I can still feel the humid night air in northern Thailand – it was so thick you could nearly slice through it with a knife. At night, though, the city of Chiang Mai comes alive: the markets selling everything from bamboo steamers to framed, dried out carcasses of tarantulas and scorpions. And the food! The sights, smells and sounds of Thailand at night are at once exciting and overwhelming. Reading Neven’s Entertaining at Home recipes for this month, all of those memories of Thailand came flooding back – especially the feeling of absolute bliss of sitting down at a plastic table and tearing into a steaming hot bowl of Thai curry.
You would think a hot bowl of curry on such a humid evening would have the opposite of a cooling effect, but on the contrary – it is the perfect, most satisfying dish for a warm evening spent al fresco. Combined with some jasmine-scented rice and a cold, crisp Thai beer, the meal was complete. With these things in mind, it makes sense, this month, to pair Neven’s Entertaining at Home recipes with beer.
In Thailand, you drink Thai beer, but here in Ireland we are spoiled for choice when it comes to local brews. Particularly those which hit the right notes to pair with aromatic, spicy recipes. For me, two styles of beer stick out when considering the right pairing for Thai-style foods – the first is either an American or East Coast IPA (India Pale Ale). The range of hops used in these types of beers bring out a lot of fresh, fruity or citrusy flavours, which complement coconut-forward curries.
The other type of beer which springs to mind is a lager – or a pilsner. The beers one tends to drink while in most parts of Asia are crisp, refreshing and fairly mild (benign even!) in flavour. A pilsner is a type of lager which is not as hop-forward as an IPA, but the hops used generally add a touch of spiciness. While lagers come in different styles, the type I’m thinking about – a Helles – mirrors the beers you would drink with a Thai curry in Thailand – clean, crisp and refreshing with the added complementary hint of spice.
The White Hag Little Fawn IPA (4.2% ABV)
This Sligo-based brewery has been churning out some truly great beers since they first launched in 2013. When it comes to a rich, coconut curry with the added sweetness of butternut squash, their Little Fawn IPA makes an excellent accompaniment. This is an American-style session IPA made with Irish malt and a variety of American hops called Mosaic which – as the name might suggest – imparts a vibrantly complex flavour. In the case of Little Fawn, expect notes of passionfruit, blueberry and grapefruit – zesty, clean and full of flavour with a good balance of bitterness to cut through the rich curry.
Another great thing about Little Fawn is its accessibility. You can find it throughout the country in Lidl, Dunnes Stores and Tesco as well as online. thewhitehag.com
Devil’s Helles Lager Killarney Brewing Company (4.5% ABV)
The compelling balance of a good Helles lager reminds me of the flavour combinations one often finds in Thai cuisine: the harmony of salt, sugar, spice and sour notes coming together to create the perfect flavour bomb. A Helles lager often brings in sweet malty notes with a bit of spiced hop – though pilsners will always be much less hoppy than an IPA. Those new to beer drinking might appreciate that – it is a much kinder introduction (it took me years to appreciate American-style IPAs).
Easy drinking with that subtle spice, Killarney Brewing Company’s Devil’s Helles lager uses the noble hops which have been grown in Europe for generations and are intrinsically linked to this style of beer. The hops add a mild spice but the overall feel of the beer is easy drinking, refreshing and tasty, with sweet hints of honey from the malt.
You can find their Helles lager on craftbeerdelivered.com in 500ml bottles. killarneybrewingdistilling.com