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Microbreweries take Puneites on a ‘crafty’ high

City’s brewmeisters talk about the new culture of being poured out of a beer dispenser

pune Updated: Aug 12, 2018 17:29 IST
Roopesh Raj
Roopesh Raj
Hindustan Times, Pune
pune,maharastra,craft beers
Moonshine Meadery has 330ml-bottles with 6 per cent alcohol content available at 160 retail outlets and restaurants in Pune and Mumbai. (Sanket Wankhade/HT PHOTO)

The Pune beer industry is going through a carefully crafted toss-up. Industrialists, young entrepreneurs and experienced professionals all spout the vibe and lingua franca of a new culture being poured out of a five-tap beer dispenser – craft beer brews – at a press meet this past week.

Four of Pune’s brewmeisters share why they believe their crafted beers have what it takes to tickle the discerning Pune taste buds enough to positively alter the beer drinking experience in the city.

The reality of the market place is more ‘phew!’ than ‘brew’ for the craft beers, however.

Manu Gulati, the owner of the Effingut brand of restaurants and brewer of Dry Stout and Hefeweizen craft beers, among others, corrects our “93 per cent to seven per cent” estimation of the beer brands-to-craft beer market share in Pune.

“Our market share is less than one per cent,” says the businessman who comes from the family that owned and ran Maharashtra Glass before it was sold to Saint Gobain.

Pune’s beer consumption is sizeable and the beer giants’ craft is all about ensuring the guzzling stays on a growth scale. “Pune is in the top 10 beer consuming cities,” says Gupreet Singh, assistant vice- president, marketing, UB group.

Under the UB umbrella sits brands, like Kingfisher (six sub-brands including draught), Heineken and London Pilsner, among others.

Kartikeya Sharma, marketing director, ABInBev, India, the makers of Budweiser, says, “Pune is one of the key urban centres for us in India and we will continue to focus on the city going forward.”

India is one of three fastest growing markets in the world for Budweiser, ABInBev claims.

That is what the craft brewers are up in against, real time, in the beer consuming market.

Interestingly, Sharma uses the word ‘brew’ in an email to HT. “We believe that our brew is best enjoyed in high energy occasions, and Pune is of course a city full of similar gatherings,” his quote says.

That is perhaps an indicator of the fledgling recognition Pune craft beer is getting from the beer biggies, because the word ‘brew’ is used liberally at the press meet where the five craft beer brands announce a craft beer festival to be held on Sunday in Mundhwa.

That craft-beer brewers with less than one per cent of the market share are willing to push hard to add a new dimension to Pune’s beer drinking culture, is perhaps prompted by success craft brewers in India’s pub (but not beer consumption) capital have had – Bengaluru.

Toit is one of the top three craft beers in India by sales and will be available in Pune this year. Toit began in 2011 in Bengaluru and by 2017 was available in Mumbai. “We currently sell more than 1,000 litres of beer every day, and this is bound to only go up as more places start serving Toit beer. We are a self-owned and operated brand at the moment, and it will be the same in Pune as well,” says Arun George, director and co-founder, Toit.

Globally, in alcohol markets that have allowed the craft beer industry to mature, 18 per cent of market share is what the craft brewers can claim, as per Manu Gulati.

At this point in time it is important to note that beer moves away from being the ‘chilled glass with minimum head (froth at the top)’, to types or styles, as Gulati, who spent two months in Newcastle, UK, at a brewing school there learning the trade, explains.

There are lagers, ales, bitters, pilsners, and then, well, there are a dozen more and then, well, there are meads.

For now, though, if you are ready to dramatically alter your taste and understanding of what a beer is and why a microbrew is worth a try, head to the Balkrishna Lawns, Mundhwa on Sunday, August 12, noon onwards. Plenty of food and ‘live’ music will attempt to lift the family event to a picnic-on-the-greens meets soft-rock music fest.

Pune’s micro brewers are currently brewing between 5,000 and 20,000 litres a month; but for this ‘brew out’, all the hand-crafted ale of five microbrewies will be on tap, looking to proselytise the urban beer drinking populace of Pune.

How much beer does Kingfisher and Budweiser manufacture in a single day? They will not tell us, but the craft brewers estimate, “lakhs of litres of beer”.

Pretty Effingut, this micro brewery

On August 2, the Koregaon Park Maratha Morcha shut down business establishments in the area which leaves Effingut’s Manu Gulati free-er to walk us through his on-site brewing process.

“Think of chefs, artists… that is what a craft brewer is,” Gulati says, as he, with equal parts passion and business acumen, draws out the top-of-the-table understanding of Effingut’s brew house, housed within the restaurant at the very end of lane no 6.

Quality of ingredients is not in question at Gulati’s operation. “We have a full-fledged laboratory,” he claims, to ensure his yeast yields are top of the game. That is all the lab does, because the rest of the process is au naturel.

The grains are imported, the hops is imported, the yeast is imported and then stored and engendered in the lab, even the water used locally, is “treated with minerals to ensure taste of a particular brew is ensured”, says Gulati, adding, “Water is 95 per cent of beer.”

Gulati’s chief brewer man-manages the whole process ensuring, and we quote, “gravity levels for sugar extraction; CO2 release post fermentation; and of course that the “magic of the brew-specific recipe” is adhered to.

The process is sacrosanct, the creativity, free flowing. “I woke up one morning and decided to create a kokum-flavoured beer brew,” muses Gulati, walking between the several large tanks set up at the far end of the restaurant, all inter-connected for water and yeast and some fruit, spice or flavour, to brew into a beer delicacy.

Rs 245 for 330 ml is what an Effingut brew, on average, costs. “It is a grain-to-glass business proposition for us,” says Gulati, with three Effingut outlets in Pune and one in Mumbai. “We do have an all-India plan,” he adds. And it has craft beer at the core of it? “Yes”, says Gulati.

Honey, is that strong enough?

Manu Misra, who goes by the official designation of ‘chief whip’ for Moonshine Meadery, has much knowledge and a well-manicured pitch that comes from his years in the trenches as management consultant and a lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, UK.

Misra joined the two ‘overlords’, yes, official designations, Nitin Vishwas (business development) and Rohan Rehani (production) in 2016, in an operation that today bills itself as Asia’s first and India’s only meadery.

“Mead comes from the word madh, which is honey. We brew an alcoholic beverage by fermenting honey with various fruits and spices. In taste, it’s semi-dry,” explains Misra, clarifying that a mead is neither a beer nor a wine.

“Due to natural sugars fermenting, our mead can be termed as semi-dry. The honey adds a layer of floral complexity to the taste,” waxes Misra.

Co-founder Rohan Rehani did his time in the US studying the mead brewing process and came back to Pune to get his friend Vishwas to lay out the design plan for the meadery.

Today, Moonshine Meadery has 330ml-bottles with 6 per cent alcohol content available at 160 retail outlets and restaurants in Pune and Mumbai.

Moonshine Meadery also went through the process of creating the F&B category for itself under the excise department – meads now come under fruit wines.

First Published: Aug 12, 2018 17:28 IST