Beer and curry is widely believed to be one of the best beer and food combinations on earth, especially by the Brits. We just can’t get enough of it. There’s a certain amount of delicious irony in the fact that today, there are more people in India speaking English than people in England, and more people in England eating chicken tikka massala than people in India. But then, it’s not exactly an authentic dish…
We don’t seem to mind; India’s culinary delights have been served in the United Kingdom since the 18th century and Britain now has more than 8,000 curry houses.
We’ve had long enough then to sort out what we like to drink with it, and lager seems to be our weapon of choice.
And deservedly so, but there are a plethora of beers out there and some other truly mindblowing combinations to be discovered. So, to point us in the right direction, Beers of the World was invited to a special Indian food tasting at the Bombay Brasserie in London, hosted by Coors.
Until fairly recently the brewer has been synonymous with mass-produced, mainstream lagers, but has now made room for a stable of ‘specialist’ beers that will make you sigh with happiness. Here are some of the highlights:
Kasteel Cru, 5.2% alcohol by volume (ABV) with chilli and coconut poppadom.
The spiciness of the chilli completely overwhelms the delicate Champagne notes of this beer (made with Champagne yeast). But with a plain warm poppadom, the combination is mindblowing. It picks out a kind of bread-dough quality to the beer and makes a great snack.
• Fresh scallops marinated in honey and ginger juice and grilled, served on a bed of burnt garlic and red pimento puree
• Crispy fried shrimps tossed with mustard seeds, curry leaves and green chillies
• Lasooni fish fried in garlic batter
Grolsch Weizen (5.3% ABV)
Wheat beers are typically refreshing and always go fantastically with spicy food. You could hardly do better than this. Produced from 60 per cent wheat and 40 per cent malt, Grolsch Weizen is a fairly typical German wheat beer. Unfiltered (it’s recommended you roll this beer before you pour it, so the sediment is shaken up) the proteins and yeast give Weizen its soft, fruity taste. It works with all the fishy dishes we were served as a starter, but particularly the scallops. And the shrimp. Hell, and the fish.
Little Creatures Pale Ale (5.2% ABV)
A unique pale ale from Australia. Whole hop flowers are used in this brew to give an oily citrus and honey aroma, with a good balancing bitterness. Wonderfully drinkable on its own, and even better with the scallops. Both have sweet honey notes in common but the scallops bring out a spiciness in the beer that was not evident before.
Goose Island IPA (5.9%)
India Pale Ales (IPAs) have a historical association with Indian food, given that the brews were excessively hopped to preserve them in the two to three month sea journey to India. It is likely they were used to wash down a curry by the Raj long before Brick Lane was ever built.
These beers generally had a high alcoholic content and this one from Goose Island brewery in the United States is a good example. The mega-hoppiness generally stands up well to intense flavours, but the bitterness can sometimes get in the way. With the roasted garlic flavours of the fish, however, it becomes a perfect partner.
• Lamb roganjosh: tender pieces of lamb cooked in a traditional masala
• Chicken biryani: chicken and basmati rice cooked in a sealed pot. Served with raita and daal
• Chicken tikka makhani: chicken tikka from the tandoor immersed in a spiced creamy butter sauce