Pairing Tips: Beers to Flatter Your Jerk (Chicken)

If you like your food so hot it’s practically on fire, you’re going to need a beer that staves off the heat just enough to let you continue shoveling in that piquant goodness. I’m going to grace you with one hell of a good jerk chicken recipe down below and give you the rundown on which brews to have with it.

The other day I realized I had one of the best problems a man can have: too much meat in the freezer, especially chicken. I’d just brought back an armload of pork my parents had given to me on my trip back home and had to make room, so I had to put the chicken to good use.

I’m a huge fan of Caribbean food, so I decided to try my hand at slow-cooked Caribbean jerk chicken.  Although I love tropical flavors I’ve never made jerk seasoning before so I modified a recipe from one of the patron saints of Southern cooking, Chef Bobby Flay.

The recipe is below if you want to try it for yourself. As for the best libations to pair with it, I suggest:

  • A strong American IPA.  The hoppiness of the IPA will lift the spicy oils off the tongue so you’re ready for more heat. I would caution against some of the more extreme IPAs (double and triple) and instead recommend one between 65 and 90 IBU’s (International Bitterness Units).
  • Malt-heavy brews, such as a flavorful Scotch Ale.  This may seem counterintuitive at first glance, but malt-intensive beers also help to ease the burn of the spices. They also pair well with the grain of choice you will likely serve with the chicken – wrap, sandwich, rice bowl, it will work with any of these
  • If you can find it pick up the wonderful Caribbean lager aptly named Carib.  I had the privilege of tasting it when I visited there several years ago, and it went sublimely well with my dinner that night. It may not pull the spices off your tongue as the others would but when served icy cold it will go great with any jerk dish.

Got your beer? Great! Now let’s get cooking.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 scallion, coarsely chopped
1 large jalepeno pepper, stem and seeds removed
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 green peppers, stem and seeds removed
1 red pepper, stem and seeds removed

The process:

I decided to grind the black pepper, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger from whole pieces, but you can buy them already ground too.  Place everything in your food processor and puree until the mixture becomes a smooth, thick sauce.

Place a few pounds of coarsely chopped chicken (I used breasts, boneless thighs, and meat trimmed from several drumsticks) into a crockpot or deep pot and miss in the spice mixture, mixing until coating the meat.  Set your crockpot to high for the first hour and then turn it down to medium for the remaining four or five hours. It took my crockpot about five hours to break the meat down into fine shreds. After the chicken is done, it can be used on sandwiches, wraps, eaten hot or cold, or, as I did that night, over rice and black beans.

Did you give the recipe a try? And did you try any of the suggested brews with it? How did it come out? Was the combination of beer and spices good for you?

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