This guide explains how to choose the perfect beer pairing when eating Indian food. Whether you prefer porters, lagers, or stouts, we have you covered!
A Brief History of Craft Beer
As beer culture catches up with the fine wine industry, beer aficionados are becoming the sommeliers of a beverage with ever-increasing popularity. These days, a fine brew is as complex, rich, and interesting as anything the world’s best wineries have to offer. Craft beer is an exploding market, spreading across North America, Europe, and Asia.
Craft beer has its origins hundreds of years ago in Bavaria, where the beer purity law insisted that beer only be made using three, eventually amended to five, ingredients: barley, hops, yeast, wheat, and water. Nothing else could be used. The craft of brewing under these strict requirements has manifested today in what is called ‘abbey beer,’ since these ancient Bavarian recipes were brewed by friars in abbeys. Today, of course, a myriad of flavors and ingredients are used, but many still abide by the old purity laws.
The modern craft beer, however, arguably began with the India Pale Ale, or IPA, in 1970s America. Hoppiness as a flavor was practically unheard of in most standard, large-batch brews, which tended to be pale lagers and light ales. Hops added a dry, crisp finish to the IPA, and over time brewers found ways to increase this hoppy flavor without overpowering the beer, leading to the double and even triple IPAs we know now.
Today, however, there are more than just IPAs. We have craft porters, stouts, amber ales, hefeweizens, dunkels, brown ales, scotch ales, and practically every sort of beer you can imagine. With such a diverse selection, and with such innovative art behind their creation, it only makes sense that beer has taken on a new role in the culinary world. Connoisseurs are known as cicerones, and they can say as much or more about a pint of beer as a sommelier can about a glass of wine.
Creating These Beer Pairings
In this spirit, we wanted create a beer and food pairing guide for you to reference the next time you’re eating Indian food. Pick out your favorite Sukhi’s dish or whip up your go-to recipe, and we’ll help you find the perfect beer match.
Whether you’re enjoying a delicious, creamy dish of chicken tikka masala or a fiery hot vindaloo, taking it in with the right beer will take your dining experience to the next level. But while you may enjoy some beers on their own or with a light meal, not all of them go so well with richness, heaviness, or spiciness. That’s why it makes all the difference to ensure that lighter dishes, such as paneer, are paired with lighter beers, while the heavier ones, like vindaloo, go with a porter or an amber ale.
Let’s dive into some of the beer categories and pair them with our favorite Indian cuisine!
Indian Food and Beer Pairings
Light Lagers and Blonde Ales
The lighter beers, such as blonde ales and pilsners, pair best with lighter foods. This means salads, seafoods, appetizers, and vegetable-heavy dishes without too much spice. For Indian cuisine, is translates into paneer, mild vegetable curries, coconut- or cashew-based curry and even a mild butter chicken would qualify.
Lagers pair well with these meals as well, and so does a good Kolsch. The richer the meal, though, the more flavorless the lighter beers become, so when we move into tikka masala territory, for instance, we’d better move on!
Hoppy Lagers and India Pale Ales
Hops have made their comeback, and IPAs are here to stay. They’re some of the most popular beers in the world, so if you like Indian food, you’ll want to know about some good pairings to go with your favorite hoppy brew. We can think of nothing better than the fried delicacies found on most Indian menus, such as pakoras and samosas.
Fried foods and hoppy beers were practically made for each other. The oilier, the better! Chicken tikka masala and biryani go well with a good IPA, too, but be careful with spice – hops have a sharp, bitter taste, which will only amplify the heat of your dish!
A good wheat beer, or hefeweizen, pairs excellently with seafood, and it’s the best light beer to go with a spicy dish, too. Prawn curry, anyone? Most wheat beers are served with lemon, and many variants include citrus or other fruit infusions in the beverage itself. They do pair well with both fruits and citrus, so go ahead and load up on the chutneys when deciding which delicious meal to pair with your hef.
Biryani, on the other hand, while matching up fine flavor-wise, can be a rice heavy dish, which when combined with a wheat beer can become filling and heavy, unless you’re in the mood to binge!
Amber and Brown Ales
These will be your mainstay with heavy dishes like rich chicken curry or lamb/chicken vindaloo. Typically, the more malt in the beer, the better it pairs with spice, so that means these are great with hot dishes. We recommend an amber ale for rich, creamy, and sweet dishes, while a brown ale goes best with grilled meat, earthy flavors, and tandoori food. Brown ales also complement the taste of tomatoes and root vegetables, so those vegetarian curries are just asking to be enjoyed alongside.
Porters and Stouts
Remember, the meatier the better with these hefty brews. Porters, stouts, scotch ales, and a few others are among the heaviest beers you can find. Some can be sweet, such as a rich chocolate porter, while others are incredibly dry, like an oatmeal stout. These would call for a vindaloo or an extra spicy tikka masala, respectively. The sweeter the beer, the better it pairs with spice, while the dryer the stout, the better it pairs with a rich, sweet, saucy meal.
There are, of course, numerous other beers and numerous other Indian dishes, many of which go great together. Let’s just say these are a few of our handpicked favorites. We hope this article has you as excited to dig into your next beer and food pairing as we are! There is truly nothing better than sitting down to a crisp glass of beer and a piping hot plate of delicious Indian food. Bon appétit!