First, the universe tempted us with lemon meringue pie, and now there’s lemon meringue pie beer? It sounds too good to be true. The delish idea comes courtesy of Brewbot, a brewery in Mumbai, which created this dessert inspired beer by adding fresh vanilla beans from Madagascar, lemon zest and crushed biscuits to the beer while brewing it. The beer is poured with nitrogen, for a nice, creamy mouthfeel, akin to eating a meringue.
India’s craft brewing scene has ballooned — from two brewpubs in 2009 to over 125 across various cities in India. Such is the popularity of these handcrafted beers that the majority of bars and restaurants fit a draught beer system before they install a food processor. With so many brewers, and only so much liver, it’s impossible to sip every beer. To distinguish themselves with flair, breweries are digging deep into the wardrobe of flavour. While there’s nothing wrong with simply flavouring stouts, inventive brewers are creating compelling mash-ups by infusing beers with coffee and chocolate. Flavoured craft beer, it seems, is having its moment right now.
“It’s unique and surprising, the first time you drink a beer like that,” says Nishant Shah, an advertising professional who has been guzzling craft beer with newfound gusto ever since he stumbled upon Kaapi Stout (a beer with crushed coffee beans) at Gateway Brewing Co., Mumbai. “I am a coffee addict, and this beer with subtle hints of coffee just blew me away.” Brewers are not just stuffing coffee into roasty stouts, but also fruit, perfect for an eggy brunch or a boisterous evening. Courageous beer devotees can also enjoy bacon, coriander, tea, grapefruit and mangoinfused beers. Today, there is such an incredible variety that if you think you don’t like beer, you just haven’t found the right one yet.
A large part of craft beer’s appeal is its freshness, since it is brewed in small batches. There is definitely a sense of craftsmanship that goes into each batch. “At Brewbot, the longest we have had to hold a batch, once it’s ready, is about 40 days,” says Anand Morwani, co-founder of Brewbot. “What this means is that the beer our clients experience is really fresh, and some patrons even get to drink it the day the beer is transferred to beer tanks to pour on tap.” Brewbot has eight styles of beer and one cider on tap. It uses only imported malts and the beers are free from artificial sugars or flavourings.
“No one wants to eat the same food every single day, and that is true for everything in our life. So, why settle for a ‘yellow water’ called beer when there is so much more?” stresses Navin Mittal, co-founder and partner, Gateway Brewing Co. The magical flavours craft beers offer are finely tuned, tweaked and aged to give a delicious taste and quality you don’t find in massproduced beers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the shift towards flavour-infused craft beers can be attributed to the burgeoning number of millennial consumers, thirsty for new flavours.
The Indian craft brewing revolution has just begun, and India will be the biggest craft beer market in the world in the next ten years, believes brew master Ishan Grover of Quaff Microbrewery, Gurugram. “At present, only a few states allow microbreweries, but that is changing. States like Maharashtra allow microbreweries to keg their beer and sell to other pubs. When a similar policy is adapted throughout the country, we will be spoilt with choices of craft beer styles.”
To create a craft beer with a sublime flavour is a balancing act. The flavour ingredients (apart from the standard malt, hops, water and yeast) are added at different times during the process — crush and soak stage, during the boil or just prior to cooling. They can also be added during kegging, right before dispatch. Each type of addition produces a different result, but the principle remains the same: extract the goodness of the ingredient. “For the Kaapi Stout, we boil crushed coffee beans in the boil process, and in Guava Ale, we juice guava, pineapple and spices and add them during fermentation,” explains Mittal. Botwork Orange, a popular beer at Brewbot, uses imported bitter and sweet orange peels from Belgium while brewing this style. Locally sourced coriander seeds are also added.
According to Gregory Kroitzsh, owner of The Barking Deer, Mumbai, the beer palate of the Indian consumer is changing. “Craft beer drinkers in the world prefer more bitter and hoppy beers, but the Indian beer drinker has rejected that. Having grown up on Kingfisher, they gravitate towards lagers and pale ales. Craft beer producers here in India have to think differently and keep introducing different styles to expand the palate, as it’s only really begun in India.” In this spirit, Kroitzsh brewed a Paan Masala beer on Republic Day two years ago.
Here are a few highly recommended flavoured craft beers that will help put a bit of extra buzz into your happy hours.
BLACK MAMBA AND BOTWORK ORANGE
Black Mamba is a fullbodied, jet-black beer that comes with a tancoloured head and carries the unmistakable aroma of chocolate, coffee and dark raisins. With the simple addition of oatmeal and nitrogen, the brewmaster has created a delicate softness, like soufflé. Pair it with grilled meats such as lamb, or grilled mushrooms. The pale-yellow Botwork Orange is loaded with coriander notes and zesty orange fruitiness. While it doesn’t smell like oranges, it does have a bright, citrus-heavy character.
KAAPI STOUT AND GUAVA ALE
Gateway Taproom, Mumbai
The Kaapi Stout here is a dark, roasty stout with prominent coffee notes, extracted from single-estate coffee of Indian origin, balanced by sweetness from barley malt. The nitro serving adds smoothness. The Guava Ale is a fruit-forward wheat beer, infused with cold-pressed guava and pineapple along with lemon, rock salt and cayenne pepper. It takes you back to the time when you bought guava on the streets and sprinkled it with salt and pepper.
PAAN BEER AND HONEY LAVENDER BEER
Arbor Brewing Company, Bengaluru
This is probably the world’s first paan or betel-juiceflavoured beer. It’s still a refreshing ale, even if you are not a paan fan. The Honey and Lavender beer here has been making waves on the artisanal beer scene in India. Apart from being tingly thirstquenchers and best buds to ceviche, salads and shellfish, this sweet, citrusy beer, with 8 per cent ABV, is a hit on the alcohol content meter.
The White Owl, Mumbai
This moderate body brew has a distinct mango flavour and a fruity aroma, and is a perfect match for the European staples served here. A penchant for experimenting and surprising their customers also led to one brewed with pumpkin, called Elf. They serve about eight artisanal beers. What’s more, beer enthusiasts in Mumbai can bring craft beer home in handy fivelitre keggers.
BACON AND COFFEE BEER
Luckily, we have a new reason to indulge in a cold brew for breakfast because bacon-flavoured beer exists. The one at Doolally is refreshing, not bland, flavourful yet not too challenging. It’s basically breakfast in a bottle. The coffee beer is zingy and zesty, rounded, sweet and dry. It’s the kind of beer that would make the world seem a better place with a rosy glow, even if it didn’t have alcohol in it.
7 Barrel Brew Pub, Gurugram
No, they are not blaspheming your favourite brew. In fact, Banana Beer here has an incredible mix of flavours, with hints of banana, clove, raisins and caramel. It pairs very well with the Peri Peri chicken tikka tacos and cheesy fries on the menu.
This blonde beauty is the perfect love child of India’s beloved Basmati rice, from which it gets its lightness, colour and floral aroma, and Germany’s Pilsner, from which it gets its sweet and malty character. Despite a richness of flavours that marks this one as almost royal, it is a light, maltoriented craft beer, ideal for easy drinking.
John Eapen is one of the country’s leading brewery consultants, and an expert on craft beer. Here are his favourites.
BETEL JUICE BEER
Arbor Brewing Co, Bengaluru
This refreshing, light- to medium-bodied ale is infused with fresh lemongrass and betel leaf. It is delicately balanced without being too overpowering.
Saisons are traditional farmhouse ales from Belgium, that were meant to be light, fruity and spicy summer ales. This one is refreshing, with cucumber notes and a light sweetness, combined with a mild, tart bitter finish from the hops used.
The Gose style was designed to be a light, refreshing ale made with mixed grains, sea salt, coriander and bacteria to sour the beer. The karvanda fruit is known for its tartness. Adding karvanda and hibiscus to a Gose turned out brilliantly for Doolally.
Gateway Brewing Co., Mumbai
A collaboration between Bombay Canteen and Gateway Brewing Co., this beer is infused with both Earl Grey and Darjeeling teas. It’s unique flavour profile includes orange and citrus, malty sweetness and a bitter, dry finish.