Lager Than Life
The story of Geist, the pioneer craft beer brand in Bangalore, began in Portland, Oregon, the US, many years ago when co-owner Narayan Manepally wandered into a homebrew store. Before long, he was brewing beer to cater to his friends, who preferred his craft concoction to the ones available in the market. In 2003, co-owner Paul Chowdhury—a half German, half Bengali, full-time hippie and also Manepally’s school mate—came into the picutre and since then they have been brewing craft beer.
“After returning from the US, Paul wanted to do something left of centre and I too had enough of the corporate rat race. Despite being advised against a beer business back then, we joined to form Geist,” says Manepally. The brewmaster took to beer very early. “I remember guzzling down an entire glass of beer while sitting on my father’s lap during a fireworks show when I was all of two,” he proclaims, with a twinkle in his eye. Chowdhury’s experience on the other hand was tamer at the age of 12. But what really inspired him apparently was a trip to Kloster Andechs, a monastery in Germany. “The entire experience of walking up the hill to the monastery which brews beer, the aromas along the hike to the top, the way the beer and food was presented and the happy faces of people drinking the beer is what got me hooked. It was love at first sight,” says Chowdhury.
Well before the launch of Geist, the duo went about experimenting with new tastes and came out with new flavours like Apple Bocq which is a blend of green apple and wheat beer. Geist is now supplied to most five-star hotels, high-end restaurants as well as retail outlets like Spar and Spencers.
Now the proud owners of the hip and happening microbrewery Brewsky, nestled in JP Nagar (and soon to open in Sarjapur Road), have stuck to their desire of creating a culture in the Garden City that they’ve experienced abroad.
Faced with some licensing issues, initially, Geist was brewed in Belgium. Finally, a couple of years ago they managed to get the requisite permission to brew it at home, and a few months ago they started Brewsky. “We treat people with respect, and we’d like them to remember the experience and come back for more. We prefer craft beer because it is fresher than bottled beer. So we’ve taken the concept of craft beer to a whole new level by making it in front of our guests. They can smell the beer being made, see the equipment and effectively have the beers served from the fermenters directly to the glass. It does not get any better than this,” says Manepally of the new brewpub.
Moving their focus to domestically brewed beers, the duo is aiming to convert any restaurant into, effectively, a microbrewery. “When Geist was being brewed and bottled in Belgium originally, the exchange rate allowed for a profit. But now that the profit margins have been wiped out with the falling rupee,” Manepally says.
Once they’ve got the financers on their side, Manepally and Chowdhury will go nationwide with their beer, offering restaurants the opportunity to serve craft beer even if they don’t have an in-house brewery. “Some restaurtant and pubs want to be part of the craft-beer wave but due to financial restraints, they are unable to do so. But with what we hope to do with Geist, is let them buy it and serve it, thereby introducing the concept of craft beer across the playing field. It’s about having Geist beer in any format, kegs, bottles or barrels, that the government allows,” Manepally shares.
When asked about what kept them going when it came to brewing, it was clear that they weren’t going to easily, if ever, let go of this passion. And Manepally, speaking for his partner Chowdhury, says that every morning it wasn’t work that they went to because, “When work is your passion, it ceases to be work. And what we aim to do, and I think we actually have succeeded in doing is to produce world-class beers consistently in the quality and quantity that is being demanded. To offer these beers with great food and in a happy ambience that people can leave smiling and wanting to come back for more.”
All About Craft Beer
A craft brewery makes limited amount of beer. Such breweries are generally characterised by their emphasis on the integrity and quality of ingredients, flavour and brewing technique. The microbrewing movement began in the UK in the 1970s—although a tradition of artisan brewing existed in the UK, Germany and Belgium for numerous centuries—and subsequently spread to other countries.