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Here’s Why We Always Pour a Cold Beer on Our Thanksgiving Turkey

A beer placed inside the cavity of a roast turkey.
Emilee Unterkoefler

Are you looking for a new and exciting way to spruce up your Thanksgiving turkey? From adding some much-needed moisture to making a flavorful boozy baste, here’s why adding beer to your turkey takes things to another level.

We’ll give you the rundown on what makes hops and barely such tasty contributors to a delicious roast and also provide some of our top beer recommendations.

The Best Beers to Use on Your Roast Turkey

Various citrusy wheat beers lined up that would taste nice with a roast turkey.
TonelsonProductions/Shutterstock.com

We’ve tested many beers with meat dishes in the past, including Samuel Adams Octoberfest and Boston Lager, Budweiser, and George Killians Irish Red, and each provides a unique flavor. However, some beers pair better with certain meats and dishes than others.

For example, porters, stouts, and other dark ales mesh well with stews and beefy pies. Light and crisp beers, like lagers and pilsners with high carbonation, tend to make great beer batters. Seafood needs delicate flavors, but anything with citrus notes works perfectly.

As for your Thanksgiving turkey, we find Belgian-style wheat beers, like Allagash, taste just right thanks to the unique coriander and orange notes in each refreshing sip. The hints of orange and vanilla in Blue Moon would also make an excellent pairing, although we’ve never tried this one ourselves. Maybe you can!

Beer Adds a Unique Flavor

A person basting turkey with butter and beer turkey drippings.
Steve Cukrov/Shutterstock.com

We love the unique flavor that only a beer can provide to a behemoth turkey roast—that’s why we do it every year. Remember, the type of beer you choose will render subtly different flavors every time. That’s why it’s important to pick one you already love—don’t bother cooking with a beer you wouldn’t drink.

So if you can’t get enough of those hazy, hoppy IPAs, give it a go on your turkey, and then your holiday dish will boast those flavors as well. Just keep in mind, if your beer is bitter, your dish will taste a bit like that, too.

Also, keep in mind that the high heat from your oven will boil off some of the flavor and alcohol, but not all. We also always rub a compound butter over our turkey, which contributes tremendously to the flavor.

The butter, beer, and fresh herbs create a rich foundational flavor in every bite, while the sudsy brew works its magic in every basting session to give your bird some serious character.

Beer Provides Moisture and Makes Your Turkey More Tender

Tender and moist sliced turkey breast next to a heaping pile of stuffing on a plate.
MSPhotographic/Shutterstock.com

Finding the perfect balance of moisture and heat for a tender, moist meal can be tricky with a large bird like a turkey, which has to spend hours in the oven.

We always cover ours for the first hour to allow the butter and beer to drop and become trapped at the bottom of the roasting pan. A standard, 12-ounce beer will help keep things moist while the bird is covered, but it also works wonders as a baste.

After it’s uncovered, you’ll want to baste your turkey every 20-30 minutes. This adds tons of flavor and moistens the meat for some incredibly tender results.

Beer & Drippings Make a Fantastic Gravy

A turkey pourer filled with gravy made with turkey drippings and beer.
Elena Veselova/Shutterstock.com

There are two things we love using our beer and butter-infused drippings for, and you can, too! First, the drippings make a fantastic gray. To do so, just make a quick roux, and then slowly whisk in your drippings. You’ll have a flavorful gravy in no time!

We also always save at least half a cup of our drippings on the side to add an extra special touch of moisture and flavor. When your turkey is carved and ready to serve, drizzle a small amount of drippings over the sliced breasts and other pieces.

Not only will this provide additional moisture to an often dried-out turkey breast, but the optimal flavor will make a Thanksgiving meal your guests won’t soon forget.


Hopefully, this inspired you to grab your fave stout and booze up your bird this year. Want to add even more savoriness? Try wrapping that beer-flavored turkey in bacon.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »

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