Grin & Beer It

Homebrewers and the brewing business in India- The Professor

Mumbai, India. Image courtesy community.mis.temple.edu

Written by Nupur Chaudhuri for indianexpress.com

A puree of raisins, reduced over a high flame, an addition of Italian seasoning – oregano, thyme, sage, seven types of grains and a blend of three yeasts. The result: Anuj Mundi’s Belgian Dubbel. Mundi is a Pune-based techie. He works as programme manager at Motorola Mobility. But when he’s not immersed in work, he’s devoted to his passion – brewing beer. His recipes have even been used to brew interesting new beers at the 1st Brewhouse (Doolally on Tap!) at Corinthians, NIBM Road. Since October 2009, Doolally has been serving up handcrafted beers, freshly brewed – from the dark brooding Black Magic Ale which immediately casts its spell from the first gulp to the Bavarian Wheat Beer, with a fruity nose, a delicate bitterness and prominent clove aftertaste. In Mumbai, the Gateway Brewing Company too is on its way to being the gateway to all the different styles of beer.

Handcrafted beer and home brewing is slowly picking up in the country. The Doolally trio – Suketu Talekar, Prateik Chaturvedi and Oliver Schauf – set a new trend in the city – of going beyond industrial beer. “Prateik and I were working in Singapore. We are beer drinkers but we discovered what ‘beer’ really is at Brewerkz, a brew pub in Singapore. It’s the first time we tried crafted beer. We would discuss starting our own brewery over those delicious beers at that brew pub,” Talekar says. They found a third partner in Schauf – “We wanted someone skilled and crazy enough to leave his well-paying job, move to a new country (India) and start something completely new. Oliver was just the man,” he adds. In the last 24 months, they have churned out 30 different beer styles – from American to Belgian to German to British beers. Summer had a mango beer, Monsoon had a Karwanda Cider and when Schauf discovered Bajri Chi Bhakri, a beer with that taste followed.

Brewing one’s own beer gives room for experimentation, say Navin Mittal and Rahul Mehra of Gateway Brewing Company (Mumbai, India). In 2006, Mittal looked at the beer bottle in his hand and wondered aloud about how it’s made. What followed was a lot of research and a short course in beer brewing in the UK. Mittal, who is also the founder-director of Shaadi.com, shifted focus to his new-found passion. “All one needs to brew beer is water, barley malt, hops and yeast,” he says. Mittal’s enthusiasm was infectious and passed on to Mehra. By April-May, the duo will start its own brew pub in Mumbai. “It’s like cooking,” they say. “We’ve played around with cinnamon, cardamom, sugar, rice, corn, oranges, sweet lime, and so on – it’s tastier, healthier and has no additives.”

Mundi can’t agree more. He got hooked on to it in San Diego when he discovered the Home Brewing community there. “The beverage has to be accompanied by good company, food and conversation,” says Mundi who has also brewed with celebrated brewer Tomme Arthur of The Lost Abbey, California. “I’ve learned that any good brewer would never want you to know the alcohol content in it. The strongest beer should be the smoothest,” he adds. His passion for brewing beer takes over the conversation.

A lot many beer drinkers now want to learn how to brew their own beer. “We were even invited to conduct a home-brew session at the beer fest in Mumbai in 2011. All you need is pots and pans – it’s simple,” says Mehra, who has a neat set-up in his room. Cheers to that, we say.