In the past I automatically placed a bottle of wine on the table when I cooked a curry. I usually serve beer now and have great fun pairing the array of curries I’ve cooked with various beers. Sometimes I even turn a curry dinner party into a tasting event which enables my guests to pick the beer of their choice after sampling a variety lined up for them. That can be great fun and certainly gets the meal off to a great start.

Beer offers so many complex flavours and aromas that go so brilliantly with all things spicy that it really is the obvious choice when serving curry, providing you get the match right and remember that varying levels of heat call for different brews. But when serving a meal of several dishes with different degrees of heat and flavour, an exact matching can be rather difficult. What you are looking for, therefore, is a beer that can embrace a range of spicy dishes. Or conversely you can serve each dish of curry as a separate course with a small tasting glass of matching beer.

Beer guru Rupert Ponsonby, the founder of The Beer Academy, says that when pairing curries with beer, it is usually best to match like with like. He likens beer matching to a marriage. He believes that if in marriage you share few similarities it’s dynamite for a while, yet can go boom; whereas if you are nearly the same and can marvel at the mirror of your own self, it’s just so right. “The same is true of curry,” he said “Contrasting beer and food flavours really excites the palate, but it’s dangerous territory, while the romantic certainty of pairing like with like is seldom wrong.

“I want the beer to put its arm round the food then drift gently away,” he said.

Rupert is one of a handful of people accredited as beer sommeliers. Thanks to The Beer Academy this profession is growing, although you may not find these newly-qualified sommeliers offering you a beer list in your local restaurant yet. You will be more likely to meet them in the capacity of consultant, educator and advisor.

Their aim is to encourage restaurants to give beer more priority on the menu, but Rupert says that convincing British restaurants to take beer seriously is hard going. Even now, only a handful of top restaurants such as Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons and the Michelin-starred Quilon in London offer a good variety. He believes two things hold restaurants back: snobbery and ignorance. Beer appears on menus as an afterthought rather than something to celebrate, yet beer can actually be more food-friendly than wine when it comes to curries.

Think about it: wine calls for just one main ingredient, grapes, whereas brewers can experiment with barley to add sweetness, hops to provide bitterness and yeast to produce that characteristic bready taste and other complex flavours.

Rupert sent me several beers to trial with curry. His suggestion was to serve the Belgian strong blonde ale with one of the most popular dishes on an Indian restaurant menu — chicken or prawn tikka masala — as the complexity and sweet dry spice of the beer enhances the spiciness of the curry. Kingfisher, the authentic Indian lager, goes well too, as its crisp dry flavour cuts through the spiciness of the curry and brings out a sweetness in the prawns or chicken.

A traditional korma, which undergoes a long slow cooking after the meat has been marinated in yoghurt, goes particularly well with Clouded Yellow, an award-winning wheat beer that gets its name from a migrant butterfly found visiting the UK during the summer months. Pale yellow in colour, this beer is bottle-conditioned and comes with citrus overtones which have been delicately flavoured with whole spices and vanilla. Beck’s Blue, brewed under the German Purity law of 1516, using all natural ingredients, is the perfect beer for those who are driving. Once the brewing process is complete, the alcohol is removed to produce a crisp, clean taste at 0.05 per cent abv.

Rogan Josh, another favourite, is made from lamb and is characterised by its garnish of tomato pieces and fresh coriander. It goes well with Sharp’s Doom Bar as the beer’s full-bodied flavour stands up well to the meaty Rogan Josh, while the maltiness takes the edge off the spiciness. The refreshing golden ale, Brains SA Gold, complements the spiciness of this curry, too, with a full-flavoured hoppiness that balances perfectly with this highly-spiced curry.