The Best Wines and Beers to Pair with Grilled Chicken

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Grilled chicken is a backyard barbecue staple. The smoky, savory chicken hot off the grill demands a quality beverage pairing. The right wines or beers complement the charred flavors and provide balance. From refreshing whites to robust reds, hoppy IPAs to malty lagers, there are myriad options for matching wines and beers with juicy grilled chicken.

This guide will walk through ideal pairings and provide specific wine and beer recommendations. You’ll learn:

  • How grilled chicken impacts wine and beer pairings
  • Best wine varieties to pair with chicken
  • Ideal beer styles for grilled chicken
  • Factors like marinades, spices, and preparation
  • 20 perfect wine and beer picks for grilled chicken

With this expertise, you’ll confidently select wines and beers that complement and enhance grilled chicken meals.

How Grilled Chicken Impacts Wine and Beer Pairings

Before diving into varieties, consider how grilling affects the flavor of chicken and impacts your pairing strategy:

Bold, Savory Flavors

The smoke and charring impart deep, savory umami notes. Chicken takes on robust grilled flavor.

Tenderness and Juiciness

When done right, grilled chicken is juicy and tender. The meat has great mouthfeel.

Seasonings and Marinades

Spices, herbs, marinades, and rubs add lots of flavor complexity. This diversity requires flexible pairings.

Higher Protein

As a lean protein, grilled chicken benefits from wines/beers that cut through fats and proteins.

Versatile, Worldly Accompaniments

Grilled chicken is used globally in diverse cuisines, warranting very versatile wine/beer picks.

With this flavor profile in mind, let’s explore great wines and beers to pair.

Best Wine Varieties to Pair with Grilled Chicken

These wine varieties have profiles that work impeccably with grilled chicken:

Sauvignon Blanc

The bright acidity and zesty citrus notes of Sauvignon Blanc refresh the palate. Great with simply seasoned chicken.

Chardonnay

Unoaked Chardonnay has crisp green apple and lemon. Oak aging adds vanilla notes for chicken with more complex flavors.

Pinot Grigio

Dry and light-bodied yet fruity, Pinot Grigio’s acid balances richness. Pair with chicken in creamy sauces.

Rosé

Crisp with berry flavors, dry rosés have enough substance for grilled chicken but remain easy-drinking.

Riesling

Riesling ranges from dry to sweet. Pick a just slightly sweet Riesling to complement spicy grilled chicken.

Chianti

The mild tannins and savory, tart cherry flavors of Chianti work with simple preparations.

Pinot Noir

Elegant but substantial, Pinot Noir handles smoke well. Its red fruit tones match chicken nicely.

Syrah

Peppery Syrah with notes of plum and blackberry works with boldly seasoned, charred chicken.

Zinfandel

Zinfandel has the body for chicken but remains fruity. The jammy berry flavors complement barbecue sauce glazes.

Sangiovese

As the grape of Chianti, Sangiovese boasts herbal cherry flavors and medium acidity to cut through rich chicken.

Top Beer Styles with Grilled Chicken

These versatile beer styles pair deliciously with a wide range of grilled chicken preparations:

Wheat Beer

The light, bright fruitiness of wheats like Hefeweizen refresh the palate with grilled chicken.

Pilsner

Crisp and clean pilsners wash down simple seasoned chicken without overpowering the flavors.

Pale Ale

The hoppy bitterness balances the savory richness of charred chicken.

IPA

A bracing, hop-forward IPA cuts through spice rubs and stands up to intensely flavored chicken.

Amber Ale

The smooth maltiness and mild bitterness of amber ales complements grilled chicken’s charred edges.

Blonde Ale

Easy-drinking blonde ales have enough flavor for chicken without overwhelming.

Lager

Crisp, clean lagers like pilsner let the chicken take center stage. Avoid malty oktoberfest-style lagers.

Porter

Robust, chocolatey porters match the savory flavors of chicken in rich barbecue sauces.

Beyond style, also consider ABV, bitterness, carbonation, and other factors when selecting beers for grilled chicken.

How Preparation Changes the Pairing

Grilling is just the starting point. How the chicken is seasoned and prepared also impacts your wine and beer pairing selections:

Spice Rubs

Chicken with bold spicy rubs calls for wines with a touch of sweetness like Riesling. Pick IPAs with plenty of hops.

Citrus Marinades

Bright, citrusy Sauvignon Blancs and wheat beers match the acidity and fruitiness of citrus-marinated chicken.

Savory Herb Marinades

Chicken infused with rosemary, thyme, etc. works with herbal wines like unoaked Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, or Chianti.

Barbecue Sauces

Fruity, lightly oaked wines and malty amber ales stand up to sweet, sticky barbecue chicken.

Creamy Sauces

Buttery Chardonnays, Viognier whites, and sweet wheats complement chicken in creamy garlic, wine, or cheese sauces.

Salads

For chicken salads, choose bright, acidic Sauvignon Blancs and tart, fruity beers like sours or fruit lambics.

Sandwiches

Pinot Grigios, pilsners, lagers, and other easy-drinking wines/beers wash down chicken sandwiches.

20 Wine and Beer Recommendations for Grilled Chicken

Refer to this list of specific wines and beers that pair excellently with a variety of grilled chicken dishes:

Grilled Chicken Type Wine Recommendations Beer Recommendations
Lemon-Rosemary Chicken Sauvignon Blanc, Vinho Verde, Pinot Grigio Hefeweizen, Pale Ale
Tandoori Chicken Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Rosé IPA, Amber Ale
Jerk Chicken Unoaked Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc Pilsner, Lager
BBQ Chicken Zinfandel, Malbec, Blaufränkisch Doppelbock, Porter
Chicken Kebabs Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Beaujolais Kölsch, Pale Ale
Chicken Caesar Salad Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño, Soave Witbier, Shandy
Buffalo Chicken Sandwich Riesling, Gewürztraminer, White Blend Amber Ale, Pilsner
Pesto Chicken Pinot Grigio, Verdejo, Grüner Veltliner Blonde Ale, Lager
Chicken Fajitas Tempranillo, Merlot, Red Blend Mexican Lager, Vienna Lager
Chicken Parmesan Chianti, Valpolicella, Chardonnay Pilsner, Dunkel

As you can see, the options are incredibly diverse. Use these suggestions as a starting point, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different wines and beers alongside your grilled chicken.

Key Takeaways for Selecting Wines and Beers with Grilled Chicken

To recap, keep these tips in mind when pairing beverages with grilled chicken:

  • Consider the flavors imparted by smoke, marinades, rubs, and preparation
  • Focus on wines with crisp acidity and fruitiness like Sauvignon Blanc
  • Choose light, refreshing beers like wheat beers, pilsners, and pale ales
  • With spicy chicken, pick sweet Rieslings and hoppy IPAs to match intensity
  • For richly sauced chicken, go for medium-bodied reds and malty ambers
  • Rosés, blondes, and lagers work well for simpler chicken dishes
  • Let the wine or beer complement, not overwhelm the chicken

With so many wonderful options, the possibilities for wine and beer pairings with grilled chicken are endless. Hopefully this guide gives you great ideas for your next backyard barbecue or summer cookout. Grilled chicken is infinitely better with a refreshing, well-paired beverage, so put these recommendations to delicious use!

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About the Author: Staff Reporter