Beer that Tames the Fire

Not that long ago, I tried my hand at homemade curry paste. The results were… shall we say, less than mild? Yes, I’m still getting the bugs out of the recipe, not literally of course, but I maintain that homemade is best. Which brings me to something else I’ve been working on of late: a list of suitable, spice-appropriate beers. Granted, its not exactly rocket science. Pairing beers with spicy food is fact more of an art, and highly open to interpretation. Nevertheless, it generally is wise to avoid anything too heavy, hoppy, or best when served warm (aka. stouts, porters, ales, etc). In short, when dealing with spicy foods, one should stick to lagers, pilsners and other beers that offer a clean, crisp taste and are best when served cold.

With that in mind, I’ve assembled a list of just a few that are particularly good in this respect. Interestingly enough, most happen to be from the very parts of the world that are famous – or infamous – for producing some of the world’s spiciest food. And just to be helpful, I’ve grouped them from best to worst, at least according to my own taste and standards.

Sapporo: 8.5/10 A Japanese draft lager that dates back to the Meiji period (19th century). Like most Asian breweries, it was established by a German brewmaster and it shows in the taste and character of the beer. Although not surprising or particularly complex, it is a very reliable beer that is at once clean, crisp and quite tasty, with a mild bitter finish that does not interfere or enhance the taste of spicy food.

Tsingtao: 8/10 Compared to some of its competitors, this Chinese beer, named after its town of origin, is somewhat hoppier. However, it still retains the characteristic flavor of a German lager; crisp, clean, and not overpowering. As you can imagine, they can easily be found wherever Chinese cuisine is available, and pair well with the spicier Hunan and Szechuan dishes.

Dab: 7.5/10 From Dortmund, Germany, the name is actually an acronym for the brewery itself (Dortmunder Actien Brauerei). I would have to say that this has got to be one of the cleanest beers I’ve ever tasted, meaning it has a light taste and little to no aftertaste. Not the best standalone beer, but excellent when paired with something spicy. One can expect the heat not to linger when this exceptionally light lager is introduced to the palate.

Red Stripe: 7.5/10 Next, we have Red Stripe beer, Jamaica’s famous export lager. It might seem just the slightest bit stereotypical to assume that warm-weather climes would produce beer that goes well with hot food and hot weather, but this beer certainly lives up to that reputation. Like a true lager, it is light, refreshing and has a gentle, lingering hop aftertaste. And like just about all Caribbean brews, it goes well with Jerked food, curry, and spicy Roti.

Tiger Beer: 7/10 Last, but not least… From Singapore, Tiger is the flagship brand of beer for this city-state/nation that dates back to 1932. Its flavor is reminiscent of pilsner, the hops tasting sharp and distinctively Czech, and maintains a well rounded, light taste that finishes quite clean. All of this makes Tiger quite drinkable and well suited to dishes featuring chilis, curry, or other such delights.

I could go on, but this is making me hungry AND thirsty! Time to seek out spicy food and a cold beer! Until next time, keep sampling my friends!