Curry happens to be one of my favourite foods. You honestly cannot beat my mothers chicken curry, a heady mix of punchy garlic, fiery hot chillies and warming cinnamon in a tangy tomato base.
I grew up eating curry in a typical Gujarati household, where the kitchen would usually have a minimum of five curries merrily bubbling away on the stove-top.
Around 90% of these home-made curries were vegetarian, including pulses and exotic vegetables (crinkly karela anyone?) and my love for curry has only grown deeper over the years. I’ve been experimenting with jackfruit curry – more on that later – but for now, let’s talk about beer and curry.
Like strawberries and cream, or coffee and cake, beer and curry go, literally hand in hand.
I love the idea of matching food and drink. I know wine flights have been popular for around 15 years, and there has been a steady rise in beer flights too. But I would like to see more beer matched food on menus across the country.
If you’re stuck on what beer to drink with your curry, read on. I had the arduous job (hell no, it was such fun) of tasting beer and matching it with curry. It had to be one of the most fun research sessions I have undertaken in a while. To save me cooking and eating a whole boatload of curries in one hit, here’s what I did. I cooked four main curries, made notes, studied tasting notes from the beer list, then matched those whose flavour profiles complemented one another. Here are my notes, I do hope you will read, digest and even refer to it.
Beer: The Maharajah Premium Cardamom Beer, Modha Ales
About: Bhavesh founded Modha Ales in 2014 with the aim to introduce the UK’s first spiced craft beer. He launched True Maharaja Premium Cardamom Beer and it is now available in restaurants and bar across the UK and beyond.
Very fragrant when opened. Foamy on the pour and soft on the palette to begin with. I can taste the cardamom within four seconds. It tastes slightly tangy when beer floods the mouth. Has a hint of umami, with a pleasant, light bitter note on the swallow.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with this beer. I like cardamom, but too much can be overpowering and cloying. Not so here in this expertly brewed beer, because the cardamom flavour intensifies with each sip, creating layers of flavour that make it magically moreish.
Curry match: lamb bhuna
I matched this fragrant beer with a lamb bhuna, and recommend with either another dark meat curry, or vegetable that is big on texture, like a cauliflower steak with bite.
One of the basic tenets of cooking curry is frying spices in oil to elicit myriad flavours. A bhuna dish takes this one step further by tumbling meat into the fried spices where it cooks in its own juices nestled in the spiced oil. This way, strong flavours are allowed to develop before the addition of a thick sauce. Cardamom goes insanely well with dark meats, which is why a medium-spiced lamb bhuna is the curry to eat with this appetising cardamom beer.
Beer: Lager, White Rhino Brewing Co.
About: Founded in 2016, White Rhino Brewing Co. is India’s first craft brewery. It’s a real celebration of trans-continental expertise; set in Malanpur a few hours from New Delhi, the brewhouse is engineered in the US whilst kegging and bottling machinery is manufactured in the Czech Republic.
Is pale in colour, with a whisper of a yeasty tang on the pour. The hint of spice is just about discernible, which becomes more pronounced with each sip. It took me around a minute to properly taste the quiet pear tones in the background, made all the more sweeter by the malt in the foreground. Has a light mouthfeel and good body which is down to the Vienna Malt. This beer in the UK will taste different to that available in India, as a few subtle changes have been made to prepare it for overseas travel. It is smooth and easy to drink, which means White Rhino Brewing Co. lager can be sipped during the day whilst watching a game or over dinner for a late night supper.
Curry match: chicken korma
A traditional korma dish is slow cooked. Meat is marinated in a yoghurt bath which tenderises it, followed by a low-heat grilling which makes the sauce all the more flavoursome. The sweet malt and fruit notes in the beer go well with chicken korma base, which renders the beer fragrant. It also really brings out the almond notes in the curry base. This beer would work well with any curry that has a creamy base.
Beer: IPA, White Rhino Brewing Co.
Citrus fruit is a big hitter here, and I can taste bitter orange that mellows after a few seconds. This is a very fragrant beer, and the tropical fruit with ripe passionfruit is a joy to inhale. It is also very hoppy, so when the spike of malt eventually comes through, the fruity notes take on a light floral quality which are playful on the palate.
Curry match: lamb rogan josh
Rogan josh is a Kashmiri dish typically made with lamb. Using dried red Kashmiri chillies gives this dish a bold red colour, which is heightened by the liberal use of tomatoes. Served medium hot with a glorious earthy quality, I think this dish will best suit White Rhino Brewing Co.’s IPA. I can also recommend the IPA to be sipped alongside sundries or starters such as chargrilled chicken tikka.
The best of the rest
The Petite Saison Brett, Anspach & Hobday
Dry and light, delicate yet aromatic; this seems to be a bottle packed with delicious conflict. Paired with a medium hot chicken jalfrezi, whose stir-fried green pepper and onions go well with the lightly funky scent.
Transatlantic Pale Ale, House of Mirrors, Magic Rock Brewing
This ale with Golden Promise Malt fermented with West Yorkshire and California ale yeasts celebrates the special relationship between the UK and our American cousins across the pond. Paired with chicken biryani which is packed with flavoursome rice cooked with spiced meat, because it would marry well with this pale ale’s clean finish.
Tzara, Thornbridge Brewery
This refreshing hybrid beer-ale has fruity notes with a hint of vanilla. Paired with a spicy lamb dhansak, whose fiery lentil base would complement the subtle sweetness of this beer-ale.
Blood Orange IPA, A Night Like This, Pig and Porter
Blood orange purée with a bittersweet finish makes this IPA fresh on the palate with a juicy mouthfeel. Paired with lamb vindaloo, whose green chilli and chilli powder base goes well with the citrus tang of this IPA.
Frambuzi, Raspberry Sour Framboise, Tiny Rebel
Sweet to begin with leading onto an elongated tangy finish, this raspberry flavoured beer is perfect with a saag ghost or lamb saag. This beer with a bold flavour profile would go very with the garlic-fenugreek base and silken spinach.
Do you match your curry and beer? If you have any go-to pairings, I would love to know. Do get in touch, and I promise to reply as soon as I can.