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Gurugram microbreweries are breaking stereotypes, serving more than a strong brew

From turning the interior into a college campus to giving it a carnivalesque feel, microbreweries in Gurugram are pulling out all the stops to woo city’s beer lovers in an increasingly competitive atmosphere.

more lifestyle Updated: Feb 21, 2019 16:53 IST
Kankana Roy Jain
Kankana Roy Jain
Hindustan Times, Gurugram
Gurugram microbrewery,Gurugram,Brew
7 Degrees Brauhaus, a brewery in Gurugram, has Bavarian flags, cups and magnets as a part of its interiors. It recreates a German beer garden. (Yogendra Kumar/ HT Photo)

Microbreweries in the city are taking the trade much beyond beer. With microbreweries mushrooming across the city, their owners find themselves caught in race to stand out. These breweries are increasingly opting for innovative interior design to stay ahead of the curve. From turning the interior into a college campus with laboratory, hostel rooms, library and parking lot, to giving it acarnivalesque feel with colourful carousels and clowns, to transporting one to the colonial era with Victorian style architecture, breweries in the city are pulling out all the stops to be the best outlet in town.

In 2009, when the concept of microbreweries was first introduced in the city, the story was mostly about producing freshly brewed beer. As of today, according to the figures of the excise department, there are 52 microbreweries operating in Gurugram. The number was just about 15 in 2016. And, this year, there are at least 20 more that are expected to come up. While there has been a steep rise in the number of players in the brewing business, a few have shut shop in the face of competition.

The last two years have seen microbreweries giving importance to design of the space and the interiors. Take the case of a 16,000-square-foot brewery on Golf Course Road, Carnival. A kaleidoscopic central bar resembling a giant carousel, ropeway carriages on iron tracks slowly circling the space, a ceiling with colourful string lights, life-sized clown posters, ticket booths and vibrant circus tents mark the space.

Owner Anshul Aggarwal said that the point of turning the brewery into this carnivalesque place is simple — breaking the stereotype that breweries need to be an adult entertainment destination only. “The idea was to turn the brewery into a space where one would come not just for a mug of fresh beer, but also to unwind with family and kids. It is designed to be a place where one can play, dance, run or just walk around and have conversations in an atmosphere that spells fun.” Aggarwal’s theme and choice of interiors were also based on the demographics of the audience to whom he wanted to cater. “Golf Course residents are educated, well exposed and travel frequently. They are looking for distinctive experiences,” he said.

A 16,000-square-foot brewery on Golf Course Road, Carnival, has a carnivalesque vibe. (Yogendra Kumar/ HT Photo)

Abhiroop Mukhopadhya, professor of economics, Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi, explains the economic considerations behind the trend of customising experiences for consumers. He said, “When it comes to microbreweries, owners are not just competing on the price, but also on the brand image. What’s operational here is the experience you can offer to a consumer that, in turn, helps in building a brand. You have to use all the instruments you have to woo them. The design and the overall experience of your property are those pivotal instruments.”

Sector 29 in Gurugram is an area that has over 25 breweries on a stretch of barely two kilometres. While till two years ago, there were seven or eight breweries in the area, at present, one can spot a brewery wherever one turns. Inderjit Singh Banga is the owner and promoter of Prankster in Sector 29. It is a 10,000-square-foot brewery designed to resemble a college campus and divided into eight distinct divisions — classrooms, library, canteen, parking lot, laboratory, hostel rooms, lovers’ point and an amphitheatre. The attention to detail is meticulous — from crackly old bunk beds in hostel rooms to taps on every table in the laboratory section serving water to cobbled stone benches in the amphitheatre.

Banga says he was able put his finger right on the pulse of the audience by turning his brewery into a space that will take people down the memory lane. Gurugram is a place where people from different cities come to work, leaving behind families, friends, college life etc. As such, a place that evokes the nostalgia of college days becomes an experience for consumers. Banga said, “When we opened Prankster two years ago, we took nine months to conceptualise and build this space. This is way longer than what it usually takes to put together a brewery.” According to Banga, he wanted to have fun and memories written all over this place. He said, “To mark position, stand out and retain consumers, one has to have a competent product right from the beginning — one that won’t jade or wear out in six months.”

With the microbrewery boom in the Millennium City, customers are spoilt for choice, and it becomes a case of survival of the fittest. Deputy excise and taxation commissioner HC Dahiya said, “The competition among microbreweries in the city is severe, especially in areas with high density of breweries. Rents are high and profits are not as much as they are in a monopolistic market.” Excise inspector Somdutt added, “There are more than 20 more set to come up in this year. But last year, four microbreweries closed due to a variety of reasons.”

At Prankster, the attention to detail is meticulous. It is a place that evokes the nostalgia of college days. (Yogendra Kumar/ HT Photo)

Beyond a good brew, more and more microbreweries in the city are opting to create memories, experiences and emotion-evoking spaces. Design is emerging as an identity marker for the property, and owners spend months in research to find an engaging concept. Abhigyan Neogi, who has designed both Prankster and Carnival, said that audience preferences and characterisation are the driving forces. “The design that will work for a brewery in South Point Mall on Golf Course Road that attracts more families may not work at a place, such as Sector 29 or the Cyberhub, which attracts college students and young professionals.

Tribhuvan Yadav, owner of The Clock Tower, a brewery on Golf Course Road said, “The Clock Tower is a stand-alone brewery, which pays homage to the old colonial era schools nestled in mountains. It is about going back to the days of English grandeur and discipline. It tells a story. I am a Sherwood student myself and I know how much the hostel kids want to relive those good old days.”

The marriage of emotions and economics builds interest in this three-storey pinewood, stone and brick brewery. The Victorian era architecture seems to tell a story, while brick-and-stone walls, large green boards, uniforms of Mayo, Welhams, Doon and Sherwood in glass cupboards, low-hanging lampshades and walls dedicated to cartoons of the 60s and 70s evoke nostalgia and enable people to connect with the place.

“The most popular product in the market is experience. People want a unique experience. It is the experience that makes people choose the roadside tea in a chipped glass or a ‘matka’ over a disposable glass, which is clearly the more hygienic choice. In the market of breweries, which is so cut throat, the brands that strike a chord with the customers will be the ones that stand out,” Mukhopadhya said. It is probably this race of brands that makes a brewery like Prankster strum out Hindi music from the 80s and 90s or a Clock Tower play strictly English music from the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties.

Prankster in Sector 29 is a 10,000-square-foot brewery designed to resemble a college campus and divided into eight distinct divisions — classrooms, library, canteen, parking lot, laboratory, hostel rooms, lovers’ point and an amphitheatre. (Yogendra Kumar/ HT Photo)

7 Degrees Brauhaus, another Brewery on Golf Course Road, has Bavarian flags, cups and magnets as a part of its interiors. The brewery recreates a German beer garden. The interior space has been turned into a sunlit al-fresco setting with artificial trees and easy-to-spot beer barrels and pipes running across the space.

Vasul Chauhan, a brand consultant, said, “It’s not easy to be in the microbrewery business. Competition is stiff. With our interiors and brews, we offer an authentic German experience to the degrees, the Germans believe, is the ideal temperature at which beer should be served.” Chauhan also said that Brauhaus is the only brewery in the country where a German ambassador comes to inaugurate the Oktoberfest — Germany’s world famous autumn festival. He said that it is the authenticity of their interiors and product that becomes the brand marker and differentiator.

Shamsher Singh, the man who opened the first microbrewery in the city, Rockman’s Beer Island, in 2010 and shut it in 2016, too addressed the cut-throat competition in the microbrewery segment. Singh said, “The last two years have seen a rapid rise in the number of microbreweries, especially the ones with cost-effective alternative machines and barrels. This has made the competition tough. A mug of beer is available at as low as 99 in many microbreweries.”

He blamed the large number of players and steep downward price curve as the reasons that make survival difficult for the breweries that use authentic and costlier German machines and processes. Beer from such places can never be priced so low. Last year in September, the Delhi government decided to allow micro breweries in the Capital. This is an indicator that the competition is going to get even stiffer and that microbreweries will have to innovate, shock and stir emotions for their customers even more to stay relevant.

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First Published: Feb 21, 2019 16:53 IST