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Pairing Food With Beer: What Goes With Chicken Wings?

Adam and Eve. Gumby and Pokey. Jekyll and Hyde. Laverne and Shirley. Mary and Rhoda. Pinky and The Brain. Tom and Jerry. Will and Grace. Beer and Wings. Some pairs are just forever in the books of history. Today we look at the quintessential pair of Wings and Beer.

Not only does beer have many more flavor possibilities than wine but far more styles to choose from. There is a beer for everything you eat. There is a beer (more than one actually) to have with your salad, your main course, whatever it may be, and yes with your desert too.


Chances are you may have never once ever considered that the beer you ordered with dinner does not go with it. Maybe you never thought there was one that does. Well, there is.

Three things to remember here - cut, contrast, and compliment.


ipaLet’s start with cut. You know what this is even if you’ve never been told what it is. Remember when you were a kid and you had your first hot food? You grabbed the water and started chugging as fiercely as you could but no relief came to your flaming mouth. That’s because capsaicin (the chemical that makes peppers spicy) isn’t soluble in water. It is soluble in beer though, especially one that has a larger amount of hops such as an IPA (India Pale Ale) which makes that beer a great choice to have with hot wings, Mexican food, and may things in-between.


How about compliment? Compliment is when your beer goes together naturally with the food. For example: chocolate cake with a chocolate stout. Or maybe a piece of raspberry pie with cherry-raspberry ale.


Black and white, Batman and Robin, day and night, BBQ wings & pale ale are opposites that attract. Contrast is as simple as that. When you are pairing food with beer contrast is a concept for all but the unadventurous. These are bold, big flavors that you normal wouldn’t match. Oil on its own, vinegar on its own certainly isn’t pleasant, but mix the two and you have awesomeness. Same goes for contrasting food and beer.

So there you have it; keep the three Cs in mind when pairing food and beer to unlock a world of flavor. Bearing the three C’s in mind, let’s look at three wings, three styles of beer, and plenty of reasons to try this!

Start with hot wings and pair with pale ale. My recommendations would be to lean more toward the IPA end of the pale ales if not an IPA itself. Many people who are just getting into beer won’t like the IPA as much as the pale ale. This is where you want to “Cut” in the taste. The bitter of the hops will help extinguish the hot from the wings but still keeps the punch of the flavor. Often we miss the taste of hot wings because the hot is burning the hell out of our mouths! Pale ale is also a nice trick to downing more wings in one sitting because you don’t have to wait between wings for your mouth to cool. Seriously, when I say hot wings, I mean HOT!

Second pair Honey BBQ Wings with brown ale. One of the particular brown ale I suggest is Samuel Smiths Nut Brown. This is an example of compliment; the sweet flavors of the Brown Ale make a nice companion for the Honey BBQ Wings. Works with regular old BBQ wings as well but the honey adds a really special flavor to this mixture. The best way to experience this is to take a sip of the beer just before you swallow the wings. It will bring out the full spectrum of sweetness, most of which you didn’t know was there to begin with!

Stout has a lust for blue cheese. For your third choice select Tequila Parmesan Wings, mainly because of the blue cheese. Your Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier-Urbock1 150beer of choice is a stout. Guinness is the most famous one but there are many awesome Stouts you can find at your local package store. For this wing and beer adventure I would highly recommend Choklat from the folks at Southern Tier. The result of this flavor madness will produce some amazing flavors, including what reminds me of Rauchbier, a German style smoked beer.

It’s a very robust flavor pair where there is a cornucopia of flavors that compliments one another nicely. The mixture of flavors offered by the tequila wings, particularly the citrus, cilantro, and sting of tequila, coupled with a quick dip in blue cheese and stout as a chaser is amazing.

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