I absolutely love a perfectly crunchy, beautifully golden brown fried chicken, and even more so when that satisfying crunch is from a beer batter. But to achieve that delicious perfection, you can’t just use any random beer you have in the fridge. So what is the best beer for beer battered chicken?
Lagers, pale ales, and amber ales make the best beer for chicken batter because they’re lightly colored and not too strongly flavored. The liquid’s color affects the color of the final batter, and only the beer’s base flavors remain after frying.
Let’s find out what makes these three the best options for creating a beer batter for chicken and why the other beer types won’t work!
What Kind of Beer to Use for Battered Chicken?
Selecting the correct beer is essential if you want your fried chicken to turn out aesthetically perfect. Not only this, but the beer type also affects the chicken’s flavor, and nobody wants to spend time seasoning their chicken when the beer will overpower the flavors.
And while you might be tempted to crack open that one last lonely bottle in your fridge, it might not be the best choice. Darker beers like stout and porter can make your chicken pieces look dark and burnt. Meanwhile, beers with a robust flavor, such as IPA or a sour, might taste somewhere unexpected.
I would definitely try the following types if you want to play it safe and delicious with your beer batter.
A nice, pale lager is always an inoffensive option when it comes to drinking; the same applies to cooking. Try to opt for quite gold ones; if you can’t see through the other side of a clear glass with the lager in it, it’s too dark. For this reason, you want to stick to American lagers or German pilsners.
What’s even better, lagers are usually inexpensive and easy to find. If you just want an airy, crispy batter without the frills, then any cheap lager will do the job. Just don’t expect to enjoy what you’re sipping if you decide to drink the rest.
Pale ales are slightly darker than lagers — closer to a light amber color than a lager’s gold — but not dark enough to affect what you’re cooking. This is also when you start unlocking a world of flavors, ranging from citrus and fruity notes to pine-like taste and everything in between.
However, be careful when picking a pale ale for your batter. Pale ales can go pretty far into the bitter territory, especially if you stray into the Double IPA end. Keep your flavors grounded, and don’t get swayed by flowery descriptions of its flavor notes — most of them won’t survive frying.
Perhaps the darkest option you have before the batter starts affecting the chicken’s appearance amber ales are redder in color than pale ales. However, amber ales have a more robust malt profile, usually offering a toffee or caramel taste with a hint of citrus. That same malt flavor should work well as a slightly sweet batter that can counteract any saltiness.
When selecting an amber ale, I always ensure that the tasting notes don’t emphasize the malt too much. Otherwise, your batter might be too sweet to accompany a chicken. However, this might be a good idea if you want to coat the fried chicken with a sweet or spicy sauce.
Besides chicken, it also goes great with sausages. What’s even better, you can put it into batter and make beer battered sausages. Yum!
What Beer to Buy for Battered Chicken?
There are many beer brands out there, ranging from big-name, international brands to craft brews that you’ll only see in your hometown. Nevertheless, we’ve compiled a small list of brands to help you create the perfect beer batter. Even though this list is not exhaustive, it’ll help you understand what to search for in stores.
Old Milwaukee is probably not the best choice for drinking, but it’s an excellent lager for creating a beer batter. It’s well-carbonated and has a light straw color that won’t interfere with the fried chicken’s color. It also has a mild flavor reminiscent of corn that won’t affect your seasoning.
In terms of relevance and accessibility, you can’t go wrong with Budweiser. You’ll find this beer just about anywhere, which is helpful when you’re in a pinch and need to make a batter. Its golden color won’t make your chicken look burnt, and it tastes light enough not to interfere with your recipe. A hint of citrus might come through for the batter if you’re lucky.
You can also try Bud Light, but the flavor will be milder than its full-bodied counterpart.
This Mexican brand is an excellent lager to enjoy on a hot summer day and makes for a good batter. I am in love with its hoppy, grainy, and malty flavor — gentle enough not to overpower anything but crisp enough to provide some backdrop for the finished product. Modelo’s slight honey aroma should make for a pleasant experience.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
This is Sierra Nevada’s most popular ale, and it’s easy to see why. It is bright amber with prominent notes of caramel and hops once you taste it. As a batter, its color should lend a beautiful golden brown with just the right hint of grain and citrus for the taste.
Brewdog Planet Pale Ale
Don’t let Brewdog Planet Pale Ale’s faint golden color fool you; it has a fuller flavor than lagers with the same color. Enjoy its grapefruit flavor that will complement the batter, with just the right amount of carbonation to ensure you are biting into something airy and crispy.
Samuel Smith Organic Pale Ale
Although this pale ale is closer to copper in color, it’s clear enough not to interfere with your fried chicken’s hue. Drinkers enjoy this beer’s prominent malt flavors with slight hints of oaky notes, so you can expect your fried chicken to have some sweet, woody notes on the batter. Its carbonation is also mild enough, helping you avoid an overly thick coat on your chicken.
North Coast Brewing Co Red Seal Ale
Red Seal Ale is usually recommended to accompany grilled meats such as steaks, so to me, it makes perfect sense to use it for my batter. It has a bright reddish amber hue, so a careful hand is needed to achieve the perfect color for your finished product. Nevertheless, your fried chicken will enjoy Red Seal Ale’s prominent malt and hops flavor with a hint of fruits and herbs.
New Belgium Flat Tire Amber Ale
New Belgium’s Flat Tire is one of the clearer amber ales in the market, which should suit your batter just fine. It has a sweet, caramel-like malt character that could make your batter sweeter than usual if not handled carefully. However, this shouldn’t be a problem given its ample carbonation; it shouldn’t take much for you to create the perfect batter with this ale.
Tröegs Nugget Nectar
“Nectar” accurately describes Tröegs Nugget Nectar, thanks to its intense citrus flavors that will remind you of apricot, peach, and grapefruit. It won’t mess with your batter color because it pours like a bright copper amber. It has a hint of bitter pine and hops, but it’s not strong enough to overpower whatever seasoning mix you use for the chicken.
Bonus: Pabst Blue Ribbon
Inexpensive options are always great when picking a beer for your batter, and it would be remiss of me if I didn’t include Pabst Blue Ribbon in this list.
Before you raise your pitchforks, hear me out. PBR is the perfect beer if you want an almost utterly flavor-neutral batter. It already has a weak grain flavor when you drink it, and that taste disappears once it touches heat. But you get an excellent puff for the batter, thanks to its generous carbonation.
With such a low price and neutral profile, nothing can really go wrong. It’s sure to give your batter a delicious depth in flavor!