The Neighborhood Restaurant Group (NRG), the good people who brought us Birch and Barley/ChurchKey, and both Rusticos, among others, are going to take over what used to be the Yola space on 17th street in Dupont Circle. The forthcoming restaurant in this location will serve fried chicken and doughnuts, a popular Wednesday night special at ChurchKey. Because NRG is often beer-focused, and employs one of this city's great beer treasures in Greg Engert, we thought it would be fun to wildly speculate about what beers to pair with chicken and doughnuts. NRG and Greg, please consider this free advice.
I chose to go malt-forward, treating fried foods as the British do, with RHC Old Slug Porter (sessionable at 4.5% ABV and a ChurchKey favorite) and Maine Beer's Mean Old Tom, a vanilla-scented stout that would complement any doughnut and provide a sweet contrast to the savory fried chicken. For hops, I'm voting local, with Port City's Downright Pilsner, a Czech-style lager that won't overpower either of these dishes.
Bill DeBaun went in another direction: face-melting hops. Lagunitas IPA, Green Flash Hop Head Red, Green Flash Rayon Vert, Anchorage Galaxy White IPA, and Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale. Of these, I'm most interested in Rayon Vert, which would go especially well with dark meat thanks to Brettanomyces (funk and game are friends), and Dogfish's IBA, a unique hybrid that brings both dark malts and hops.
Nate Eckert suggests Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale, which I'd charitably describe as divisive, but a doughnut beer with doughnuts should work, and the sweetness might play off the chicken similar to Mean Old Tom. Lagunitas Cappucino Stout, Heavy Seas Marzen, and Troegs Perpetual IPA, which is an Imperial Pale Ale with a ton of bready malt flavors, round out his list.
Chris Van Orden chose another Troegs product that marries hops to malt in Hop Back Amber and adds Smuttynose's excellent Robust Porter. Short and to the point.
Nick Rakowski suggests another Marzen, Great Lakes Oktoberfest, seconds Bill's sugestion of Dogfish IBA (the only beer to be mentioned twice), and also mentions DC Brau Public Pale Ale, another hoppy beer with a huge malt backbone. Two non-traditional pairings are Weihenstephaner Original, a wheat beer with flavors of bananas, cloves, and bubblegum, and Boulevard Tank 7, an excellent saison.
Mike Stein, realizing that fried chicken is often thought of as a Southern dish, went south with bourbon barrel-aged porters, including Bluegrass and Williamsburg Alewerks. We expect there to be a substantial selection of bourbon at this unnamed restaurant, and both these beers would work well. He also chose a robust porter in DC Brau's Penn Quarter Porter, and in a left-field choice, Evolution's Jacques Au Lantern, something like a Belgian-style pumpkin ale. He adds that Trappist dubbles would also pair well
Finally, we asked Smoke and Barrel tavern keeper Matt Heffernan, who tweets at @beerpairing, and is soon to launch http://beerpairing.org/, for his thoughts on what to serve. He validated my good taste by choosing beers on the maltier side. "If it were me I would be looking for something on the dry side with a fair amount of roast bitterness. If the dish has a big sweet component I don't typically look for any noticeable amount of residual sugar in the brew. I know some people like sweet-on-sweet, but I find it often to be overpowering. Maybe something with roast but also a lightly sweet, fruity side, like a Belgian Stout. You need the bitterness to balance the sweetness in the dish, and for something like this a bigger hop characteristic might be odd. Plus roasty beers go so well with paragons of savory fare like fried chicken. I've actually made fried chicken with dark beer in the batter and it is like Arthur Guinness had sex with Colonel Sanders wife on a plate."
Enjoy that mental image, and stay tuned for more news on this restaurant.