BEER, WHISKY AND CURRY
The holy trinity
Only ever reached for a pint of lager with your curry? It’s time to think again. Unfiltered teamed up with Edinburgh chef Tony Singh and Michael Johnstone from Walkie Talky Brewing Co to find the perfect trinity of Society whisky, craft beer and spice-infused Indian cuisine
PHOTOS: MIKE WILKINSON
The aromas in Tony Singh’s kitchen are intoxicating. And that’s before we’ve even popped the cork on a bottle of Society whisky, or cracked open a can of beer.
The Leith-born chef’s home kitchen is a riot of colour, with spices laid out ready to go into today’s dishes. Aubergines are already being chargrilled over a naked flame – or given a helping hand with Tony’s personal flamethrower – and there’s a soft smokiness in the air that’s crying out for a Heavily Peated flavour profile dram to accompany it.
Thankfully, we have both that and the right beer – courtesy of the Society’s Michael Johnstone, a regular behind the bar at The Vaults and also the co-founder of new Leith-based Walkie Talky Brewing Co.
ABOVE: Tony Singh
Together, Tony and Michael are in search of the holy trinity of Indian food paired with the perfect whisky and beer. We have three Society bottlings with us, along with three expressions from Michael’s new brewery. As Tony buzzes around his kitchen prepping three dishes, the chef and the brewer have time to explore the synergies between their crafts.
“I don’t look at it so much as finding the perfect food and drink pairing,” says Tony. “A nice dram is a nice dram, and it might work well with some food, or it might not – it comes down to your own palate.
“It’s also a journey, and you need people who are great guides to take you on a journey. Two people could walk down the same street and one could be telling you about the beautiful architecture and the other one could be telling you that somebody was stabbed there! It’s all about the guide.”
ABOVE: Michael Johnstone
Leading people to explore a fresh approach to traditional ale styles was the motivation for Michael to set up Walkie Talky Brewing Co with co-founder Joel Saunderson, after completing their Masters of Science in Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University.
“Joel Saunderson and I wanted to update traditional ale styles and punch them up to our own tastes and experiences,” says Michael. “When it comes to curry there’s been a branding that it pairs with cheap lager, but I think nowadays the average consumer is expecting a little bit more. And whisky brings a whole different dimension to the experience.”
With Tony’s dishes ready to serve, it’s time to put the trinity to the taste test.
HOLY TRINITY TASTING ONE
THE DISH: NATIVE SCOTTISH OYSTERS WITH HIGHLAND MUTTON VURHA
THE BEER: IT TAKES 2 – DOUBLE DRY-HOPPED AMERICAN DOUBLE IPA (DDH DIPA)
THE WHISKY: SPICY & DRY – CASK NO. 26.137: CHASING CHAMELEONS
“The oyster has a brininess but it ties together with the sweet hot perfume of the tamarind sauce, along with the herbal notes of coriander and fennel in the spicy patties”
Tony serves up a native Scottish oyster in its shell, along with a mutton vurha – a spicy pan-fried patty, topped with a rich tamarind sauce.
“The oyster has a brininess but it ties together with the sweet hot perfume of the tamarind sauce, along with the herbal notes of coriander and fennel in the spicy patties,” says Tony. Michael has paired this with a Spicy & Dry flavour profile dram, along with his It Takes 2 double IPA, which he describes as a ‘hop-head’s absolute delight’.
“We add hops in during the initial boiling, and then again after it’s gone into the fermentation vessel – that balances the bitterness with the sweetness, with four different varieties of hops in there bringing tropical, citrus, resinous and piney notes.”
ABOVE: Tony’s oysters paired beautifully with a Spicy & Dry flavour profile and a double IPA
“You definitely get the cereal coming through from the malt, but there is this extra layer of fruitiness in there that pairs well with the dish, but also the beer,” says Michael.
“It’s bringing a whole spectrum of flavours,” says Tony. “You’ve got heat, a range of fruit flavours in the chilli, a vegetal versus spicy note. Even a sweet creamy coconut thing going on. Really good!”
HOLY TRINITY TASTING TWO
THE DISH: BAINGAN SAMOSA
THE BEER: 3RD CRAIC – IRISH COFFEE STOUT
THE WHISKY: HEAVILY PEATED – SWEET, SMOKED SALMON JERKY
Next up is Tony’s baingan samosa, made with chargrilled aubergine and served with a feisty fresh mint chutney. Michael has matched the smokiness of the aubergine with the Society’s small batch bottling for the Islay Festival from distillery 10, Sweet, Smoked Salmon Jerky – along with a robust Irish coffee stout called 3rd Craic.
“The pastry gives this a bit of an oily mouthfeel, with the fresh green notes of the chutney complementing the smokiness of the aubergine,” says Tony.
ABOVE: Michael and Tony try a Heavily Peated whisky with the baingan samosas, along with an Irish Coffee Stout
Walkie Talky’s Irish coffee stout, 3rd Craic, makes reference to the Irish term for ‘a good time’ from brewer Joel’s homeland, but also the first and second ‘cracks’ associated with roasting coffee beans. “Roasted barley is integral to any Irish stout, but by introducing locally roasted coffee after the fermentation, that gives you a jolt of unexpected coffee flavour – although it’s not overpowering,” says Michael.
Sweet, Smoked Salmon Jerky is a Heavily Peated flavour profile from distillery 10, created from a combination of second fill oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry hogsheads, as well as re-charred hogsheads. It seems like a suitable choice – the Tasting Notes actually refer to ‘brinjal pickle, made with aubergines and Indian spices’.
“It’s only seven-years old but there’s so much flavour in there,” says Michael. “It might overpower other dishes, or beers, but this smoky dish and the oiliness of the fried dough work beautifully with both the beer and the whisky. We don’t want the beer to be too bubbly and attack the mouth – it should be nice and smooth, creamy, not full of CO2.”
“You can feel how the drinks enhance the food as well,” says Tony. “It’s not like swilling away the taste with a cold lager – this really enhances the flavour of the spices on your palate.”
HOLY TRINITY TASTING THREE
THE DISH: SOUTH INDIAN MASALA LANGOUSTINES
THE BEER: ONE-ER – HAZY BLONDE ALE
THE WHISKY: SWEET, FRUITY & MELLOW – CASK NO. 9.188: OUT OF THIS WORLD
Our final trio is Tony’s dish of South Indian langoustines, cooked in a sweet garlic masala with Tellicherry peppercorns. “This is full of sweetness from the langoustines, or you could use king prawns, with a sweet masala base full of tomatoes and garlic,” says Tony. “It’s messy to eat – but well worth it!”
The sweetness of the dish also pairs beautifully with the whisky Michael has picked out – a Sweet, Fruity & Mellow flavour profile bottling of Cask No. 9.188: Out of this world. For the beer, it’s a hazy blonde ale from Walkie Talky called One-er.
“This is a lower strength, easy drinking but approachable ale,” says Michael. “We use a simple grain bill of pale malt, pilsner malt, wheat and Scottish oats and a two-hop profile of Cascade and Citra, for a tropical, fruit-forward aroma.
ABOVE: Tony adds the final touch to his masala langoustines
“There are notes of passion fruit, mango – and with the nose of the 9.188: Out of this world they really combine, like a fruit salad. This dram is as Speyside as Speyside can be, with cereal, malty sweetness, some grassiness.”
“And real butter shortbread, pastry – a lovely citrus, lemon note as well,” says Tony. “This is fantastic with the sweetness of the prawns, but it would work beautifully with a pastry as well.”
As finger bowls are passed around and drams and beers finished off, both chef and brewer are united in their appreciation of this exploration of new flavour frontiers. We already know and love the whisky and beer pairing, but if you’ve only ever approached your curry with a pint of lager it’s time to think again and put your own holy trinity to the test.