This beer pairing may be a no-brainer since wings and beer go together like PB and J. But beers come in all shapes and flavors, so some will accentuate particular wings moreso than others. Read on to find out which beer is best with your favorite chicken wings.
You may remember this post I did about a month ago on which wine to pair with wings...which is a difficult pairing because wine and wings are not best friends like beer and wings.
There I said it. Sorry, wine lovers. Beer wins this round. Can you imagine a night at the bar with your favorite basket of wings without a cold, delicious beer alongside it? (But not too cold, because icy cold beer has no flavor [wink wink].) Beer naturally works well with wings because the carbonation cools down the spicy flavors in whatever wing sauce you've got going on. If the wings are sweet, the malt in the beer will also complement that. Whether you want to accentuate the spiciness of the wings or calm it down is another story though. Depending on if you can handle the heat or not determines which beer you should have alongside.
If You Like It Hot and Want It Hotter
...then go with a hoppy beer. Hops in beer actually accentuate the heat in foods, so the IPA you have next to your wings will actually make those wings taster hotter. So for people like me that can't handle the heat, IPAs are a no-no. But people like my husband? Bring on the heat! The hoppier your beer, the more it will accentuate the spiciness of the wings, so here's a list of beers to pick out going from medium to most-hoppy (with my suggestions in parenthesis):
- Hoppy Lager (Anchor Lager, Sudwerk California Lager)
- American Amber Ale (Speakeasy Prohibition Ale)
- American Pale Ale (Victory Headwaters, Sierra Nevada)
- India Pale Ale (Firestone Union Jack, Great Basin Icky IPA)
- Double IPA (Harpoon Leviathon, Dogfish Head 90 Minute)
If You Eat Hot Wings But Want to Cool Down With Beer
...then go for a malt-focused ale or straightforward lager. If hops aren't at the forefront of the beer profile then surely the malt will be, and malt will ease the heat of those chicken wings so you can cool down. These are my favorite beers to pair with spicy wings because I like to get some spice but then cool down from the refreshing swig of beer. Basically, malt (the grains in beer) provide the sweetness in beer, which is balanced by the addition of hops. Beer that doesn't have a lot of hops in it will therefore be more malty, which will cool down the spice in hot chicken wings. This includes all of those mass-market American Lagers too, so don't worry about pairing one of them with your wings (I give you permission!). Here are some of my suggestions of beer to cool down your wings:
- Oktoberfest/Marzen (Ayinger Oktoberfest-Marzen, Victory Festbier)
- English Brown Ale (Newcastle, Sam Smith's)
- Pilsner (North Coast Scrimshaw, Firestone Pivo)
- Hefeweizen/Wheat Ale (New Belgium Snapshot, Weihenstephaner)
If you Like Sweet or Tangy Wings
If spice just ain't-yo-thang, don't worry--beer will still keep you covered. Any of the above beers in the "cool you down" category will work just fine, but you also have some other options. Belgian ales in particular are going to be your friend with sweet wings, because almost all of them have some sort of fruity spiced component going on. Whether its the dark fruit flavors like plum, raisin and dried cherry you get in a Belgian dubbel or the citrus, orangy, peppery character coming from a Belgian tripel, all these flavors will do well with your sweet wings. Here are just a few that will work great:
- Belgian Dubbel (Chimay Red, Affligem)
- Belgian Tripel (Westmalle, Unibroue La Fin du Monde)
- Belgian Dark Strong (Chimay Grande Reserve, Rochefort 8)
- Belgian Golden Strong (Duvel, North Coast Pranqster)
- Saison (Saison Dupont, Ommegang Hennepin)
- Sour Ales (Rodenbach Grand Cru, New Belgium La Folie)
Isn't that a lot of beer to choose from?! Holy Moly beer and chicken wings like each other. Bottom line: enjoy the two together and don't think too hard about the pairing...most beers are going to naturally work. Just know that hoppy beers will accentuate the spice in your wings and malty beer will cool the spice down. Happy Pairing!