Editor's Note: We're trying to find the best beers to drink with our favorite Serious Eats recipes. Certified Cicerone Michael Agnew is here to help.
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Roast chicken is such a versatile dish—its sweet and savory flavors may convey subdued elegance, but they're equally at home at a German fast food stand. It's also a versatile companion for beer, pairing with a wide range of styles to fit whatever mood you want to create.
When choosing beers to serve, you'll want to stick with lighter flavors, but some caramel and dark fruit notes can add a splash of interest to the meal. In my view, the grassy, herbal, and spicy flavors of European and English hops make a better match to the savory herbs and garlic in this dish than the citrusy American varieties. Roasted chicken can be a bit greasy, so some carbonation and hops will help to keep your palate clean.
A roasted half chicken (Hähnchen) is a German fast food treat, and the slightly malt-forward Helles style is the beer of choice to drink with it. These easy-drinking, golden lagers have a gentle, malty sweetness that's a great match to the chicken, while spicy/herbal hops complement the savory seasoning.
A rustic dish calls for rustic beers. Belgian farmhouse ales work wonders with chicken. Saisons bring a contrasting fruitiness to the pairing along with herbal and spicy flavors from both the yeast and the hops. A bracingly dry finish leaves your palate feeling fresh.
English best bitters bring some luscious caramel flavor to the table that plays well with the caramelized chicken skins. Hop bitterness is biting enough to cleanse the palate, but doesn't overpower the caramel-to-caramel match. Herbal English hops make the seasoning pop.
For a fruity splash, try a Belgian Dubbel or a German dunkelweizen. Dunkelweizen has less citrusy acidity than its lighter brother, with a dash of caramel that brings some complementary sweetness to the pairing. In combination with the dish, the yeasty banana and clove flavors become interestingly herbal. Belgian Dubbel has similar pairing qualities to the dunkelweizen, but dried dark fruit notes add a dash of figgy pizazz.
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Michael's Beer Picks
Weihenstephaner Original Premium: Snappy and refreshing with a spritzy splash of spicy licorice and a center of softly-sweet bready malt. It's got the sweetness to meet the meat and the spice to speak to the seasoning.
Stoudt's Gold Lager: Subtle balance of sweet malt and spicy European hops. This beer is a great example of the style, and a crisp and refreshing counterbalance to roasted chicken.
Sam Adams Rustic Saison: Although lighter and a little less complex than some examples, this beer is a delightful quaff nonetheless, and a delicious match to the dish. Herbal hop and yeast flavors really picked up the herbal flavors in the chicken, with some light fruit notes giving contrast.
Dupont Avril: Intended as an everyday table beer, Avril is lighter and simpler than Brasserie Dupont's other offerings. It has a gentle sweetness and cracker-like malt flavor with delicate banana/fruity flavors riding on top. Crisp and highly carbonated, it takes care of the rich chicken fat.
English Best Bitter
Furthermore Proper: This beer is slightly malt forward, with caramel flavors that carry on a deep conversation with the crisp, caramelized skin of the chicken. This bitter is dry-hopped with German hops, which adds some spicy complexity to the match of hops and herbs.
Franziskaner Dunkel Hefe-Weisse: This is a very nice pairing. The subdued caramel in the beer speaks to the chicken, while the balanced banana and spice yeastiness take on interesting herbal notes. It clears away the fat leaving your mouth clean and refreshed.
Ommegang Abbey Ale: Dark fruit flavors offer a nice contrast to the savory chicken, like adding fig compote to your plate. One warning: the alcohol notes become a bit hot in combination with the dish, more than when the beer is tasted alone.
Westmalle Dubbel: A drier, spicier example of the style, this one does more to cleanse the palate. The caramel and fig flavors both complement and contrast the chicken. Enhanced hops play well with the dish's seasoning.
What's your favorite beer to drink with roast chicken?
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.