Thanksgiving Dinner and WV Craft Beer

No matter how you like your Thanksgiving turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie, there’s a West Virginia beer that will elevate your feast to new heights. To help you get a handle on some beer that will work best for you, we asked our West Virginia brewers for advice. 

Turkey, dressing and craft beer

For a beer to work with the main course your Thanksgiving dinner, our brewers fell broadly into two camps. One camp suggests a milder flavored beer that works as a contrast to the rich flavors found in turkey, dressing, and fall vegetables. The other camp suggests a stronger flavored beer that complements the flavorful holiday meal.

Beer to contrast

Ryan Heastings of Charleston Brewing Company suggests a beer with “broad spectrum appeal,” so as not to alienate any of the typically diverse group of folks gathered for dinner. Heastings also suggests focusing on a beverage’s flavor profile and level of intensity to select one that will not dominate the accompanying foods. He prefers a beer with a moderate alcohol content so folks can responsibly enjoy more than one throughout the typically long Thanksgiving Day event.

This logic lead Heastings to recommend his 304, which is a dry, clean, easy-drinking blond ale that mimics a German Pils in taste. It’s flavors of lightly toasted bread and crackers from the malt and mild earthy and floral highlights from the hops will contrast with your rich dinner fare and prepare the palate for the next bite.

Karl & Denise Wagenbrenner of Berkeley Springs Brewing joined the contrast contingent by recommending a lighter, easy-drinking brew.

“If the turkey is a traditional oven roasted bird,” says Denise, “then we would recommend our Warm Springs Pale Ale, which showcases the beauty of the spring water that it is made from. This lighter style ale does not overpower the roasted turkey and roasted fall vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash, but adds a soft hop finish.”

Beer to complement 

Complementing the flavors of the Thanksgiving main course takes a beer with more potent flavor components.

The inventive mind of Wheeling Brewing’s Joshua Clark took him  directly to the complement camp.

For the main course of turkey, dressing, and vegetables he recommends a pint of his Swan Saison, which is made with local parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme from the Grow Ohio Valley garden project.

“It almost tastes like stuffing on it’s own, but garnish it with a few seasonal cranberries and it’s a real Thanksgiving treat,” Clarke says. “You can even marinade or baste the bird in it for a really great taste.”

Brian Reymiller of Greenbrier Valley Brewing also leans toward a very flavorful classic beer style.

“Here I will be drinking our Weizenbock,” he says. “The melaniodens found in this beer will pair well with turkey. Also, this beer will lend a slight spicyness that will go well with the celery and fennel found in dressing.”

Bill Rittenour of Chestnut Brew Works in Morgantown also falls into the complement camp. He says he has a new fully-flavored beer that would hit the spot.

“For the main course,” he writes, “I feel that our new seasonal, Abigail’s Amber Ale, would pair well. It’s an American-style amber ale brewed with dark crystal malts and Munich malts, which gives it a strong malt backbone with a hint of caramel.  However, it’s also generously hopped with classic American hops, so it has hints of pine and citrus.”

While the Wagenbrenners of Berkeley Springs Brewing suggested a contrasting beer if the turkey is oven roasted, they prefer a different one if the turkey is smoked or deep fried. In that case they would recommend their Berkeley Brown, a beer that would complement the robust flavor from the smoke or deep-fried preparation.

WV beer with pumpkin pie

To drink with your pumpkin pie, there’s not so much difference of opinion among our group of brewers. Overwhelmingly, they suggest a flavorful beer to complement the sweet, spicy pie flavors. Our brewers have a nice variety of favorites here.

“I’d suggest our South Park Porter,” Rittenour says. “It has a strong malt backbone, but the dark roasted malts contribute a dark chocolate and coffee character.”

Wheeling’s Josh Clark also goes to the dark beer side. He recommends pairing pumpkin pie with Nail City Porter.

“It’s got a nice, smooth, luscious texture that would provide a decadent, gourmet background to follow up a few bites of tasty, well-spiced pumpkin pie,” says Clarke.

Drinking a spiced pumpkin beer with pumpkin pie is a tried and true pairing. Ryan Heastings likes this direction and recommends his Sweet Pot, which is a lightly-spiced pumpkin beer.

“With this pairing, I’d focus on complimentary flavors, from the pie, as well as the beer,” says Heastings. “Essentially, what we’re trying to do with that beer is to mimic the flavors of pumpkin pie, while rendering a beverage that is dry enough to be consumed in quantities of more than one serving.”

To Brian Reymiller it’s all about spices.

“With pumpkin pie, I am looking for spice,” he says. “I will be reaching for our GVBC Hefeweizen. The Hefeweizen offers a bit of clove. I believe that the clove will pair nicely with the pumpkin pie spice.”

Mountain State Brewing Company’s Brian Arnett says his Miner’s Daughter Stout pairs great with warm pumpkin pie and whipped cream—but to work best, it should be served only slightly cooler than room temperature.

“Take a can and put it in the fridge 20 to 30 minutes prior to serving,” Arnett recommends.

Berkeley Springs’ Denis Wagenbrenner suggests their Mountain Man Marzen because of its great amber sweetness which will work well with the nutmeg and cinnamon notes of pumpkin pie.

Take home a growler for Thanksgiving

Likely the best way to enjoy these West Virginia beers at your Thanksgiving table is to fill up a growler or two. Most all the recommeded beers are available in growlers for you to take home from the respective breweries. A few, like Miner’s Daughter Stout, 304, and South Park Porter, are also available at a number of retail and restaurant accounts. Greenbrier Valley’s Hefeweizen and Weizenbock are also packaged and sold in 22 oz. bottles. Miner’s Daughter Stout is widely available in six-packs of 12 oz. cans.

Recommended Pairings List

With turkey and dressing
With pumpkin pie
  • South Park Porter, Chestnut Brew Works
  • Nail City Porter, Wheeling Brewing Company
  • Mountain Man Märzen, Berkeley Springs Brewing company
  • Hefeweizen, Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company
  • Miner’s Daughter Stout, Mountain State Brewing Company
  • Sweet Pot, Charleston Brewing Company


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