Meet The Man Behind Bombay Duck Brewing That Pioneerd India's Craft Beer Revolution
Men & Women of the Year 2022: Abhishek Chinchalkar

The man behind Bombay Duck Brewing and part of the community that pioneered India’s craft beer revolution tells us why he is in no hurry to grow and wants to invest in educating people instead.

Most students travelling to the US to study, aspire to become university toppers. Except for Abhishek Chinchalkar — often referred to as ‘Chinsi’ in the F&B community — who thought it would be a better idea to become a brewer instead. After spending a part of his twenties working corporate jobs, he decided to open a brewery back home in India along with his college buddies from the University of Michigan.


Today, that has shaped into Bombay Duck Brewing (BDB), which has a presence at various F&B outlets in Mumbai and Pune, including top restaurants like, Woodside Inn and The Bombay Canteen, among other taprooms. How did a simple home brewer become a leading voice in the country’s craft beer revolution? It started a decade ago, when Chinsi moved to Dallas, Texas, for work, after graduating in the middle of the recession in 2008. A comprehensible home-brewing kit kindled his interest in craft beer, and after brewing his first batch in 2012, he turned into a home brewer with bigger ambitions. “I am mostly self-taught. I joined a group of home brewers in Dallas, who would meet once a month and learned more about the process,” he remembers, adding that many from that crop, went on to set up their own breweries, which gave further impetus to Chinsi to do the same.



In another couple of years, brands like Doolally and Barking Deer had set up breweries in Mumbai, making moving back to India more compelling. When he finally did return in 2015, Chinsi had a plan in place. “These brewpubs reinforced my conviction in a brewing company. I reached out to my old roommates and got it off the ground in 2016, after assigning roles to each of us. We’ve been proudly self-funded because we’re determined to do things our way,” he shares.


Chinsi and his partners, Harshit Thakkar and Sohil Shah, have spent somewhere in the range of Rs 2 to Rs 4 crore since they started, building BDB up as one of the most recognised craft breweries in Mumbai and Pune, the latter of which is considered one of the birthplaces of the craft beer movement in the country. Back in 2017 and ’18, when the team was still working on the equipment and space, they had their first brush with the complicated Indian excise system. Team BDB’s initial budgets were only going to last them a few months, but the licence process took forever, and the company which was set up in 2016, was able to make their first batch only in November 2019. This in turn, made them pivot to batch brews, which was a wiser option for a self-funded company like theirs.


“When we finally got our licence, we decided to get into the batch-brewing model. We wanted to get the brand out and contract manufacturing seemed like a good option. There was a lot of learning with that model,” he says, adding, “November 2022 marked the first full year of operations for us. We’ve seen the beer industry grow and it’s not just because of revenge spending. People genuinely missed the social aspect of having a beer with each other.”



In general, too, this year has been phenomenal for Chinsi and his team. Just last month, they released India’s first black rice stout, Paint It Black, made with Krishna Sal black rice, an indigenous cultivar prevalent in Maharashtra and Gujarat. The malty brew boasts notes of coffee, caramel, baked chocolate and toasted bread, and was part of their Slow Flow beer series that they piloted in association with OOO Farms and Chef Thomas Zacharias’ publishing project, The Locavore.


The collaboration, Chinsi says, has got him looking at rice in a new light, and the entrepreneur is excited to be experimenting with fermentation techniques. “The idea always was to champion local ingredients. Working on heirloom rice varietals and shining the light on them has been quite exciting. The way we look at rice in Asia is different from the West. I want to explore how koji can be used with rice, for example,” he tells us, with palpable excitement in his voice.


Some of the offerings by BDB include the simple and crisp Rice and Shine, a beer made using local Ratna rice; Bombae Lager, which attempts to showcase “what flavourful lager beer can taste like;” Amber Ale (earlier called Prohibition Amber Ale, but the company had to drop Prohibition because excise rules didn’t allow it); and a Passion Fruit Sour Ale worth sipping on.


Going forward, the idea is to make more collaborative beers and expand the portfolio. “We’ll have four-five flagship beers and aim to release one special beer every month or two. We will also tap into more restaurants and are looking forward to piloting outside Mumbai,” Chinsi reveals, adding that craft beer festivals and new restaurant and brewpub launches throughout 2022 have enthused brewers further.


“There is a collaborative spirit that exists in the industry and there are no boundaries as such. That helped us get off the ground. We’re carrying forward the same legacy by helping smaller brands that need any brewing help from us,” he opines on the current state of the beer industry, labelling it “a**hole-free.” Next steps for him entails realising the company’s dream project — a brewpub and guided tours of their brewery located at Kharsundi, which is a 2.5 hour-drive away from Mumbai. With all that said, this trailblazer is in no tearing hurry to make things. “We’re not too keen on growing quickly because would like to educate the audience more. Only then will they be able to appreciate our labour of love.”


Images: Bombay Duck Brewing

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