Beer and Curry Matching
"Beer and curry, the perfect combination, a match made in heaven. "
I don't think there's many people that would argue with that statement. However, The Curry Sauce thought that different beers might taste better with different curries, a little like the way other foodies would match certain wines with a particular meal, we've decided to test a variety of beers and try to match them with 5 different curries.
For this experiment, for want of a better word, we've chosen the following curries to give us a broad range of differing flavours, spicing and heat levels. They are............
Pathia (BIR Style): This curry gives a sweet and sour taste without any real heat to worry the pallet but not many curries are this sweet.
Saag Balti (BIR Style): Intensely spiced curry but without the heat. Saag adds an extra dimension to the balti, a good test for beers to match against.
Jalfrezi (BIR Style): Curry house classic with a slight bitterness due to the whole chillies which also provide some heat.
Vindaloo (Authentic Recipe): Classic curry and The Curry Sauce's authentic vindaloo recipe is a taste bud sensation.
Naga/Sylhet (BIR Style): A very unique, rich taste is the naga, coupled with its heat it would make for an interesting beer matching test.
We managed to settle on 11 different ales and lagers to test with each curry, all of which you can pick up at any supermarket, well maybe not from Lidl.
Results (Shane's thoughts first followed by Andy's):
Pathia: Works well against the sweetness.
Pathia: Washed the sweet tanginess away nicely
Balti: Doesn't not work well with heavy spice.
Balti: Made the Guinness taste even more bitter than what it is. Not good.
Jalfrezi: Doesn't work well with the chilli, especially eating a whole birds eye. I didn't want to reach for it as it just doesn't wash that taste down.
Jalfrezi: Guinness was over powering for a mildly spiced jalfrezi.
Vindaloo: Doesn't work well with the heat and spices.
Vindaloo: Intense beer and intense curry did not compliment each other.
Naga: Not good at all with this rich and hot curry.
Naga: Strong beer and hot, fruit naga curry was not a good combination.
Verdict: On its own this is a pretty good drink but it just doesn't really sit well with curry for me or probably any spicy food.
Verdict: I quite like a Guinness, but it is definitely not a curry beer. Each mouthful of Guinness did not make want for anymore (beer or curry).
2) Old peculiar (The Legend)
Pathia: Works well, I could have this beer with a whole Pathia.
Pathia: Worked well with the sweet, tangy curry.
Balti: Sweetness works quite well with the balti.
Balti: Sweet dark beer complimented strong flavours of balti.
Jalfrezi: Not a good combination, makes the pallet very bitter.
Jalfrezi: Same as the Guinness, the Old Peculiar was too strong for the jalfrezi.
Vindaloo: Good combination, due to the beef vindaloo had a slight steak and ale combo which surprisingly worked well.
Vindaloo: The thick dark beer and thick dark curry complimented each other, a lot better than Guinness did.
Naga: BITTER!! Not good.
Naga: Bitter aftertaste was left and the naga flavour was not washed away.
Verdict: Very nice drinking ale with a slightly sweet but smooth taste.
Verdict: For a strong dark ale, this was nice and smooth to drink. It performed OK with a couple of curry's just not sure if I could drink much of it in a curry house.
3) Peroni Gran Riserva
Pathia: In a word; Inoffensive.
Pathia: Nothing special, washed the curry away, that was about it.
Balti: Good combination, smoothness carries on after mouthful of curry to the gulp of beer.
Balti: Smooth transition between beer and curry. Taste of beer still noticeable.
Jalfrezi: Just does the job. Nothing special going on but could finish a meal with it.
Jalfrezi: I thought, the beer was stronger and sweeter than the curry.
Vindaloo: Washer away the intense flavours well.
Vindaloo: Good performer but nothing special.
Naga: Good match for naga taste and went back for more.
Naga: As with the vindaloo, good but nothing special.
Verdict: Very good strong lager, with a hint of sweetness and also very smooth.
Verdict: For a strong lager, really easy to drink and worked well with all curries.
4) HSB (Horndean Special Brew)
Pathia: Goes well, nice combination.
Pathia: I did not find this combination refreshing.
Balti: Creates a nice aftertaste in the mouth.
Balti: Surprising smooth and refreshing with the strong balti flavours.
Jalfrezi: No!!!!!!!! Shudder.
Jalfrezi: Better green chillies still linger, even after a good swig of HSB. These two did not work.
Vindaloo: Smooth transaction, works very well
Vindaloo: I liked this combo, smooth. Must be the steak and ale combo thing talked about before.
Naga: Not bad for an ale with naga. Still wouldn't recommend it though.
Naga: Struggles to match the fruity heat of the naga, better than the Guinness and Old Peculier though.
Verdict: Gales (now Fullers) flagship ale. Legendary ale in our eyes and a perfect drinking beer for 4 or 5 pints but probably no more as it can be lethal even though it us under 5%.
Verdict: Still one of my favourite tipples and worked well with some of the curries. Not sure this was because we had it chilled probably more than what you would get in a pub.
5) Innis and Gunn
Pathia: Not really made for each other.
Pathia: Made the Innis and Gunn tast quite harsh, which it is not.
Balti: Works well with heavy spice.
Balti: Refreshing combo with the highly spiced balti.
Jalfrezi: Best beer with jalrezi yet, prefered the balti and innis and gunn combination.
Jalfrezi: Surprisingly a good match, the Innis & Gunn was not too overpowering for the mildly spice jalfrezi.
Vindaloo: Smooth and complimented the spice.
Vindaloo: Silky smooth combination.
Naga: PERFECT MATCH. What a surprise to come up with what is an awesome match on the pallet.
Naga: I liked this combo, smooth and the taste of naga and beer stayed in the mouth for a while, but with the heat removed.
Verdict: Very very nice tipple. Strong with flavours of toffee and a hint of vanilla. It's ages in oak casks and its a beautiful drink, plus you can get it in man sized 750ml bottles!
Verdict: Lovely stuff and can be served chilled, which is unusual for an ale, but helps it work well with curries.
6) Old Empire (IPA)
Pathia: Seemed to enhance the tamarind taste which left a soapy taste on the pallet.
Pathia: Did leave a soapy aftertaste…not enjoyable.
Balti: Seemless and smooth, although there is a slight bitter aftertaste in the mouth, but nothing too off putting.
Balti: Bitter aftertaste of IPA still lingers but not off putting, in fact quite refreshing.
Jalfrezi: Works well with the bittness of the chilli, smooth taste.
Jalfrezi: Bitter chillies and bitter IPA cancel each other out. Again, quite refreshing.
Vindaloo: Another good match and once again smooth.
Vindaloo: Smooth, easy to drink.
Naga: Not made for fruity flavour.
Naga: Fruity naga and IPA not a smooth combination.
Verdict: A non gassy smooth ale. Not full of flavour though but IPAs don't tend to be too deep.
Verdict: Did an OK job, but not a drink I can get too excited about.
7) Tangle Foot
Pathia: Refreshing and washes down the curry well.
Pathia: Did a good job of washing the curry down and making me want more.
Balti: Can still taste the beer over the balti and the spices seemed to enhance the beers flavour.
Balti: Bitterness of beer lingers.
Jalfrezi: Very good combination, refreshes pallet. Best match for the jalrezi,
Jalfrezi: Not many beers have done a fantastic job with the jalfezi, but this one did.
Vindaloo: Smooth tasting and works well.
Vindaloo: Slightly bitter aftertaste noticeable, but still works well.
Naga: Just goes in an inoffensive way. Doesn't match it brilliantly but at the same time doesn't make you want to stop.
Naga: Naga flavours still linger around, but not many beers have been able to wash them away. Still not horrible though.
Verdict: Nice and light beer which is very easy drinking and goes very well with curry. Good all rounder.
Verdict: Easy drinking and refreshing beer that performs reasonably well with curry.
8) Old Speckled Hen
Pathia: Good combination, they compliment each other.
Pathia: Good mixture
Balti: Can taste both the curry and the beers attributes.
Balti: Curry is washed away easily but beer bitterness still persists.
Jalfrezi: A nice drinking beer that goes well with the jalfrezi.
Jafrezi: Again, washes the curry away but beer bitterness persists.
Vindaloo: Does the job with the vindaloo, a good beer.
Vindaloo: Same as balti
Naga: Complimented the naga curry well but still left the heat and almost enhanced it.
Naga: Same as vindaloo
Verdict: Popular beer and a favorite of mine. Pleased with the results as I was curious to how it would match.
Verdict: I'm a bit indifferent to Old Speckled Hen, really not made my mind up on it yet.
Pathia: Smooth taste and refreshing, ready for next mouthful.
Pathia: Smooth and refreshing, makes you want another mouthful of curry and beer.
Balti: Ditto to the above.
Balti: Ditto for me too.
Jalfrezi: Er..........And again.
Jalfrezi: Ditto again
Vindaloo: Not perfection by any means but you could finish a meal with it, just not a special combination.
Vindaloo: Did struggle to be so smooth, but still not bad.
Naga: Still burns, fizziness not good in the mouth.
Naga: Ditto to the vindaloo.
Verdict: Cobra is of course a classic lager on the Indian restaurant scene which needs no introductions. Struggled to write much about it as its not a complex drink. Its designed to drink with curry, it's not really a drink for having on its own.
Verdict: Worked ok with everything, did not bloat me and always made me wanting more beer and curry.
Pathia: Inoffnsive to curry but a very balnd tasting beer, even for lager.
Pathia: Washes he curry down, that's about it really.
Balti: Too fizzy, carries the spice down the throat.
Balti: Another washing down of the curry…nothing special.
Jalfrezi: Does well with the chillies so a good lager in that respect.
Jalfrezi: Low flavour beer worked well with the least spicy of our curries.
Vindaloo: Washes down the curry without complimenting it.
Vindaloo: More washing down
Naga: Instant refreshment but has the curry aftertaste so doesn't really wash it down.
Naga: Fizzy beer burns like the chilli.
Verdict: Light lager, actually too light for my liking. Its very refreshing but thats about it. No real flavour and too fizzy.
Verdict: I know this is the true Indian beer, but I prefer Cobra. Kingfisher is very fizzy and low on flavour.
Pathia: Less fizzy then cobra. Refreshing.
Pathia: Smooth and refreshing
Balti: Smooth and the best lager so far.
Balti: Smooth and refreshing
Jalfrezi: Superior larger once again.
Jalfrezi: Again, hard to provide any other description other than smooth and refreshing.
Vindaloo: Washes down the curry nicely, makes you want to continue meal.
Vindaloo: Smoother transition than the cobra.
Naga: Being lager it doesn't match the naga just like all the others dont but it just works in terms of refreshment.
Naga: Again, performed slightly better than the cobra and washed the heat away nicely.
Verdict: Surprisingly a good, low fizz larger which is a bit more drinkable than cobra. Its curry performance is also comparable to that of the cobra.
I'll start of by saying this is a very enjoyable way to spend several hours consuming beer and curry, in what is quite a civilized way to do so, you have to think about what you're putting down your neck rather than just guzzling away pints of beer and munching through a bucket of curry on a night out.
All in all I was extremely surprised in the difference that beers can have on your pallet, especially when the same beer can taste great with one curry then struggle with the next, drink matching, certainly with curry has never really interested me greatly but this has changed my perception of the art of doing so.
So to the beers.
The best one off combination for me was the Innis and Gunn with the naga, a match made in heaven, really brought a smile to my face. The naga is such a unique tasting flavour so for it to work so well was a real surprise with what is in its own rite quite a unique flavored and strong beer.
Big shout out to Tangle Foot which was a good all rounder to go with the curries along with the classic Cobra and Chang of Thailand. Actually, Chang, it must be said, was a fantastic lager and if I had to choose I probably would prefer it over Cobra.
The likes of Old Speckled Hen suprised me, although I preferred the Tangle Foot with the curries, OSH didn't do much wrong.
I was really disappointed with India's national larger, Kingfisher. Having had it a few times before in curry houses I've never been overly impressed with it, but now, as essentially accessing it as a critic, I really don't rate it at all.
Its going to be hard to do this type of thing when you're eating out as you will have the choice of Cobra and Kingfisher plus maybe a John Smiths, but that doesn't count as beer as its just cold tea. So if you're at home this is a good fun thing to do and you can get in particular beers with certain curry dishes, but if out at a curry house its always going to be a larger for me, which will be cobra 9 times out of 10.
Trying to coordinate eating 5 curries with 11 different beers is a mans job, and a difficult one…although enjoyable. In the end it was easier just to eat the curries cold rather than keep cooking fresh ones or reheating them.
The lagers were by far the better all rounders when it comes to curry, although the poorest one was probably the Kingfisher, it was just too fizzy. However, some of the ales seemed to match a particular curry very well, better than any of the lagers. For example, the Innis & Gunn and Naga combination was great.
Chang was a surprisingly good beer, it performed as well as a cobra (maybe slightly better), and was nicer to drink on its own.
Unless I am at some Gucci Indian restaurant, where each course is matched with a beer (they do exist!), I think that when I am out for a curry it will always be a case of "large cobra please".
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