Best Beer for Chicken: Top Pairing Choices for Tasty Meals

Best beer styles for chicken

Learn more about best beer for chicken.

Beer and chicken are a classic culinary combination that can take your grilling experience to a whole new level. The art of pairing the right beer with your chicken dish is not only about enhancing flavors but also about complementing the texture of the meat. With a wide variety of beer styles available, there’s a brew for every type of chicken dish, from zesty beer-marinated dishes to the popular beer can chicken. Understanding the nuances of beer flavors will help you choose the best option for your next cookout.

One key to creating a perfect beer-chicken pairing is understanding how different beer profiles affect the taste and flavor of the chicken. Be it ale, lager, or stout, each type of beer has its own set of characteristics that can enhance or contrast with the flavors of your dish. For example, a lighter beer like a pilsner or lager can add a refreshing, crisp touch to a spicy chicken dish, while dark beers like porters or stouts can give a more robust depth of flavor to grilled or smoked chicken.

When grilling chicken, it’s important to keep the grill’s temperature in mind as it can impact the overall taste of the dish. According to a Kitchn article, an internal grill temperature of around 425 to 450ºF is ideal for beer-can chicken recipes. Pairing the right beer with your chicken dish while considering these factors will ensure your guests enjoy a delightful culinary experience that highlights the best of both the beer and the chicken.

Best Beer Styles for Chicken

Best beer for chicken
Spaten Premium has good carbonation and medium mouthfeel, which can give the chicken a crispy coating


Lagers are a great choice for pairing with chicken dishes due to their light and crisp flavor. These beers typically have a balanced hop and malt profile, which adds a subtle depth to the tender, juicy chicken. Lagers like Spaten Premium and Bud Light have good carbonation and medium mouthfeel, which can give the chicken a crispy coating.


Stouts offer a rich, complex flavor profile that can add depth to your chicken dishes. One example is the Guinness Stout, which can be used as a marinade or in a sauce for added taste. The roastiness from the dark malts and the often smoother mouthfeel found in stouts provide an excellent contrasting element for a succulent whole chicken.


India Pale Ales (IPAs) are known for their hop-forward flavors and high bitterness, which can contrast well with the relative mildness of chicken, especially when the meat is seasoned with spices or herbs. IPAs can cut through the richness of juicy, flavorful chicken dishes, adding a refreshing, often citrusy zing to each bite.

Sour Beers

Sour beers can lend an interesting twist to chicken dishes with their tart and acidic characters. The acidity in sour beers helps to tenderize the meat and balance the savory flavors in the dish. When used as a marinade or incorporated into a sauce, sour beers can create a unique flavor profile that shines with the moist, tender chicken.


Ales, such as Belgian Ales or German Hefeweizens, have a wide variety of flavors that can enhance chicken. With their fruity and spicy notes, ales can complement and even accentuate the natural flavors of seasoned whole chicken dishes. The sweetness found in some ales acts as a foil to spicy or bold flavors, making them a versatile choice when cooking or pairing with chicken.


Porters are another dark beer option that can work well with chicken. The roasted, often chocolaty, or coffee-like flavors of porters can provide a unique taste experience. This deep, robust flavor profile can add an extra layer of complexity to your chicken dishes, adding a slight sweetness and richness that complements the tender, juicy meat.

Through this variety of beer styles, you can find the perfect pairing or cooking ingredient to suit your chicken dish. Be it lagers, stouts, IPAs, sour beers, ales, or porters – each beer style can offer a unique and enhancing experience.

Beer Can Chicken

Selecting the Perfect Beer

While many people use Budweiser, Coors Light, or Bud Light for their beer can chicken, it is important to consider other options as well. Malts, sour beers, and stouts can also provide great flavors to the dish. The carbonation in the beer tenderizes the meat, while hops add a touch of bitterness that can balance out the sweetness of the barbecue sauce. Consider choosing a citrusy flavored beer, such as a Berliner Weisse, to add a refreshing twist to the dish.

Preparing the Chicken

Before grilling, it is vital to prepare the chicken properly. Start by mixing a dry rub consisting of spices, such as thyme, cumin, and other seasonings of your choice. After patting the chicken dry, generously apply the spice rub to the entire chicken, both inside and out. If you prefer, you can also use a marinade, like this Guinness Stout Beer-based recipe, which includes garlic and soy sauce.

Once the chicken is seasoned, carefully slide it onto an open beer can, ensuring that the chicken stands upright on its legs and that the can is inside its cavity. The liquid in the beer can will help keep the chicken moist as it cooks and provide a flavorful aroma to the cooked meat.

Grilling Techniques

Grilling beer can chicken might seem daunting, but it’s relatively simple once you learn a few key techniques. Use indirect heat by placing the chicken on one side of the grill, while the heat source is on the opposite side. Close the grill lid to create a convection effect that allows the chicken to cook evenly without direct exposure to flame.

For a gas grill, preheat it to a medium-high setting and maintain a temperature of around 350°F. Cook the chicken for approximately 13 to 15 minutes per pound, making sure the internal temperature reaches 165°F for the breast and 170°F for the thighs, as indicated by a meat thermometer.

Basting the chicken with sauce or the drippings every 20-30 minutes can add extra flavor and moisture. Once the chicken has reached the desired internal temperature, carefully remove it from the grill, ensuring you do not spill the hot beer can contents. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving, and enjoy your perfectly grilled beer can chicken.

Beer and Spice Pairings

When pairing beer with chicken dishes, it’s essential to consider the spices used in the seasoning. Different spice and beer combinations complement and enhance the overall flavor profile of chicken recipes. We will explore which spices work best with dark beers and light beers in the following sub-sections.

Spices for Dark Beers

Dark beers, such as porters and stouts, often exhibit rich and complex flavors with notes of chocolate, coffee, or caramel. These beers pair well with bold, smoky spices that complement their intensity.

  • Smoked Paprika: Common in chicken rubs, smoked paprika brings out the beer’s depth while enhancing the chicken’s smoky flavor.
  • Cayenne Pepper: For a little heat, cayenne pepper adds a spicy kick that cuts through the beer’s richness, accentuating both the chicken and beer’s flavors.
  • Rosemary: Its strong and distinct aroma complements the dark flavors of the beer, creating a harmonious pairing.

These spices work well in various chicken dishes, from grilled chicken marinated in Worcestershire sauce and vegetable oil to roasted chicken with a spice rub of dried herbs.

Spices for Light Beers

On the other hand, light beers such as pilsners, wheat beers, or pale ales typically have a more subtle, crisp, and refreshing flavor profile. Pairing with light spices and herbs allows the beer to maintain its refreshing quality without becoming overpowered.

  • Coriander: This mild herb adds a hint of citrus that complements light beers, providing a pleasant balance with recipes like chicken andsushi.
  • Lemon or Lime Zest: Citrus zest can brighten up both the chicken and the beer, creating a refreshing and mouthwatering combination, especially for fried chicken.
  • Dill: With its delicate and slightly sweet flavor, dill works well with lighter beers, particularly in chicken dishes featuring refreshing sides like salads or cold pasta.

In summary, when pairing beer with chicken dishes, consider the spices used and how they interact with the beer’s flavors. Dark beers work best with bold, smoky spices, while light beers pair well with mild, citrusy, or herbal ingredients. These pairings can elevate both the chicken and the beer, adding an extra dimension to your meal experience on occasions like Memorial Day.

Alternative Beer Options

Alternative beer options
There are many other beer styles that can be used to bring unique flavors to your dish

When looking for the best beer to use in a chicken dish, understanding alternative options can greatly enhance the flavor and overall experience. In this section, we will explore some of these options, discuss their characteristics, and share a few suggestions.

Experiment with Different Beer Styles

While popular beers like pilsners and floral IPAs are often recommended for chicken recipes, there are many other beer styles that can be used to bring unique flavors to your dish. Some options include:

  • Ales: A diverse category of beers, ales can range from fruity and light to heavier and more flavorful. Try using amber ales or nut brown ales for a richer flavor profile.
  • Porters: With their robust, malty notes, porters can add a depth of flavor to your chicken dish.
  • Sour Beers: For a tangy twist, consider using a sour beer like a gose or one with pink peppercorn to add an unexpected kick.

Alternative Options for Non-Beer Drinkers

In case you have non-beer drinkers to cater to, or simply want to experiment with other flavors, there are several options to consider:

  • Soda: Replacing beer with soda can add a unique taste to your chicken recipe. Common options include ginger ale, lemon-lime soda, or root beer.
  • Pork Dishes: For a completely different alternative, you can experiment with using beer in pork dishes that may complement the flavors better than chicken.
  • Empty Can: If you’re using a beer can cooking technique, it isn’t necessary to use a beer-filled can. An empty can, filled with your choice of liquid (like chicken broth or fruit juice), can provide similar results.


When cooking with beer and chicken, don’t be afraid to step outside the box and explore new flavors and cooking techniques. The key is to experiment with different beer varieties and alternatives while remaining mindful of the desired taste and dining experience.

Recommended Beers for Chicken

When it comes to pairing beer with chicken dishes, different types of beers can enhance the flavors and create a more enjoyable dining experience. Here are some top recommendations for various styles of beer that pair well with chicken dishes.

Belgian ales are known for their spicy and fruity flavors, making them excellent choices for pairing with chicken. Their complexity can help elevate the taste of a simple grilled or roasted chicken dish. Wheat beers and amber ales also provide a smooth and rich flavor that complements a chicken dish. The caramel and malty notes of an amber wheat beer can offer a pleasant contrast to the meaty flavor of your grilled chicken.

For those on a budget, light lagers such as Miller Lite or Bud Light can be a cheap beer option that pairs well with chicken dishes. Their crisp and refreshing taste can also make them suitable for grilling season or fish-based dishes. If you’re looking for a more premium beer option, the Spaten Premium Lager is a great choice, featuring a medium mouthfeel that adds a welcoming accent to your beer can chicken.

For enthusiasts who enjoy darker beers, the Maduro Brown Ale and Newcastle Brown Ale can provide a flavorful alternative when pairing with chicken. These brown ales boast a robust taste that can stand up to stronger flavors in barbecue sauces or grilled chicken. Similarly, stout lovers might enjoy Springdale Beer Brig Mocha Stout or the classic Guinness Stout, which can add rich, chocolatey notes to chicken dishes.

In addition to the taste, it’s essential to consider the alcohol content when cooking with beer. Lower alcohol content beers are ideal for recipes that require evaporation or simmering, whereas higher alcohol content beers work well with recipes that include shellfish or dark meats like perdue. When grilling, consider using Torch & Crown, a popular choice for grilling season, as the fruity undertones complement the smoky, grilled flavors of your chicken dishes.

In conclusion, the style and flavor of the beer you choose can significantly impact your chicken dish. With a wide variety of options available, it’s essential to experiment and find the perfect pairing that suits your taste preferences and recipe requirements.