BeerSci: How To Drink Your Thanksgiving Meal

Tips on making Turkey Beer and other highly questionable holiday brews
Talking turkey
The most famous Thanksgiving food is also the most filling one. To eat as much as possible, save it for the end of your meal. Wikipedia

Ah, Thanksgiving. That gluttonous annual tribute to post-colonial greed. To celebrate, many of us are going to be drinking beer — a lot of it — before, during and after the main event. This helps one tolerate one’s insane relatives and of course there are games to be watched — NFL and NCAA football and, for those of a more international bent, the second Australia-South Africa Test will be in its second day. (Yes, Team BeerSci likes Test cricket. Don’t judge.)

But when discussing beers appropriate for Thanksgiving with the editorial team, we hit upon a better idea. Drink Your Turkey-Day Dinner. It sounds implausible — and it’s certainly not advisable — but it is possible to have a traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner in beer form. Pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce are two very obvious dishes that have clear beer counterparts: google “pumpkin ale” or “cranberry beer” and you’ll find a large array of commercially available beers such as Southern Tier’s Pumking and Sam Adams’ Cranberry Lambic.

But what about the poultry? Or stuffing? Or green-bean casserole? Well, for those you’ll have to be creative.


(sort of)
To get the obvious question out of the way: Yes, there is an extant recipe for “cock ale.” It has shown up in different homebrew books, was mentioned in the diaries of Samuel Pepys and was included in the first cookbook published in the then-colonies,The Compleat Housewife from 1727.

Take 10 gallons of ale and a large cock, the older the better; parboil the cock, flay him, and stamp him in a stone mortar until his bones are broken (you must gut him when you flay him). Then, put the cock into two quarts of sack, and put to it five pounds of raisins of the sun – stoned; some blades of mace, and a few cloves. Put all these into a canvas bag, and a little before you find the ale has been working, put the bag and ale together in vessel. In a week or nine days bottle it up, fill the bottle just above the neck and give it the same time to ripen as other ale.

Basically, you’re dry-hopping your beer with a gutted, flayed, boiled smashed capon that has been soaked in sherry, and then adding some raisins and spices. Yum! The entire recipe is on the next page.

Commercial examples of poultry beer:


Beer is, as the saying goes, “liquid bread,” so making a stuffing beer means putting the herbs into beer. Digging around the internet, I found recipes for garlic beer and I found at least one brewery, The Maui Brewing Company, who makes an Onion Mild for the annual Maui Onion Festival. Reading more into the onion beer, it looks like the brewers take sweet Maui onions and caramelize them (or otherwise bring on the Maillard reaction), then add those to the boil and at flameout. Be sure to add some fresh thyme and oregano at flameout as well to get an herby character in there. You can use the recipe for the Marathon Mild as your base.

Creamed onions

In New England, having creamed pearl onion side dish is customary, so we came up with an Onion Cream Ale recipe.
Cream ales are an indigenous American style of beer: light, typically brewed with American six-row barley and a corn adjunct. Cream ales are fermented cool or cold, using a neutral ale yeast strain (you don’t want too many esters). The most well-known example of this style is probably Genesee Cream Ale from upstate New York.

Commercial examples of allium beers:
Maui Brewing Company Onion Mild
Yates Brewery Garlic Beer

Fakin’ it:
Drink Genny Cream Ale. It’s cheap and cheery.

Cranberry Sauce

Awhile ago, I had an excellent cherry stout made by Bell’s Brewery. It had enough roast character to offset the cloying sweetness that most non-lambic fruit beers (and especially most American fruit beers) suffer from, but one could still catch a definite cherry character to the brew. Because of this, I think that a Cranberry Stout would be an excellent way to get cranberries in. I found an interesting recipe for a cranberry stout, but really all you need to do is brew a stout and throw some sanitized cranberries into the secondary.

Commercial examples of cranberry beer:
Sam Adams Cranberry Lambic
Odells Cranberry Oatmeal Porter
Cascade Brewing Cranberry Sour
Harpoon Brewery Grateful Harvest Cranberry Ale

Sweet Potatoes

Recipes I’ve seen use pureed canned sweet potato and a period of caramelization in the oven before putting it in the mash tun with your grains. Really, as long as you convert the starches in the tuber into fermentable sugars, you’ll be fine. Or steam ’em (this pasteurizes the sweet potato) and put them in the secondary.

Commercial examples of sweet potato beer:
Bell’s Sweet Potato Stout
Bent River Brewing Company Sweet Potato Ale

Pumpkin Pie

Some pumpkin ales are just a regular ale with pumpkin pie spices. Others use pureed pumpkin at various points of the brewing process (usually in the mash or boil). There are many, many recipes out there for this style of beer. For those who love lagers, I’ve found a few examples of pumpkin lager out there as well.

Commercial examples of pumpkin beer:
Lakefront Brewery Pumpkin Lager
Southern Tier Pumking
About one zillion others.

Green Bean Casserole

Sorry folks. You are on your own.

If you have suggestions for any of the beer varieties listed — especially commercial varieties, but also brewing tips — add them in the comments. Team BeerSci will be posting increasingly surly updates to the Twitter feed on Thanksgiving, so if you’re bored, hit us up there @BeerSci!

If you want to see sample recipes for the above beers, click on through to page two!

Recipes For Turkey Day

Cock Ale

Take ten gallons of ale, and a large cock, the older the better; parboil the cock, flay him, and stamp him in a stone mortar till his bones are broken (you must craw and gut him when you flay him); then put the cock into two quarts of sack, and put it to three pounds of raisins of the sun stoned, some blades of mace, and a few cloves; put all these into a canvas bag, and a little before you find the ale has done working, put the ale and bag together into a vessel; in a week or nine days time bottle it up; fill the bottle but just above the neck, and give the same time to ripen as other ale.

According to a couple of sources, including an ancient PRNewswire release, Boston Beer Company once made a version of this recipe back in 1996. Contrary to the above directions, they put the cockerel whole in the boil, not in the fermenter. That’s probably better for keeping out gnarly bacteria, but I can’t imagine that the beer would have much chicken character after that.

Onion Ale

**To either of the following recipes, add caramelized onions in the boil and at flameout. Unfortunately, I never heard back from Maui Brewing Company about what the ratio of grain to onions is. You’ll want to use a sweeter variety, such as Vidalia or Maui, if you can get them.

Marathon Mild (5-gallon all-grain batch):
6 lbs Maris Otter malt
1 lb Crystal 120
8 oz brown malt
2 oz chocolate malt
0.4 oz Centennial Hops (whole hops – 10.5% alpha acids)

1. Mashed the grains in 9.75 quarts of water at 150F for an hour. Efficiency was around 65%.
2. Sparged with 168F water in two steps: 1.88 gal and 3.39 gal. 
3. Boiled with Centennial hops for 60 minutes. No aroma hops. Pretty sure we used Whirlfloc.
OG: 1.039 FG: 1.010 ABV: 3.8%.

Cream Ale
Skotrat’s “Gennesee My Butt”
Brewing Method: All Grain
Yeast: WYEAST 2035
Batch Size: 15.5 US Gallons
Original Gravity: 1.049
Final Gravity: 1.010
Alcohol Content: 4.5-5.0 %
Extract Efficiency: 75 %
Hop IBU’s: 22.9
Boiling Time: 70 minutes
Primary Fermentation: 7 days at 62f
Secondary Fermentation: 7 days at 58f
Additional Fermentation: lagered in corny keg

Grain Bill:
17.00 lbs. Lager Malt(6-row) Canada 1.031 1
6.00 lbs. Flaked Corn (Maize) America 1.040 1
3.00 lbs. Vienna Malt America 1.035 4
2.00 lbs. Munich Malt(light) America 1.033 10
2.00 lbs. Crystal 10L America 1.035 10

Hop Bill:
4.00 oz. Liberty Whole 3.40 60 min.
4.00 oz. Liberty Whole 3.40 5 min.

Mash Schedule:

Mash Type: Single Step
Saccharification Rest Temp : 152 Time: 90
Mash-out Rest Temp : 166 Time: 10
Sparge Temp : 170 Time: 70

Cranberry Stout

SWMBO’s Stout
Yeast: Wyeast 1338 European Ale
Batch Size (Gallons): 4 USG (15L)
Original Gravity: 1.051
Final Gravity: 1.015
IBU: 25
Boiling Time (Minutes): 60
Primary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): 28 (23 w/ cranberries) @ 66-67 degF
Additional Fermentation: Bottle conditioning
Secondary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): 28 @ 66-67 degF

2.00kg/4.40lbs (58.0%) Canada Malting Co. 2-row (37PPG) (1.8L)
0.25kg/0.55lbs (7.20%) Maltbroue Caramel 40L (33PPG) (49L)
0.25kg/0.55lbs (7.20%) Maltbroue Caramel 60L (33PPG) (60L)
0.25kg/0.55lbs (7.20%) Bairds Malt Roasted Barley (25PPG) (594L)
0.20kg/0.44lbs (5.80%) Weyermann Carafa Special III (32PPG) (526L)
0.25kg/0.55lbs (7.20%) Weyermann Carafoam (32PPG) (3L)
0.25kg/0.55lbs (7.20%) Gilbertson & Page Flaked Barley (31PPG) (2.2L)

3 teaspoon calcium carbonate (chalk)
Mashing water/grain ratio: 1.25qt/lb (2.6L/kg) = 9.5qt/9.0L
Mash liquor temp: 167F/75.1C
Mash in temp: 154F/67.8C
Mash time: 60 minutes
Sparging water/grain ratio: 1.63qt/lb (3.4L/kg) = 12.4qt/11.7L
Sparging water temp: 176F/80.0C
Sparging time: 45-60 minutes
Yield: 78%

0.5oz Chinook (11.0% AA) for 60 minutes
1 tea spoon Irish moss for 15 minutes

Chill, aerate and pitch yeast (Activator smack pack)
Add 1.6kg (3.5lbs) of sanitized cranberries in primairy bucket when primairy fermentation is done (after 5 days in my case). Let the fruits ferment for a few weeks (~3) then rack to secondary. Let mature and mellow a bit for 3-4 weeks.

Pumpkin Ale

Moon Hill Pumpkin Ale

Style: Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (30.0)

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 6.47 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.72 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.25 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.064 SG
Estimated Color: 16.5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 20.3 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 68.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 71.9 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt Name Type # %/IBU
5 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 34.3 %
3 lbs Munich I (Weyermann) (7.1 SRM) Grain 2 20.6 %
1 lbs Caramel/Crystal Malt – 80L (80.0 SRM) Grain 3 6.9 %
1 lbs Pale Wheat (Dingemans) (1.6 SRM) Grain 4 6.9 %
12.0 oz Victory Malt (biscuit) (Briess) (28.0 SR Grain 5 5.1 %
8.0 oz Caramunich III (Weyermann) (71.0 SRM) Grain 6 3.4 %
2 lbs 13.0 oz Libby’s Canned Pumpkin (baked) (3.5 SRM) Sugar 7 19.3 %
0.75 oz Mt. Hood [6.10 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 8 15.2 IBUs
0.50 oz Hallertauer [4.00 %] – Boil 30.0 min Hop 9 5.1 IBUs
8.0 oz Brown Sugar, Light [Boil for 15 min](8.0 Sugar 10 3.4 %
0.50 tsp Ginger (Boil 5.0 mins) Herb 11 –
1.00 tsp Cinnamon Stick (Boil 5.0 mins) Spice 12 –
0.50 tsp Nutmeg (Boil 5.0 mins) Spice 13 –
0.50 tsp allspice (Boil 5.0 mins) Spice 14 –
1.0 pkg American Ale II (Wyeast Labs #1272) [124 Yeast 15 –
0.50 tsp Cinnamon Stick (Secondary 7.0 days) Spice 16 –
0.25 tsp Nutmeg (Secondary 7.0 days) Spice 17 –
0.25 tsp allspice (Secondary 7.0 days) Spice 18 –

Sweet Potato Ale

by Metal Maniac
Batch Size: 3 gallons
OG estimate: 1.054 (actual 1.061 temp corrected)
FG estimate: 1.013 (actual 1.021 temp corrected)
IBU: 24

29 ounces  Canned Sweet Potatoes

3.00 pounds Amber Dry Malt Extract
0.25 pounds Dark Corn Syrup

2.00 pounds Pale Malt 2-Row
0.50 pounds Crystal 20L
0.25 pounds Cara-Pils
0.25 pounds Vienna
0.25 pounds Special Roast

0.50 ounces Kent Golding 5.8% (14.7 IBU)
0.50 ounces Hallertauer 4.2% (5.8 IBU)
0.50 ounces Kent Golding 5.8% (3.2 IBU)
0.50 ounces Hallertauer 4.2% (0.3 IBU)

0.50 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon (secondary)
0.50 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg (secondary)
0.50 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice (secondary)
1.00 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice (mixed with puree)
1.00 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract (secondary)

1.00 teaspoon Irish Moss

1.00 packet Nottingham Dry Ale Yeast

Puree the sweet potatoes with liquid from the can
along with 1.00 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. Bake for
25 minutes at 400F or until lightly caramelized.

Steep grains and sweet potato puree (in nylon bag)
with 2.5 gallons water at 150F for 30 minutes. Remove
grains and sparge with one gallon 150F water.

Add Dry Malt Extract and Dark Corn Syrup. Bring to boil.
Add 0.50 ounces Kent Golding hops. Boil for 30 minutes.
Add 0.50 ounces Hallertauer hops and Irish Moss. Boil
for 10 minutes. Add 0.50 ounces Kent Golding hops. Boil
for 5 minutes. Add Add 0.50 ounces Hallertauer hops and
remove from heat.

Primary ferment for seven days at 68F. Rack to secondary
with vanilla and spices. Ferment to completion.