Wine is fine: But craft beer deserves a spot on your holiday table

Intro by Leona Baker

When it comes to America’s favorite food-centric holiday, wine is likely the go-to for those wanting to complement their turkey and stuffing with a libation. But, while we won’t argue that a nice Pinot Noir or a Riesling would do the trick, we’re here to make the case that craft beer deserves a spot on the Thanksgiving table.

We asked Lynsie Steel of Starr Hill Brewery, based in Crozet, to help us imagine a Thanksgiving meal—whether for a “Friendsgiving” or a family affair—perfect for pairing with your favorite ales, lagers and stouts. From the T-day staples to sides like maple-roasted Brussels sprouts and desserts like chess pie, here are Steel’s menu musings on brining, beer and beyond.

Brines & Brews

Menu and pairings by Lynsie Steel of Starr Hill Brewing

Smoked Turkey with Candied Cranberry Sauce with Orange & Crispy Sage 

We don’t know about you, but smoked turkey is not only amazing, it also adds a great new spin on this classic Thanksgiving favorite. Brine it, smoke it and make this deliciously crisp-tart candied cranberry sauce while you wait. Adding orange (zest, candied peel, get the picture) to cranberries offers a lightness and brightness that goes a long way in perfecting this turkey day staple. Crisp up some sage leaves in clarified butter and add them as a garnish just before serving. Since we want this dish to be the main attraction, we’re pairing it with our classic and beloved brew, Northern Lights. We won’t judge if you have a brew or two while you’re waiting for that turkey to smoke, either!

Pair with Starr Hill’s Northern Lights, India Pale Ale 


Sautéed Mushroom Stuffing 

Give your average stuffing a boost by caramelizing some onions, garlic and mushrooms to throw into your favorite bread mix. Adding an herb like rosemary or thyme (or even adding a squeeze of lemon) will brighten this dish and get it to the next je ne sais quoi level. Lagers pair well with earthy foods, adding a balance of lightness and just the right amount of bitter quality to create a satisfying side that everyone can get behind (even if it’s not Grandma’s recipe).

Pair with Starr Hill’s Festie, Oktoberfest Lager 


Mashed Sweet Potatoes 

Everyone loves mashed potatoes, but sometimes changing it up can be a good thing. Roasting, and then mashing, sweet potatoes bring out their sugars in a way that creates a wonderful depth of flavor, perfectly suited to melted butter, and even maybe some crushed candied pecans as a garnish. Since this dish is simple at its core, we love the idea of pairing it with a beer that is a fall and winter favorite here at Starr Hill. Our Dopplebock Lager, Snow Blind, is fantastic all on its own, however when paired with simple flavors, allows both the beer and this dish to hit the next level.

Pair with Starr Hill’s Snow Blind, Dopplebock Lager


Mac and Cheese 

Who doesn’t love a creamy, crunchy, robust Mac and Cheese? We suggest using a mixture of cheddar, Swiss, and smoked gouda for your homemade mix. Throw together and bake (breadcrumbs optional), and don’t forget to break out our Maple Brown Ale, Last Leaf. The richness of the cheese sauce (that we all love) will be balanced out by the sweet maple smoothness of the ale. What does this mean? You’ll be going back for seconds!

Pair with Starr Hill’s Last Leaf, Maple Brown Ale


Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Bacon & Garlic 

Bitter and sweet is what it’s all about with this side dish. Brussels sprouts have been making a huge comeback for a while now, and we’re thrilled to highlight them in all of their crisp and flavorful glory. Adding a drizzle of maple syrup during the last few minutes of your roasting time will allow it to caramelize perfectly. Enjoying these crispy sprouts with our robust coffee stout will provide that perfect bliss point of sweet, salty and bitter flavor profiles. The tang of the stout will also lighten the richness of the bacon, garlic and roasting oil.

Pair with Starr Hill’s Little Red Roostarr Coffee Stout 


Chess Pie 

When thinking about a Thanksgiving dessert, we find that less is definitely more. Chess pie is simple to make, surprising for your guests (and palate), and will be the perfect opening act for sharing our popular Box of Chocolates pack with the people you love the most. Think of sampling a box of your favorite chocolate delights, then throw in a silky pie (made with buttermilk, eggs, get it) and a crisp crust and there’s no doubt you’ll be hanging out at the dessert table for a long time.

Pair with Starr Hill’s Box of Chocolates, an assortment of flavored stouts 


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Savor Virginia