Tipsy Turkey

Written by Executive Chef Sean Z. Paxton, the Homebrew Chef for

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 30 minutes to prep. 2-4 hours to cook (depending on size)

Beer Style: Winter Ales

Seasonality: Fall

Serves: Depending on size of the Turkey. Between 8-20 guests

Get your turkey tipsy this holiday.


Beer Brine Ingredients

1 gallon A ‘Holiday Ale’ such as Jubelale from Deschutes Brewery (2x six packs)*
2 Cup Kosher Salt
½ Cup Light Brown Sugar
½ Cup Star Thistle Honey
2 Teaspoon Cloves
2 Bunch Thyme, fresh
1 Bunch Sage, fresh
8 Each Bay Leaves
4 Each Cinnamon Sticks
3 Each Yellow Onion, peeled and chopped
3 Each Celery stalks, sliced
3 Each Carrots, peeled and chopped
3 Each Tangerines, quartered
1 Each Leek, peeled and sliced
8 pounds Ice or 1 gallon cold water

Turkey Ingredients

1 Turkey, preferably free range, 18-22 pounds
10 Each Sage Leaves, fresh (optional)
10 Each Apple Wood Smoked Bacon, thick cut (optional)
2 Each Tangerines
Kosher Salt and Cracked Black Pepper
Butter, unsalted, room temperature


Along with the directons below, you may also find the Tipsy Turkey video demonstration helpful.

To enhance flavor is the basic purpose of a brine. By tweaking a brine recipe to accentuate the flavor profile brought by the beer style, the finished turkey will be full flavored, well seasoned, moist and have a lingering essence of the ale used. The complimentary components brought by the additional spices and vegetables can be adjusted depending on the actual beer being used. Make sure you taste the beer before starting the recipe. Really taste the brew. Understand the sweetness and malty elements, how bitter or hoppy is it, what other secondary flavors are expressed and where might they come from? Are they from the yeast, additional spices added to the boil, or the hop varieties blended together by the Brewmaster?

Thinking about tastes and flavors that are in the beer and how to showcase them, while also enhancing the unique essence of the turkey. A Holiday ale usually has a more malty backbone, that will give depth to the poultry. The toffee and caramel malts will leave a light sweetness that bring out the poultry layers even further. The Jubelale is made with a blend of five different hops resulting in a spicy and medium hop profile in the beer with a touch of citrus. When modifying the brine recipe, adding cinnamon and cloves will bring out the spicy hop characters, while also enhancing the maltiness of the brew. The end result will create a very special centerpiece to the feast. And what better way to impress friends, family and the ones closest to us.

Cooked Brine Option

By planning ahead, this option will give more flavors as the sugar and salt crystals completely dissolve and the aromatics infuse (like a tea), creating a blanket for turkey to play off. In a large pot, add beer, salt, sugar, honey, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon, thyme, sage, onion, celery, carrots, citrus and leeks. Bring to a simmer for 5 minutes and remove from heat. Let the brine sit for 20 minutes, slightly cooling the mixture and allowing the flavors meld together. Add the ice or cold water; this will help cool the brine solution to a safe working temperature, 38°F or below. Refrigerate the brine until it reaches this temperature.

Just Mix and Brine Option

In a large container or a cleaned ice cooler, add all the ingredients (water instead of ice) and mix well. Double check to see if all the sugar and salt have dissolved.

Brine Instructions

Have a large 3-4 gallon container, a large plastic bag or a well-cleaned ice cooler ready. Prep the turkey by rinsing it well under cold running water. Remove the neck and gizzards, saving for stock (makes amazing gravy). Place the cleaned bird into the container and top off with the brine (for the ice cooler, add a few zip lock bags full of ice). Place the container in the refrigerator or place the ice chest in the coldest part of the house/garage. Let sit between 24-48 hours depending on the size of the poultry being used. A chicken will take 24 hours while a 24 pound turkey will take a full 2 days to brine fully. Check the ice bags and temperature of the brine periodically.

Oven Cooking Instructions

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.

After following either brine option 1 or 2, remove the turkey from the brine and dry well with paper towels. Repeat this process several times, removing as much moisture as possible. This will help the browning of the skin, as moisture will steam instead of roast the turkey.

To aide in the flavor and secure the non-dry texture of the finished product, try placing bacon and sage under the skin. Start at the neck opening and using a finger, slide it between the meat and the skin. Being careful not to tear the skin, swing the finger across the meat to loosen the skin, gradually slide two fingers and three fingers, as the membrane is expanded. Do this on either side of the breasts. Then finishing at the cavity opening, repeat the same process and move to around the thigh and leg areas. Once the ‘pocket’ is created, place and arrange the bacon slices, 5 to each side, in a single layer. This will show through the skin when the turkey is finished. Take time to make sure they are even, covering the breasts and wrapping the thighs.

Next, add in the sage leaves, again thinking about a design pattern. Season the cavity with salt and pepper, then stuff with the cut tangerines. Truss the bird with twine, to help hold its shape and to aid in cooking the turkey evenly. Rub the skin with the butter, creating an even layer. Season well with salt and pepper. Place the prepped bird onto a rack and into a roasting pan.

I highly recommend using a temperature probe that connects to a timer/display, to make sure the turkey is cooked to a certain temperature (165°F) instead of listing a length of time. If you don’t have a probe, a 16-20 pound turkey should take between 3.5 and 4 hours to fully cook at this temp. Check both the breast and the thigh temperature to make sure the turkey is evenly cooked. Once removed from the oven there will be carryover temperature, adding another 4-5 degrees in temperature.

Cover the turkey with foil. Let the turkey rest for 20-30 minutes before carving. This will help the keep a moist turkey by letting the muscle fibers relax and re-distribute its juices.

Smoking Instructions

Instead of using an oven, use a smoker and keep the temperature at 250°F until the internal temperature is 165°F. For wood chips, I would recommend Apple, Pecan or Cherry wood chips soaked for 30 minutes in the same beer you used in the brine. Add these beer soaked chips every 30 minutes to the fire, while the turkey cooks. Also check the coals, making sure the smoking temperature stays a pretty consistent temperature.


If you aren’t cooking for a crowd and this recipe sounds intriguing, one can half or quarter the ingredients, following the same steps and use either a chicken, cornish game hen or chicken breasts to create a similar flavor on a smaller scale.

* Beer alternatives: If Jubelale, is not available, consider others such as Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, 2° Below Winter Ale by New Belgium Brewing Co, Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale or other Specialty Beers.

Photo © 2010 Sean Z. Paxton

Chef Sean PaxtonSean Paxton took his knowledge of combining food flavors from the kitchen and applied them to his home brewing.  With the understanding of both culinary and brewing sciences, he realized each craft shares similar parallels that together would bring a depth of flavor to both food and beer not previously explored.

He writes for Beer Advocate and DRAFT magazine, as well as his own website sharing his knowledge and experience of food and beer. As the Executive Chef for Homebrew Chef, he collaborates with pub owners and Craft Brewers across the country to host exclusive multi-course beer dinners.  Sean also participates in collaborative brews with Craft Brewers worldwide and is a active board member the Northern California Homebrew Organization.

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