Modha Ales’ True Maharajah Cardamon Beer 4% abv.
We all like a curry but very spicy hot flavours tend to overwhelm most drinks. Traditionally lager is drunk with curry in Indian restaurants but a very fizzy, ice cold, bland drink is not really a satisfactory accompaniment. Some beer writers advocate German or Belgian Wheat beers as the perfect match for a curry. Others suggest that a hoppy India Pale Ale (IPA) might provide the right amount of contrast to a hot dish. But there is also a school of thought that suggests traditional British Best Bitter as the best accompaniment- after all Indian food has become part of our national cuisine.
We eat a lot of curry in the UK so there is huge potential to come up with a drink that compliments hot spicy dishes and is easy to drink. Modha Ales are a new company based in Leicester who have the beer True Maharajah brewed for them under contract by another brewery. I tried this beer while dining at home on a moderately hot lamb curry. Modha pours a dark gold colour with a grassy, spicy aroma. My first impressions are that this is a very bitter beer. It has quite a peppery, grassy taste and is certainly different from most ales. It is not a beer for chugging down in vast quantities.
I think that this beer started as a Golden Ale, heavily hopped with British bittering hops. The beer has then been infused with cardamom pods which have an aromatic resinous taste. The pods are used extensively in Asian cooking and are also used in the Middle East to flavour tea and coffee. In medieval times, before hops were used in England, beer was brewed with various herbs and spices which became known as gruit.
In India many people are teetotal so there is probably no authentic alcoholic drink to go with curry. Modha should be complimented for having a go at producing something that is not a bland lager. But, I think True Maharajah is a bit too bitter for most people’s taste. Perhaps it’s a case of tweaking the recipe a bit and looking at how other flavours apart from cardamom might work.
Most Indian restaurants in the UK are owned and staffed by people who are of Bangladeshi origin. Bangladesh became an independent state in 1971 after fighting a civil war which enabled it to secede from Pakistan. The aftermath of the war produced great hardship for the people and resulted in one of the first initiatives which brought together rock stars and charities. Former Beatle George Harrison was very influenced by all things Indian and organised the fund-raising Concert for Bangladesh in 1971 which featured himself, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Ravi Shankar and others.
Order up an Indian takeaway, pour yourself a glass of Modha beer and enjoy George Harrison, the only Beatle who was a true rock star, as he performs Bangladesh.