With the country fast developing a taste for freshly crafted beer, tipplers are ushering in the new year not out of chilled bottles and cans, but from taps of microbreweries. As per rough estimates, close to 100 microbreweries have sprung up across the country in the past few years, doling out freshly crafted beer to enthusiasts, and creating a new market for start-ups and global companies to consider setting up their microbreweries in India.
Many of the established brands are also considering expansion programmes in India and are talking to Indian microbrewers for potential partnerships.
Says AS Lazar, director, Mango Brewing Company, which offers consulting for setting up microbreweries in the country, besides running a chain of such units in Pune, “Craft beer brands from the US and Germany, such as Brooklyn, Dogfish Head, Schneider and Paulaner, could be some of the companies looking at India. Some of the them are already talking to companies in India for partnerships. Unlike Indian companies, which mostly run about a couple of microbreweries, these global companies have a chain of such establishments spread across countries and operating on a larger scale.” In Germany, around 80% of the beer consumed is craft beer, while in the US, it is around 40%, with about 2,000 microbreweries.
However, the path to microbreweries has not been easy in India. Suketu Talekar, co-founder of Doolally, a microbrewery in Pune, had to wage a prolonged battle with the Maharashtra government to tweak its liquor policy and let him operate his unit.
Thanks to the efforts of entrepreneurs like him, Maharashtra was the first state to come up with a microbrewery policy, followed by Karnataka, Haryana, Goa, Punjab, Kerala and West Bengal.
Mizoram, Jharkhand and Rajasthan are now in the process of framing their microbrewing policies. “The state governments are now understanding this concept and accepting it,” Lazar adds.
While Maharashtra was the first to have a new liquor policy in place, Karnataka is taking the lead in terms of the number.
The pub capital of India, Bangalore, is at the forefront with 18 microbreweries, followed by Gurgaon at 17 and Pune at seven, says Lazar. “Mumbai is getting its share of microbreweries too, with two existing and three more coming up,” he adds.
Seed fund investor Mahesh Murthy, who was one of the investors to fund Doolally in Pune, is pushing for expansion of the brand across the country. “We had people from Mumbai driving down to Pune just to experience the freshly crafted beer. I was then convinced that there is a big market for such beer,” Murthy says. He pushed the Doolally founders to expand their microbrewery into Mumbai, which took the brand to Bandra.
In terms of a microbrewery chain, BrewMaster was the first to set up breweries across Punjab, Delhi and Haryana. The microbrewery already has five in its kitty, which it plans to expand now through the franchise route.
Lazar himself is all set to open his second brewery at his restaurant, Smokies, at Pub Town, in Ishanya Mall, Pune. His brand Deccan Brewing is already running at his restaurant Flambos. Deccan Brewing has also entered into a technical and strategic tie-up with Randalls of Guernsey, one of Europe’s oldest brewing companies. Apart from serving his own customers at all the restaurants in Pub Town, Lazar is aiming at supplying fresh beer to customers around Pune and Mumbai in 50-litre to 5-litre kegs.
Another hangout that is becoming popular in Pune is TJ’s BrewWorks, which is a microbrewery brand from Rian Hospitalities set up by TJ Venkateshwaran.