One of the best beers that pairs well with spicy foods is Beerlao from Laos, a sparsely populated country in Southeast Asia. For being one of the poorest countries in Asia, they manage to produce upwards of 80,000 cases of beer per day. The Lao did not always have such an affinity for beer, let alone brewing. The Lao Brewery was originally started by the French while they were under colonial rule. Once the communists took over, the Lao took over the brewery. The old French FOOD recipe was thrown out for being too bitter. The current brewmaster, Sivilay Lasachack, studied in Prague and Berlin, stars of Eastern European brewing, to bring Beerlao its distinct flavors and ultimate drinkability.
Beerlao Lager is a pilsner style lager that is great for pairing with spicy foods. The jasmine gives the beer a mild crispness and light body, which makes it refreshing and especially easy to drink when you accidentally bite into a hot chili pepper while having some larb gai (warm chopped chicken salad with cilantro, chilis, and lime) or some Szechuan chicken with real, numb-your-mouth Sichuan peppercorns.
For meatier, heavier comfort food dishes, Beerlao Dark Lager is a rich companion with chocolate and coffee flavors from the dark roasted malt barley. Though much lighter on the palate than you would expect for a lager as dark as a stout, it plays well with the grilled meat dishes like a Thai satay, a Korean bulgogi or any assortment of Vietnamese grilled meats. I have noticed that my guy friends really enjoy the Beerlao Dark Lager for its rich complex flavors as well as its smoothness.
Paleewong Trading has made Beerlao available on the East Coast since 2008. So take the opportunity to enjoy the distinct flavors of these Southeast Asian beers the next time you are out on the town or pick up a few at Udom Corp. on Bayard Street the next time you are in Chinatown.