Serious Eats: Drinks
Beer Pairing: What To Drink With Buffalo Wings
Editor's Note: What beer should you drink on Super Bowl Sunday? We called in an expert to help you decide. Michael Agnew is a Certified Cicerone and beer educator.
Super Bowl XLV is just a few days away. What better way to fuel your arm-chair quarterbacking than gnawing on some hot wings while sucking on some suds.
When pairing with wings, it's more about the spicy sauce than the savory meat. Conventional wisdom in the beer world says that malty beers tone down the heat while hoppy beers enhance it. But that has not always been my experience. I find that bitter brews wash the palate clean, brushing away the oils that set your mouth ablaze. I say, live a little: go bitter and go bold.
Buffalo wings have big, brash flavors that need an equally brazen beer to tackle them. American style pale ales and IPAs will do the trick. Both have bracing bitterness and juicy, citrus, hop flavors that will play both offense and defense, complementing and contrasting the searing sauce. An IPA will have a bit more sweet malt backbone that can counter the saltiness of the underlying chicken. And, as an added bonus, IPA goes great with blue cheese.
If you prefer your wings on the milder end of the Scoville Scale, you might get by with a zippy German or Bohemian Pilsner. A crisp, clean profile and dry finish keep it light and drinkable, so you won't be weighed down by halftime. Snappy bitterness stops the heat at the 30-yard line and crisp hop flavors will sing with the side of celery. Bohemian pilsner has a stronger malt backbone to balance the hop bite. The German version is all about hops, bitterer and with a drier finish.
If you want to go with something that even your Bud Light swilling buddies will drink, try an all-malt, craft-brewed American Lager. It's like the macro stuff but with a bit more flavor and body.
Remember that from pre-game to post the day is long. Stay away from the high-test double IPAs. You'll want to be able to remember who won.
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Michael's Beer Picks
American Pale Ale and India Pale Ale
Founders Centennial IPA: Big grapefruit-citrus hop aroma and flavor. The malt profile is richer and more complex than some American IPAs. Boldly bitter but nicely balanced.
Bells Two Hearted Ale: An epiphany beer for many. Defined by grapefruit and pine-resin hop character from Centennial hops. Rounded out by creamy malt and subtle yeast-derived fruit.
Lagunitas New Dogtown Pale Ale: Aggressively hoppy. Bitter and dry with sharp, pine-resin hop flavors and aromas. Like drinking the Christmas tree.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale: The original and now sometimes overlooked American Pale Ale. Crisp, dry, and moderately bitter. Grainy sweetness to balance. Signature pine and citrus Cascade hop character. Still a classic.
German or Bohemian Pilsner
Victory Prima Pils: German pilsner style with unusual subtle citrus notes and a lot of pine. Crisp and dry with high levels of bitterness and peppery/anise hop flavors. Light bready malt.
Schell's Pils: Sharp hop bitterness and flavor with notes of licorice, herbs and pepper. Background of sweet, grainy malt. Crisp finish.
Lagunitas Pils: A solid and delicious Bohemian pilsner from a brewery better known for their hoppy beers. Flavorful, bready-sweet pilsner malt backs up delicate floral hops. Bitterness to balance and a clean, dry finish.
Craft-Brewed American Lager
Brewfarm Select: From Dave's BrewFarm in tiny Wilson, Wisconsin. Light and easy to drink. Sweet grainy malt with hints of Munich malt toasty caramel. Light bitterness and spicy German hops.
Session Lager: Full Sail Brewing Company's take on the pre-prohibition American lager. Crisp and clean with light malt sweetness and low bitterness. Light spicy and citrus hop flavors.
About the Author: Certified Cicerone Michael Agnew is the lead educator and owner of A Perfect Pint. He conducts beer tastings for private parties and corporate events. His beer musings can be read in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, his own Perfect Pint Blog, The Hop Press at Ratebeer.com, the City Pages Hot Dish Blog, and in respected national beer magazines.