In a previous beer review of Carlsberg Elephant Beer, I mentioned that the link between Indian Food and Lager was founded in 1924. This is when Prince Axel of Denmark, on not being able to enjoy a Carlsberg with his curry, arranged for a case of lager to be sent each year to the restaurant – Veeraswamy in London’s West End.
In recent years the Curry/Lager link has been exploited by a number of specialist brands notably Kingfisher and Cobra – brewed to be less gassy. It’s a potentially massive market, with over nine thousand Indian restaurants here in the UK serving over three million curries each week. Let’s say a couple of pints with each curry…you get the picture.
Cobra is generally accepted as the market leader; it was originally brewed in Bangalore before its popularity forced them to brew in the UK, under licence by Charles Wells (now Wells and Young’s) in Bedford. That licensing deal ended in 2009 when Cobra was sold to Molson Coors.
But Wells and Young clearly learned a lot during the licensing period, as they’ve recently brought out a Cobra style lager ‘Mongoose’ – designed to complement Indian Food. The name Mongoose is a cheeky one, as the Mongoose (a large rodent-like mammal) is famed for being able to best a Cobra in a fight, and the Mongoose lager label clearly shows a mongoose with a (dead) Cobra in its jaws.
I spotted Mongoose on sale at my favourite local Indian restaurant which, sadly, is not licensed to sell beer to be taken away, so this review is somewhat less objective than some of my reviews, and the photo was taken in-situ, complete with authentic pickle tray.
Mongoose Lager pours bright, with a crisp white head. It’s slightly darker than most lagers but that’s similar to Cobra. The nose is hoppy, but not overly so.
Flavour-wise it’s a good 5% lager. There’s a hoppy bite (Hallertau and Hersbrucker hops in there by all accounts) and underlying maltiness. In a blind tasting I would have guessed that this was Cobra, but that’s the clear objective and they’ve achieved what they set out to. There are rumours that the brew is made using the ‘original’ Cobra recipe and I wouldn’t be surprised.
Over a curry I’d happily order Mongoose again; whether I’d turn to it over other beers and lagers is another matter. After due consideration, I’d give this three and a half stars. Mongoose Lager does what it sets out to do and does it rather well.
However… while I enjoy a lager with a curry, I have often questioned why restaurants slavishly follow Prince Axel’s lead. I’ve often hankered after a hoppy India Pale Ale (IPA) thinking that the hops would do glorious battle with the strong flavours of the lager. While doing some background research for this posting, I spotted that Hales Brewery in Oregon brew a ‘Mongoose IPA’. While it’s a brave curry house owner that first tries it, I for one would certainly give it a go!
Bob the Brit