A Birmingham restaurateur became frustrated at the lack of a beer to complement Indian food – so he created his own.
Raj Rana, managing director of Itihaas Group, joined forces with the Lion Heart brewery in Coventry, and the partnership resulted in Sambha IPA.
The craft beer is described as “mildly sweet with subtle hints of malt and fruity notes of citrus and pineapple”.
The beer has been created for Itihaas’s Selfridges restaurant and is being launched there on Sunday, May 31.
Sambha IPA is a bespoke creation specifically designed to be enjoyed with the rich variety of flavours in Indian cuisine.
Mr Rana said: “Really it came out of frustration – frustration that the right product wasn’t there. I just felt the right product didn’t exist in terms of a beer.
“There are a few beers that regard themselves as the beers of choice for Indian food but they are either too gassy or too hoppy.”
He added: “We approached several brewers and it wasn’t an easy decision.
“Others were trying to get us to have an existing product but Lion Heart were prepared to work with us on small batch quantities.
“Developing the brew took nine months and was a joint effort between Lion Heart’s master brewer and my chef.”
Sambha is an IPA or India pale ale, a popular style of beer that emerged in the colonial Subcontinent during the days of the British Raj.
In a nod to more recent history, the ale is named after a 1970s Bollywood movie villain.
He is depicted on the Sambha bottle label in a style which emulates Bollywood film posters of that era.
Mr Rana said: “Sambha was an iconic, carefree villain who always had a beer in his hand while sitting in the sun. So he was the obvious choice for a refreshing beer that’s perfect for summer.”
Mr Rana also feels there is plenty of demand for such a product, particularly in Birmingham.
“I think there is a big movement in Birmingham for craft beer and Birmingham has always been in love with Indian food,” he said.
“All I am doing is marrying the two together. I feel this is not just a craft beer for Indian food but the craft beer for Indian food.”
He added: “I am happy to put the Indian stamp on this as it is as fresh, unique and innovative, as is the food that we serve.
“It is the right beer that goes with Indian food, given all the flavours in Indian cuisine, though I don’t know how it goes with a Sunday roast.
“There hasn’t been a product out there that matches the amount of passion that goes into Indian food - and I’m not just talking about my restaurant but the whole region - we have got some really talented individuals.
“This won’t fail the food by being an inferior beer product, that is not the case any more..
Speaking about his role, Lion Heart’s head brewer Carl Marshall said: “The recipe was developed to complement the rich and spicy aromas of Itihaas’s cuisine. It is dry but fruity, and refreshes the palate while packing real subtlety and depth of flavour.”
Itihaas chefs will dish out Indian cuisine to go with the beer at a special free event to launch the beer at Selfridges.
Mr Rana said it might make some ‘cameo appearances’ at Itihaas’s main restaurant, though only for special occasions.