Recently I came across two new homegrown brews on the local shelf. The first one had a curious name, Yavira, and I had to enquire as to what it meant. I was told it is the original Sanskrit word for beer. For what my research threw up, I could link it to meaning brews but not necessarily a barley-based beer. Nevertheless, won’t split hairs over nuanced definitions.
The second one was BeeYoung and it made me wonder if, like critter labels had become something of a thing with Oz wines, were animal names unravelling a similar story in India? But what’s in a name, for it’s the taste that will eventually make a product memorable.
My first sip of BeeYoung delivered a crisp sip, very lager-y with a gently punchy bitterness on the finish but nothing daunting. The malty taste was definitely pronounced, translating to ripe fruitiness on the midpalate. On the whole, it came across as a wholesome mealy beer but not on lacking for freshness. Yavira, by contrast, was a lot smoother and creamier. It didn’t lack the sour punch but the inclusion of basmati rice definitely added a layer of smoothness that made it a much easier sip. Personally I would go for this with a meal while the other was good for a stand-around mixed kind of a social scene.
What surprised me after tasting both these beers was the back label— they both contain Argentinean malt laced with noble hops, all sourced from the West, mixed up in Himalayan source water and locally brewed up north. But the fact that both were more than 5% in alcohol never once struck me! I did recall feeling a bit buzzed (ah, that’s why the ‘Bee’ reference perhaps?) after the halfway mark but never remarked the alcohol. So technically these would classify as strong beers but didn’t taste like one, more premium lager like in their make up.
And then the last thing I noticed was the packaging—500ml. The size was unusual for a beer in India. Even abroad, few beers dare to change the standard packaging format from 330ml and in India we have the odd 650ml bottle too. But while the 330ml is not bad for one person, it isn’t conducive to sharing and so, on a party day, you need to make enough room in the fridge to accommodate enough of them. The 650ml is an odd divide and if having it by yourself, it goes warm even before you are anywhere near done with it. The 500ml was a cool in-between size that could possibly address both problems and, if I am right, these are the first beers to launch in this size in India.
I think they are onto something here. Abhinav Jindal, the man behind Kimaya, is someone I have known since quite some time and he has spent a considerable amount of time in the beverage space and knows who the consumer is and what she wants. He also understands quality and refinement, being a bit of a dandy himself, so I was pleased to see that he hadn’t just made a beer to flush the market with but a product that he would be happy to serve at his dinner table.
In fact, while conducting a dinner for a select few for a luxury client, I recently used these beers in the mix and they went down extremely well. The only surprise for me was the way the two beers were accepted by the crowd—split almost midway in terms of preference. But that’s the consumer for you—varied. And frankly, that’s a good thing. It allows for variety on our shelves.
I am told that more brew styles are on their way from the Kimaya stable and all of them will propagate the 500ml size. The winds in the industry carried news to me that other more established brands are taking the bait and following suit. Always a good sign, when a start-up takes a chance and then finds the old daddies falling in line.
The writer is a sommelier