Diego Benitez (PhD ’05), founder of Progress Brewing in South El Monte, California, knows a good meal is never complete without a complementary beverage. “I try to figure out the intricate and complicated relationship of physiological and psychological factors that determine taste preferences in people,” says Benitez, who has 10 years of professional pairing experience. Here are his thoughts on the perfect pairings for this German meal.
A traditional late-19th-century Viennese Lager would be the perfect pairing for chicken schnitzel; however, the style is almost extinct in its original form and location. Some American craft breweries have been known to brew close interpretations with different levels of success. Bohemian Lagers with wide U.S. distribution—such as Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen, or Czechvar—are a close second. The light bready flavors in the beer complement the schnitzel, while the spicy, floral, noble hop aromas will accentuate the fresh citrus notes in the cucumber salad.
It is not surprising to think that an Austrian wine goes well with Austrian schnitzel. Grüner Veltliner is considered the leading varietal for Austrian wines; its sharp acidity and spicy citrus and stone fruit flavors make it a great pairing that will not completely obscure the schnitzel while highlighting the cucumber salad. A slightly more subdued alternative is Austrian Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc). It is not as expressive as Grüner Veltliner, but some Austrian-made examples are fantastically complex and elegant while slightly austere in intensity. Austrian Weißburgunder would take a more supportive role with chicken schnitzel while allowing the brightness of the cucumber salad to shine.