BENGALURU: Naveen Bandekar was never a beer drinker, having found the drink to be too bitter for his liking. That was until a few weekends ago when he came across jamun beer. “I think you can call me a convert now,” laughs the engineer. For someone who strictly avoided beer, the “fruity and refreshing taste” of the jamun beer compelled Bandekar to try some other flavours too during his next outing. And this is exactly why restaurants in Bengaluru are brewing up a storm, says Anudeep Reddy Mudyala. “People tend to think beer is always bitter or carbonated. Flavoured craft beers show that the drink can also be versatile, refreshing, sweet or sour too,” explains the beer ambassador at Byg Brewsky Brewing Co, Hennur, which had launched a vibrant pink-hued kokum beer for the month of May.
Breweries all over Bengaluru (and there are more than 60 now) have been experimenting with smaller batches of seasonal beers with flavours like mango, guava, litchi, jamun, ragi, cucumber, beetroot, strawberries and cream, jackfruit, and rasberry for their craft beer brews. “Experimenting with flavours is the heart and soul of craft breweries. Given the number of breweries in the city, it’s almost like a mandate to experiment now,” Amit Mishra, the brewmaster at The Arena Artisanal Brewkitchen, says, adding that flavoured beers contribute to 15 per cent of their sale.
Agrees Elroy Figueiredo, who despite being a big fan of IPAs (Indian pale ale), still tries at least two new flavoured craft beers every month. “I usually try the latest flavour available before I move on to my regular drink. Aam panna and watermelon are my favourite brews right now,” says the software engineer.
Besides offering seasoned drinkers a new flavour experience, these beers also do a good job in initiating newbies into the beer cult.
Often, the alcohol by volume (ABV) per cent the drink plays a role too. While not all flavoured beers have a low alcoholic content (Scott Kirk’s jamun beer for The Pump House had around 7.3 per cent alcoholic content whereas Byg Brewski Brewing Co’s kokum beer averaged around 4.6 per cent), brewmaster Bhagat Singh Tomar’s Grap Orange brew (made with extract of the fruit) for Levitate Brewery and Kitchen has only 2.5 per cent ABV. “People who don’t have beer often also enjoy this brew and even prefer it to breezers,” explains Girish SV, the director of the brewery, adding, “Thanks to its sweet profile, the beer is almost like a dessert.”
However, consumers aren’t the only party brewers think of during their experiments. At the heart of the craft beer industry is a strong sense of community. “The idea is to think local, drink local. So while the malts, hops and yeast are imported, the brewers still try to incorporate Indian fruits and spices as much as possible to aid the farming society,” explains John Eapen, the founder of a beer blog, Tales Of Froth.
Agrees Mishra, who sources Malgova mangoes from a local mandi. “There are some vendors who source mangoes specially for breweries. They are also surprised that the produce is used in beers, and are excited by the idea of it,” he says.