Football season is in full swing, and Sunday gatherings are a cornerstone of the sport. For those who love the game (or anyone who’s really into well-produced TV commercials), there’s nothing quite like rushing to the living room to gather around the plasma screen and hanging with friends over the many food options that go hand-in-hand with game day. On the table, there’s often guacamole, seven-layer dips, sliders, ribs, and the ultimate half-time snack: chicken wings. And no matter what your typical drink of choice is, the undisputed champ of beverages to wash down those wings is beer.
The popular notion is that any light lager pairs with any wing, and it makes sense. After all, salty foods beg for a crisp, refreshing sidekick — think about how burger-and-beer combos are traditionally served with a Budweiser or a Miller. But in this day and age, there are just as many — if not more — wing sauces and marinades as there are beer styles. So why limit your options to macros? If you happen to be eyeing up a tray of jerk-style drumsticks, pick up a roasty stout to coax out the spice, brown sugar, and cinnamon in their seasoning. Got teriyaki wings on deck? Pick up a case of Allagash White for a floral pop of orange zest and coriander, a natural pairing for the ginger in the glaze. And if buffalo wings are your thing, grab some IPAs and let their bitterness tackle the heat head-on.
Of course, when in doubt, you can just grab that 30-rack of [insert macro lager here] and dive in. But for those who’d like to flex their cicerone skills at the Super Bowl party, consider some mixed 6-packs and feast your eyes on our official beer and wings pairing guide.
Macro Lager: Deep-Fried
Any crispy wing calls for an equally crisp beverage, so a no-frills, crushable macro lager makes a great companion to deep-fried chicken. Plus, macro lagers are relatively inoffensive, allowing the unadulterated, unsauced flavor of fried chicken and whatever seasonings it’s got going on to shine.
Stout and Porter: Jerk
Jerk seasoning, the flagship spice blend of Jamaica, is rather complex and often contains over 10 different spices. Among the mix is typically cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, and clove, along with a number of other components that bring some heat to the profile. What better beer style to stand up to the heat while hyping up the sweeter, nutty side of jerk than a smooth stout or porter? Stouts and porters tend to lean sweet with undertones of coffee, chocolate, and dried fruit, making them a perfect pairing for spiced wings.
Brown Ale: Barbecue
Originally developed in the U.K., brown ales are like the less burly brother of stouts. It’s a relatively wide category, with brews ranging from sweet and low-ABV to malty, hoppy, and more assertive. But no matter where a brown ale lands on the spectrum, the style’s subtle sweetness and bready malt character are prime contenders for taming the tang of barbecue sauce.
IPAs and Pale Ales: Buffalo
Buffalo wings have developed one of the most loyal fanbases in the wing world. Why this is, we can’t say for sure, but there’s definitely an audience for their spicy, buttery, vinegar-laced kick. That’s where IPAs and pale ales come in. Their bitterness and bouquet of pine, fruit, and floral aromas help settle the acidic score, especially when there’s no ranch or blue cheese within reach to cool things down.
Belgian Dubbel: Honey Garlic
Belgian dubbels are essentially stronger brown ales invented by Belgian monks at the Westmalle Abbey monastery in the mid-1800s. With generally low bitterness, a slightly spicy character, and yeast-driven notes of bubblegum and banana, these beers add a layer of complex sweetness to the rich, pungent marinade of honey garlic wings.
Saison and Berliner weisse: Lemon Pepper
While some of these pairing are designed to be the beer yin to a wing’s yang, saisons and Berliner weisses lean into the flavors of lemon pepper wings — but in a good way. Both will bring something new to the table, but saisons tend to have soft, earthy, farmhouse-like flavors peppered with spice thanks to their wild yeast fermentation, allowing the pepper in the wings to take center stage. If the goal is to crank up the citrus flavor, grab a higher-acid Berliner weisse.
Vienna Lager: Mango Habañero
Vienna lagers lean floral, bright, bready, and clean, and they have a relatively low level of bitterness and a drier finish than most Old World lagers. Their subtle sweetness has a way of weaving in seamlessly with fruit pairings, and given the bread-like qualities at work in this style, frequent sips in between bites of mango habañero wings can help keep the heat at bay.
Pilsner: Garlic Parmesan
Traditionally, pilsners are resoundingly light, and almost as inoffensive as macro lagers. Meanwhile, garlic and parmesan are a salty, sweet, and pungent duo. Their combined flavor is pleasantly loud, which is why we chose pilsners as the best vehicle for allowing the intense flavors of garlic parm wings to sing.
Märzen: Honey Mustard
Unlike pilsners, Märzens land on the rich, full-bodied end of the lager spectrum. They’re also darker and a tad sweeter than Viennas. Since Märzens are synonymous with Oktoberfest lagers, our minds immediately went to Bavarian pretzels and the mustard they beg to be dipped in. By that logic, Märzen makes a prime partner for the tangy acidity of a honey mustard glaze.
Teriyaki sauce straddles sweet and savory, with soy, garlic, and ginger bringing an umami profile into the mix. Whether or not the high-wheat content witbier actually contains orange peel (like Blue Moon) and coriander (like Allagash White), most witbiers tend to capture citrusy, spicy aromas with enough brightness to stand up against the richness and complexity of any teriyaki-style glaze.
*Image retrieved from bbourdages via stock.adobe.com