Bird + Brew: A Culinary Coupling

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hattie bs chicken sides and beer

The worlds of beer and chicken have been aligned for ages, but it wasn’t until 2021 that chimaek, a Korean portmanteau for fried chicken and light beers, was welcomed into the Oxford English Dictionary. This culinary coupling of bird and brew is broader than wings and lagers, though—roasted, grilled, and chile-coated chicken finds local Pilsners, pales, and IPAs to fill that bucket.

At Shy Bird in Boston, an all-day rotisserie, bar, and cafe, all-natural, pasture-raised birds are transformed into full-flavored spinning showpieces that can be matched with one of six beers on tap, or a dozen by the can. Air-dried for two days to draw some of the moisture out of the skin, the chicken achieves a crispy exterior while the inside stays succulent. “Cooked low and slow renders golden brown deliciousness,” says chef Trevor Kunk, who roasts each whole bird for about an hour in an impressive French Rotisol Rotisserie.

The list of beers to accompany these bronze beauties highlights local craft brews, from traditional Kölsch to regional New England IPAs. “Younger folks come here very unfamiliar with beer, and ask for a Modelo or Pacifico, a very light cold lager for the right now,” says owner Andrew Holden; instead they suggest a domestic Kölsch from Notch Brewing in Salem, a style that is only slightly assertive (less than a Pilsner), with a straw yellow color, medium body, and softness on the palate to whet the appetite. In a similar vein, session beers have seen a resurgence for their easy-drinking characteristics. “Sometimes you want a 4 percent beer that tastes great. Castle Island American Lager, started in Southie (Norwood), is [our local] classic,” Holden says. It’s light, crisp, and described as “liquid bliss.”

Shy Bird’s traditional rotisserie chicken is rubbed with salt, black pepper, ground coriander, and paprika, but Kunk also developed a version that’s lacquered with homemade peri-peri, a concoction of jalapeños, roasted blistered lemons, butter, cilantro, and parsley. “The chicken absorbs a lot of that sauce; a little spicy, herbaceous, bright, and balanced by a touch of butter.” With this, Kunk suggests an ice-cold Kölsch, as its light hoppiness will balance out the bird’s complex combination of citrus and spice. “It’s kind of the opposite of what happens with wine,” Holden chimes in. “I’m such a Beaujolais geek, but if you eat the peri-peri with it, [the heat is] too overpowering; you almost need a Rhone Syrah, Zinfandel, or American Syrah to meet muscle with muscle.”

It’s not all whole rotisserie chickens at Shy Bird; their so-called “dunks” are a rendition of nuggets made from boneless, skinless breasts that are buttermilk-brined and herb-crusted, each order delivered with a choice of pecorino ranch, chipotle bbq, honey mustard, or sweet & sour sauce. With these, Holden opts for a fowl-friendly 6.8 percent ABV IPA called Birds of a Feather from Lamplighter Brewing in nearby Cambridge, Mass. The beer is somewhere between an East Coast and West Coast IPA, “dry on the palate, acid and bitterness from the citrus up front, not tropical juicy Orange Julius that hazy [IPAs] have become,” which Holden affirms works with the full scope of sauces. Another adaptable IPA is Fresh Pick, a 7 percent NE IPA from Fort Hill Brewery in East Hampton. “It’s bright and doesn’t leave your mouth feeling cloying or sticky. The sauces do have some bolder flavors, so it’s good to have a beer to hang with you while dunking,” Holden points out.

In San Francisco’s Mission District, chef Shawn Naputi’s Prubechu’ is an ode to his native Guam and Mariana Islands where chicken is prepared in a variety of ways, from the classic, cold kelaguen to barbecue and wings. All of the beer at Prubechu’ is local, with the farthest-flung from Ghost Town in Oakland. “They’ve got this old-school German Roggenbier [called Closed Casket Bourbon Rye],” Naputi said, describing it as an ale made with a good amount of rye rather than barley or wheat, which drinks more like chicken and whiskey than chicken and beer. For his kelaguen, a laborious and lovely dish, Naputi prefers an IPA from the Bay Area’s own Barebottle Brewing Co.. “Their Galaxy Dust is hazy and really complements all the [culinary] components of this chicken.” For the kelaguen, Naputi debones half a chicken and briefly chars it until it’s about 80 to 85 percent done. “The chicken cooks on a really hot grill, five minutes each side, but not cooked through,” notes Naputi. This method gives it a nice smokiness, and then it’s finished in the oven for another 10 minutes. After that, it’s chopped and doused in lemon juice, which cooks the chicken even further like a ceviche, before fresh peppers and green onions are added and the whole thing sits for an hour. Fresh coconut is added before serving. Naputi serves his kelaguen this way or wrapped in titiyas (Chamorro-style-flatbreads-meet-flour tortillas) like a taco, a presentation that begs for a beer.

For Naputi, Prubechu’s dishes such as BBQ chicken thigh skewers, marinated in soy sauce, vinegar, lemon, garlic, and sesame oil, and his dry-spiced (cumin, coriander, fennel, garlic powder, and numbing Szechuan peppercorn with a little bit of sugar) Ko’ko wings with lemon finadene sauce, are all deserving of the perfect pairing. In both dishes, the savory notes come through, with the acid (lemon) lifting up all the textures and flavors. From the restaurant’s perch in San Francisco, a Pilsner from Barrel Brothers in Sonoma County hits home. Naputi also recommends “a really bad ass Kölsch from Standard Deviant Brewing, which is six blocks away.”

But not all beers can stand up to such spice, and there’s no bigger flavor bomb than Hattie B’s hot chicken. It’s a Nashville landmark, where chiles collide with craft brews. Brian Morris, Hattie B’s executive chef, describes Nashville hot chicken as “perfect Southern fried chicken, perfect little coating, then the moment of inception when you take and dunk, bathe and baptize it in hot melted spices.” Available bone-in, tenders, or as a sandwich, their spice-heavy chicken ranges from Southern (no heat) to “Shut the Cluck Up,” the fieriest. “How spicy you go changes the ratio—lower in heat, cayenne gets the job done. It drives the bus through mild, medium, and hot,” although Morris warns habanero precedes ghost peppers for unbridled spice. “Our perceived spiciness doubles at each step, up to half a million Scoville—the only pairing then is a fire hydrant.”

In 2023, Hattie B’s collaborated with Jackalope Brewing Company for a golden ale years in the making. Jackalope CEO/founder Bailey Spaulding and Nick Bishop Jr., co-founder/owner of Hattie B’s, have been friends since before they opened their respective businesses, and had been discussing said beer, aka Drinking Buddy, for a decade. It’s now a year-round offering, described as slightly malty with hints of citrus, dry and crisp. “Drinking Buddy has enough body and sweetness to stand up to the heat,” Bishop believes. “You need a little sweetness to complement the spices.”

Hattie B’s Memphis location carries WISEACRE Brewing Co.’s Tiny Bomb, an American Pilsner spiked with wildflower honey, which Morris says has “just enough residual sugar” to tame the chicken’s heat. Another local brew that Morris recommends is Little Harpeth’s Chicken Scratch, which has a hint of sweet corn. Even the IPAs at Bearded Iris Brewing in Nashville help counterbalance the heat, but sometimes Deep Ellum’s super sessionable Dallas Blonde crosses state lines to become Nashville hot chicken’s latest drinking buddy, which Morris quips, “go together like a hug and high five.”

Michael Harlan Turkell, a once aspiring chef, now an award-winning food photographer and writer, has shot many prominent chefs’ cookbooks, co-authored a few (including "The Beer Pantry" with Chef Adam Dulye) , and wrote one of his own, "Acid Trip: Travels in the Word of Vinegar." Turkell has also been podcasting about food and drinks for over a decade, most recently, the Modernist Pizza Podcast. is fully dedicated to small and independent U.S. breweries. We are published by the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade group dedicated to promoting and protecting America’s small and independent craft brewers. Stories and opinions shared on do not imply endorsement by or positions taken by the Brewers Association or its members.