Yeast India Company
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Germany for the first time. Every beer enthusiast has two meccas he must visit in his lifetime: Germany and Belgium. I have been involved with German beers for five years, being the sole distributor of Erdinger in Maharashtra and an importer of a German speciality lager called St. Erhard, from a special region of Germany called Bamberg.
Bamberg lies in the heart of Franconia, a region in the north of Bavaria that boasts nearly 300 breweries. Bamberg has the highest concentration of breweries in the world. This is where ancient brewing traditions survive. I visited Bamberg last month to meet the manufacturers of St. Erhard, and, boy, was I blown away. This small town of 100,000 people has a brewery attached to every pub and restaurant. Some beers have recipes and traditions dating back to the 14th century.
The beer that is unique to Bamberg is rauchbier (smoked beer). As the name suggests, the beer has a smoky aroma — the malt made to use it is dry roasted over an open flame. I had to go to the mecca of rauchbiers, Schlenkerla. Established in 1405, this place takes you right back to that era. It has interiors, tables and chairs that look like they are from the 15th century. Most importantly, they use the same brewing techniques and recipes they used back then. No high-end dispense units or kegs here. The rauchbier is served to you straight out of a barrel. You get a smoky, almost bacon-ey, aroma and taste from the beer.
Bamberg is also home to one of the largest and most reputed malt manufacturers in the world, Wayermann. I was fortunate enough to be taken into their test microbrewery, where they make extremely tiny batches of beer. The sweetness of the Wayermann malt in the beer is evident.
Yeast India Company is in the business of importing and marketing good quality craft beers from around the world. Their current portfolio includes Iron Maiden Trooper Beer, Old Tom Strong English Ale, St. Erhard and Erdinger. It also holds beer culture workshops around Mumbai.
I travelled to several places in search of fine spirits before founding The Vault, but my favourite memories are from the Caribbean. In St Lucia, I drank at tiny bars, where I watched cricket matches with the regulars. They told me they liked drinking white rum with coconut water. I discovered Elements Eight, a beautiful rum that not many people outside the Caribbean have tried. The Elements Eight Platinum is a blend of over ten tropically aged rums, making it one of the few artisanal white rums in the world, while the Gold is a full-bodied golden rum with hints of raisin and toasty oak.
In Guadeloupe, in the Leeward Islands, I was fortunate to meet Vittorio Capovilla, a master rum distiller from Europe. He put me in a speed boat and took me to Marie-Galante, a small island where he makes an artisanal rum called RhumRhum at the Bielle distillery. RhumRhum is a rhumagricole, which means it is made from freshly squeezed sugarcane juice rather than molasses. Capovilla has developed a special distillation technique to make this rum. Capovilla also introduced me to a local way of drinking rum in the French Caribbean called Ti’Punch. Apparently, punch is derived from the hindi word paanch, and the name Ti’Punch was coined by Indian immigrants in the Caribbean. In bars everywhere, your choice of rum is served with five other ingredients placed next to it. You can then mix and match these ingredients to make your own cocktail. I drank plenty of Ti’Punch in Martinique too. There, I met Gregory Vernant, a famous rum maker, who introduce me to the very delicate rhumagricole he makes, NeissonL’Esprit.
Drinking rum in Haiti was a surreal experience. When I was there, the country was still recovering from the massive earthquake that hit it in 2010. There were armed United Nations soldiers everywhere, but there was also great rum. The Barban Court distillery was still conducting tours and tastings of their French-oak matured rums. After visiting it, I met Luca Gargano, the flamboyant rum crusader from Genova, who was in Haiti to discover organic rum made by the tribals.
The Vault curates fine spirits from across the world and conducts tasting sessions.