National Fried Chicken Day is soon approaching on July 6 and do we have one finger-lickin’-good food and beer pairing for you to try out!
A key staple in the American diet is none other than the classic Southern fried chicken in all of its crispy glory. Perfectly tender, white meat with just the right amount of herbs and spices mixed in to the crunchy battered exterior; swap out the barbecue staples of iced tea or lemonade for a refreshing beer to elevate your dining experience and wow your friends and family this summer.
While many would suggest a very light, clean Pilsner to pair with fried chicken, we’re going to go down a darker path, one that leads us to a Brown ale or a Dark Mild. A British Brown ale will give you a bit more of a caramel, toffee, even a slight chocolate note upon sipping. Although a typical American Brown ale will have more of a citrus hop presence than its British cousin, it will still complement your Southern fried chicken perfectly with its malt-forward balance. Such Brown ales or Milds as Land-Grant’s Son of a Mudder, Upslope’s award-winning Upslope Brown, or High Water’s Central Valley Dark Mild (which is currently only available as a PicoPak) will all work wonderfully in this pairing.
Many closely guard their spice mixtures for their chicken’s batter, though typical spices include freshly-ground black peppercorns, sea salt, and paprika. The spicy characteristics of black pepper and paprika mixed with the salt are balanced out by the sweeter malt characteristics of caramel and the low fruity esters from the beer. It’s the ultimate sweet/savory combination you’ve been searching for. The complementary melanoidin reaction from the fried chicken exterior and the malt flavors in the Brown or Dark Mild ale present your palate with caramel, nutty, and slightly toasty notes.
The moderate carbonation in a Brown ale will also help cleanse your palate from the residual oil and fat leftover from your previous bite. Both a Brown ale and a Dark Mild do not have a heavy body or mouthfeel that make you feel full with such a rich meal at hand. Dark Milds are typically also very sessionable (their alcohol content usually being under 4% ABV) so you can enjoy several pints throughout your meal.
To up your pairing (and meal) try out a batch of spent grain waffles using this recipe by Brooklyn Brew Shop alongside your chicken.
Have fun experimenting with different styles, the key to this pairing is a light to medium-bodied malt-forward ale with caramel and toffee notes. Nothing too heavy (like a barleywine), as the fried chicken itself will be quite rich.
If you end up trying this pairing, tag us and let us know how it turns out! @picobrewbeer