Saturday, December 7, 2013
By TOM ATWELL
Asian food goes better with beer than with wine. Even sommeliers, who specialize in selecting wine to go with a specific food, will often recommend beer as the best accompaniment with spicy Asian dishes.
Singha, above, from Thailand is a crisp beer with little hops and sweetness, but a strong flavor of pilsner-style malt. Kingfisher beer, below, from India is quite similar to the Singha, just a little milder.
Part of the reason I was looking forward to having dinner at the Silk Harvest specialty Asian restaurant during Nancy's and my recent cruise on the Celebrity Equinox was that the restaurant's promotion promised an extensive beer menu.
Otherwise, the Equinox is a beer desert. We considered buying a beverage package before going on the cruise, but the beers included on the package included Heineken, Stella Artois and a bunch of American lagers. The draft beers were Heineken and Amstel Light.
Randy Scott, our AAA travel agent, told me the Equinox probably would have a bar with some decent beers. And the bar by the swimming pool did have more beers -- Boddington, Leffe Blon, Estrella Damm, Grolsch, Samuel Adams, Boston Lager and a few more -- but nothing I haven't had many times before.
So Nancy and I drank a lot of good to very good wine during our 14 days on the ship.
The Silk Harvest meal was, with the exception of a couple of lunches where we had Stella, the only time we drank beer on the ship.
The Silk Harvest menu was a mix of food from different Asian nations. We had several varieties of sushi, spring rolls, Lotus chicken lettuce wraps, shrimp and scallop shumai, red curry duck and a salmon and scallop stir fry. All of this was just a little bit spicy.
The first beer we tried was Singha from Thailand. It was a crisp beer, with very little hops and little sweetness, but a strong flavor of pilsner-style malt. It had a good amount of carbonation and a slightly silky mouthfeel. The woman who waited on us recommended this as the best beer on the menu, and by the end of the night, I agreed with her.
For our second beers, I had Kingfisher from India and Nancy had Kirin Ichiban from Japan. The Kingfisher was quite similar to the Singha, just a little milder. The Kirin was actually quite similar to Heineken or Beck's, with a good bite of hops and a slightly acidic flavor -- fairly light on the malt, and nothing I would go out of my way to try.
My final beer was San Miguel from the Philippines, which was pretty much a straight-up lager. It was well-balanced and fairly refreshing, with no off tastes.
Other beers on the menu included Tsingtao from China and Sapparo Reserve from Japan, which are available in Maine; Kirin Light, which I would reject because of my aversion to light beers; Tiger from Singapore; and three beers from Hitachino Nest in Japan: White Ale, Red Rice and Classic Japanese White Ale.
If I had it to do over again, I would drink the Hitachino beers, which actually rate quite well on various websites. Something to remember for next time.
WE DID NOT get a chance to drink much beer off the ship, either.
While making a plane change at Heathrow in London, I ordered a London Pride because it was the only obviously British beer on the menu.
It came in a half-liter bottle and was made by Fuller's, one of the larger English breweries whose brands are widely available in the United States. I don't think I have had London Pride before, however.
This beer looked like a pale ale but tasted like a brown, with a strong malty flavor and a creamy texture. I could drink a lot of this one.
In Cartagena, Spain, while most of our tour group was hanging out at a gift shop, I bought an Estrella Levante, which our guide said was pronounced "lev-ahn-tay."
Estrella Damm is widely available in Maine, and I like it OK. The Levante seemed quite similar to me, and our guide said that "levante" simply meant that it was an Estrella brewed in the western part of Spain rather than the east.
Tom Atwell is a freelance writer who lives in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at: