Lots of my readers are surprised to find out that, with certain foods, I recommend beer over wine. Let's face it, Pinot Grigio just isn't the ticket with a burrito, nor is Merlot the right beverage for Buffalo wings. As a rule, the spicier the cuisine, the more I tend to steer toward beer as a wash-down. Thai stir-fry, Indian Tandoori, Caribbean jerk chicken, and even pizza all cry out for beer like a 1-year-old screaming for a teething ring.
Some of the best beers to use with food are India Pale Ales. I love IPAs for their clean, crisp taste and refreshing, highly hopped finish. The English invented this style in the 19th century for shipment to thirsty colonials in British India. The extra dose of hops was designed to preserve the beer on its long sea voyage to the torrid tropics.
After being forgotten for several decades, IPAs are now widely available again, the style having been resuscitated by the craft-brew movement that gained momentum during the 1970s and '80s. Nowadays, there's hardly a craft-brewery around that doesn't stash an India Pale Ale somewhere in its portfolio, either as a summer seasonal or as a year-round offering. What follows are three of the more widely available IPAs, but don't forget to ask your local brewpubs about their own version.
PYRAMID IPA ($7 Per Six-Pack)
For beer aficionados who are into statistics, one of the most significant numerical indicators of a beer's taste is how high or low it rates in IBUs: International Bitterness Units. You'd have to be Mr. Wizard to understand the actual measuring process, which has something to do with "isomerized alpha-acid content," but suffice it to say that the higher the number, the more bitter the brew. Pyramid's IPA rates a puckery 67 on the IBU scale, which qualifies it as a beer for true hop heads.