot chili peppers or smoked malt. They’ll be hotter or smokier.

Oh, and try an imperial stout with a peppermint patty. You won’t be sorry.