Though my relatives have reminded me that I have no obligation to bring anything to Thanksgiving other than pie, I always try to bring a few local beers to showcase what’s new in the Maine beer landscape.

When researching beers to recommend serving with this year’s turkey dinner, I ran across cans of Baxter Brewing Co. Gather ‘Round, and without reading its style description, I decided to give it a try just based on the name. Turns out, I was in for a Thanksgiving-themed treat.

Fore River’s cranberry Preble is a seasonal take on its sour beer, typically made with raspberry. Photo courtesy of Fore River Brewing Co.

Gather ‘Round is a sweet potato ale that has additions of molasses and cinnamon. The taste is more subtle than that description might indicate, but there are notes that resemble the flavors of cooked squash with cinnamon and maple syrup. The beer is meant to evoke the flavors in a sweet-potato casserole but is subtle enough to drink while eating the actual dish. Beyond sweet potato casserole, Gather ‘Round works well with a variety of foods – fattier dishes get toned down by the cinnamon, while earthier ones are brightened by the sweetness.

Another versatile beer is Rising Tide Brewing Co. Tiller, an amber ale with some subtle spices. The malts in Tiller are the stars of this beer, and they work expertly with almost every part of the meal – from the first nibbles of cheese or snacks down to the final piece of apple pie. Its slight sweetness and lack of hop bitterness make it particularly accessible, meaning that even non-beer fanatics can get something out of it.

For the main event, the turkey itself, there is really one style that is the perfect complement: the saison. For such a rich meal, a saison’s lighter effervescent carbonation and its sharp and slight spiciness cut through some of the heavier portions. The spices and yeast flavors align well with the herbs used in cooking the bird and in gravy. In the past, I’ve turned to quintessential, classic saisons. This year, I am looking to Allagash Brewing Co.’s so-called table beer, designed to be enjoyed with a meal. The Allagash River Trip is a low-alcohol beer with a slight hop note. River Trip’s 4.8 percent ABV is low enough to keep things in check, and the notes of local grains shine through without overwhelming the rest of the meal.

Turning to side dishes, love it or hate it, the cranberry has solidified its permanent position as part of the Thanksgiving meal. Some enjoy it lumpy, others enjoy it smooth, but this time of year there are a few ways in which you can enjoy that tart flavor through beer as well. Fore River Brewing out of South Portland debuts a special edition of its Preble kettle sour beer, featuring the fruit, around this time of year. The Fore River cranberry Preble takes full advantage of the tartness of the beer style, but retains the earthy characteristics that cranberries bring. Compared to the regular raspberry version, the cranberry Preble is more tart, yet also seems slightly more serious. If you’re craving more cranberry options, Rising Tide has released a limited-edition collaboration beer (brewed with Otto Pizza) called Orange River that has additions of both cranberries and oranges. There’s less cranberry flavor in it than the Preble, but the citrus adds a particularly fresh touch.

Lastly, there should be at least one beer in your lineup that can stand up to the desserts that end the meal. Pies are the traditional dessert, of course, but there can be many varieties of them, and for some families, other types of desserts entirely. (Cheesecake usually makes an appearance in mine.) It is tempting to pick something sweet, but instead, try a Belgian quad. Until recently, this style has been difficult to find in Maine, but Brewery Extrava’s Quad has filled that void. The plum and dark fruit notes are there to sweep those last few rich pieces of pie into your belly.

No matter what beer makes it to your Thanksgiving table, be thankful to live in a state with such creative brewers and such a broad flavor spectrum to choose from.

Carla Jean Lauter is a freelance beer writer and blogger who lives in Lisbon. Follow her beer adventures at:

Twitter: beerbabe

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