• News
  • Columns
  • Interviews
  • BW Communities
  • Events
  • BW TV
  • Subscribe to Print
BW Businessworld

Getting Fresh

Photo Credit :

Even a teetotaller knows how beer tastes — bitter, with a tinge of malt, leaving a bitter aftertaste. But what does beer do to the drinker? It refreshes, and if the drinker so desires, gets him drunk. Pub-brewed beer tastes the same, has the same effect and yet there's a difference. And it's this difference that makes it a connoisseur's delight.

Now sample this: the bottled beer you have at the local bar contains foam stabilisers. And, sometimes you get to consume glycerine unknowingly — courtesy the beer the maverick in you occasionally buys from the highway ‘wine shop' on way from office. If you feel turned off by the idea of partaking of anything other than the four essentials (malt, hops, yeast and water) from which beer is supposed to be made, we would suggest you visit a microbrewery and drink ‘natural'.

Indeed, beer served at a brewpub is natural in the true sense of the word: even the CO2 is not extracted at any stage during the microbrewing process. When it comes to longevity, bottled beer has a shelf life of 8 to 12 months if refrigerated properly and kept away from direct light, or 4 to 6 months at room temperature. On the other hand, pub-brewed beer, since it doesn't contain any preservatives, gets easily oxidised and has an average shelf life of four weeks. As you would expect, microbrew boasts a kosher preparation that adds to its freshness and taste.
We check out three microbreweries across the country to find out more.

Biere Club, Bangalore
Meenakshi Raju and Arvind Raju, siblings, were vacationing in Singapore's ‘Brewers', a famous microbrewery, when an idea stuck; they wondered "why wasn't there a microbrewery in India's beer capital, Bangalore?" They were gung-ho about the idea and came back to India with a whole host of plans. "But we ran into some bureaucracy. It took us two years to convince the government about the concept and get licences to build the microbrewery," says Arvind Raju, director of the Biere Club in Bangalore. After completely reworking and strengthening the structure of an old KPMG office, the brewery was ready.

Aptly titled the Biere Club, it has its own brand under the same moniker and for casual visitors this place is just another pub restau-rant. But go beyond the kitchens you will see this restaurant transform into a brewery.

Inside it is a plethora of activity. Brew master Daniel Wambua from Kenya makes 500 litres of beer every day. The brew house is carefully equipped with fermentation tanks, mashing units and conditioning units. For beer lovers this is a haven of choices, there are ales, lagers, wheat beers and stout. It does not stop here; there are occasional and seasonal brews, which the microbrewery is already working on.

The kitchen serves Mediterranean food, cooked by Shaun Kenworthy, a chef who specialises in gourmet food, from the UK. The promoters have spared no expense and have launched craft brewery in Indian. Craft brewery globally means a small brewer who takes all the time in making the ale and serves it to the local community.

The brewery has caught on well with the local expat community as well. "We come here for the local ale, it reminds us of our time back in Yorkshire," says Ashley Stuart, who works in a local BPO.

Rockman's Beer Island, Gurgaon
Rockman's Beer Island in Gurgaon serves four beer varieties brewed on the premises of the pub. Here, patrons can see the imposing copper mash-and-wort kettles and the stainless steel fermenta-tion/storage casks from which beer is dispen-sed through taps at the pub counter.

Of the three main outlets at Rockman's — Bavarian, Keg & Barrels, and Rockdome — Bavarian is a German-style pub brewery that promises authentic German cuisine. At Bavarian, beer is produced according to the Reinheitsgebot, also called the Bavarian Purity Law, which stipulates that beer be brewed only from four natural ingredients — malt (from barley or wheat), hops, yeast and water. While the first three ingredients are imported from Germany, the fourth is treated at a special plant in Gurgaon. As if that wasn't enough — the monstrous tanks and barrels are supplied by Kaspar Schulz (Bamberg), a three-century-old German manufacturer of brew systems.

Shobhit Kumar, unit head, Rockman's Beer Island, vouches for the beer's kosher preparation: "We don't use preservatives to give a longer shelf life to our beer, nor do we use unnatural CO2. The CO2 the beer contains is naturally produced during fermentation." Sounds good. But how does the beer taste? We tasted all four varieties and here's what we found…

Lager: With an alcohol content of 4.5 per cent, the lager is smooth and leaves an unobtrusive aftertaste of roasted barley.

Lager strong: It has the highest alcohol content (7 per cent) and tastes as smooth. The roasted barley feel is stronger and lingering.

Dark: Containing more hops and 5.3 per cent alcohol, this is a darker and bitter variant.

Wheat beer: The most popular beer at Rockman's is also the smoothest and the tastiest because instead of roasted barley, you now have a sweet, wheaty taste. It's low on alcohol content (only 4 per cent) and high on calories (265 cal/500ml).

Doolally, Pune
Suketu Talekar and Prateik Chaturvedi left their high-profile jobs with P&G in Singapore and started Doolally, Pune's first microbrewery, with a desire to make a beer that would not only taste natural but also proclaim its Indian genesis. It all started at a microbrewery in Singapore which the two friends used to frequent for their daily quota of beer. "The beer we used to have at Brewerkz made us realise what we had in India was not beer in the true sense of the word. It was like a revelation for us," recounts Talekar, an IIM Bangalore graduate, who left his job in 2005. While Talekar was surveying the beer scene in Pune, Chaturvedi, an IIM Calcutta graduate, interned with Brewerkz for three months to observe the process and business of microbrewing for a first-hand feel.

HOME BREWED: (From left) Suketu Talekar, Oliver Schauf and Prateik Chaturvedi at the microbrewery at Pune (BW Pic By Sanjay Sakaria)

Enter Oliver Schauf. Since neither Talekar nor Chaturvedi was a brewmaster, they needed a third partner who would share their vision. Oliver Schauf, a German brewer who was brewing in Greenland and had 15 years of experience in the trade relocated to Pune in April 2009. He advised the team on brew systems and coordinated with the suppliers through emails and chats.

Currently, Doolally serves two staples — a German-style wheat beer and an apple cider. The brewery also offers two or three monthly varieties that could be anything from jaggery beer or pomegranate cider to Schauf's special salted beer. In the past 19 months, 25 unique brews were served here, and some of Schauf's current experiments include a millet-based beer, a passion fruit cider and a beer made from karwanda berries, which are indigenous to Maharashtra.

A pint of Doolally is priced Rs 150, but this doesn't look overly expensive given the price of a glass of industrial beer at a bar, which generally costs about Rs 140. As Talekar says, "Beer is a democratic, blue-collar beverage compared to champagne, wine and scotch so a higher price would only discourage potential customers."

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 08-08-2011)