The great beer experience

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Updated: June 17, 2016 8:57 AM

Microbreweries have become the new buzzword allowing beer lovers to experiment with the drink. After successfully running Hops and Grains in Panchkula for five years, Amritanshu, a young entrepreneur who found his calling in microbreweries has opened another in Chandigarh named ‘The Great Bear’ By Saloni Bhatia

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Microbreweries have become the new buzzword allowing beer lovers to experiment with the drink. After successfully running Hops and Grains in Panchkula for five years, Amritanshu, a young entrepreneur who found his calling in microbreweries has opened another in Chandigarh named ‘The Great Bear’ By Saloni Bhatia

The beer culture in India has seen a drastic change in the past seven years with the emergence of microbreweries. People have moved from buying canned beers to enjoying freshly brewed beer served at the place of production. Identifying this growing industry and to follow his dream to open a pub, Amritanshu brought this European concept to to the the country through his own venture. The fifth microbrewery in India at that time, he started Hops and Grains with a seed capital of Rs 2.5 crore. Although the concept came late to the country, it has picked up really well. Amritanshu agrees, “A couple of decades ago, beer was only produced in Europe but then there was mass production of canned beer. The production of beer is an involved and scientific process. People started trying the canned beer but now we can see that the trend has shifted to craft brews and brewpubs in India.”

Beer culture

20160630eh40According to the law, microbreweries in India can only serve beer for sale at the premises. States like Maharashtra and Haryana were the first to make flexible policies and allow the sale of craft beer. These breweries also started serving food at the premises which gave rise to the concept of brewpubs. Amritanshu says, “Only a handful of states give allowance to the concept of microbreweries in their excise policy. But there is a lot of scope in Tier II cities as well.”

Nowadays, people love to travel and keep on exploring new places, be it in India or abroad. Indians are known for their love for food. “So, it is really important for a microbrewery like us to produce quality beer that can supersede their expectations. Also, beer drinkers in India are turning away from mass-produced liquor brands and are opting for the freshly produced and rich flavoured in-house brewed beers,” he adds. Commenting on how the beer culture in India has evolved, he opines, “The only brands sold earlier were Kingfisher and Haywards and that too canned. But the last decade saw people experimenting with craft beer and started realising that it actually tastes better.”

Most of the expansion of microbreweries has happened in the metro cities like Bengaluru, Gurugram and Pune. But, a shift in the trend is seen with the concept of microbrewery getting popular in cities like Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali. “It was difficult for us to start in Panchkula since we were the first ones to open up in the area, but slowly we saw growth in the market. People got to know about us and then we saw a good turnover over the year,” explained Amritanshu.

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Breaking the taste barriers

20160630eh43The name Hops and Grains was derived from the two main ingredients used in the production of beer. It has been successfully running for the past five years. However, The Great Bear is selling on a different proposition, where they have selectively come up with fresh flavours of beer which are original in texture, body and smoothness. The microbrewery produces its own Golden Ale, Weiss (wheat), German Bock, Pilsner, Green Apple Beer and a brewer’s special with each having a distinct taste of its own. Wide choice in the form of domestic and foreign liquor, single malts, all time favourite cocktails, smoothies like Twix and Oreo shakes and imported wines  are also available at the brewpub. Food is an interesting melange of cuisines ranging from Continental to Mediterranean to Italian to exotic Indian fare. Talking about breaking the taste barriers for Indian drinkers, Amritanshu says, “It was very difficult to educate people about the concept of microbrewery. People would always confuse it with a distillery or bottled beer outlet. But once they had tasted the beers, they were converted. Production of beer is also important as good quality of beer needs the right temperature and the right amount of yeast. Specially when it comes to freshly brewed beer, it has to be consumed immediately once served, otherwise it starts losing its taste.”

20160630eh42He adds, “The brewery market in India has a lot of potential and is still growing. There are cities which are completely untapped but have a rising demand coming from the gen-next. I am sure we will soon see an explosion in the sector with more brewpubs. More than just food it is about the experience.”

On the future roadmap, Amritanshu says, “We like to associate our brand with good beer, good food and good ambience. With an annual turnover of Rs 4 crore from just one brewpub, the business is growing on a scale of 20 per cent. We plan to open one in Dehradun soon. We would have 7 – 10 new microbreweries by the end of 2017 and we aim to increase the turnover to Rs 100 crore. The focus will majorly be on Tier II cities which have a penchant for the good life.”

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