THE PUN might be old, but there is certainly a revolution brewing in the beer industry. For far too long, we have been served beers with as much character as our politicians. Take any big beer brand and chances are it’s a light lager with little semblance to taste. But don’t worry, as 95% of the world drinks these and finds nothing wrong with them.
Technically speaking, there is nothing wrong with them. Fresh and crisp, they deliver what they promise, which is a lot more than I can say for the state of our politics. But trouble is, there is a tiny percentage, which expects more from their beers. Call it some recessive human gene, which has been a part of us ever since beer was perhaps first made—most likely 9000 BC, though documentation puts it only as far back as 1800 BC—but dates aside, this gene makes us cringe at the idea of a brew that doesn’t carry the taste of the tide of the times it has flown through. In other words, each sip should link us with our ancestors, connecting us to them through a tactile tether, tasting now what they may have then. Commercial lagers aren’t built for this. To truly seep yourself in beer that will envelop you in taste, you need to try the products of a micro brewery.
Bengaluru has a lovely beer culture, so much so that when they call it the ‘Garden City’, I cheekily prefix ‘beer’ to it. Mumbai isn’t too bad either. Mostly because people there generally have a sense of taste and a tasteful sense of how to spend their money. And then there’s Delhi, or rather NCR. This is because Delhi is too primitive to even allow the idea of a micro brewery to thrive. Gurgaon kickstarted things almost a decade ago. Rockman’s arrived on the scene and made very good beer way too early.
For a city which is the butt of jokes for its lack of taste and height of ignorance, pale ales and bocks weren’t going to go down easy. So the plethora of micro breweries that followed named their beers lagers, ales and wits, but it was all rancid frothy ferment in slightly different hues, all of which tasted like soap suds. Any resemblance to a true lager or ale was purely coincidental. And these breweries knew that, for why else would they run full bars replete with whiskies and vodkas? Either way, a culture died—rather murdered—before it was even born.
Thankfully, someone somewhere actually did enjoy a good pint and didn’t run away from incorporating all the myriad hues of a true brew into their offerings. Without naming any breweries (okay, it’s Quaff), there is finally decent beer to be had. An IPA that doesn’t shy away from bitterness and now a limited-batch Saison (French for ‘season’, trust them to fancy up any word!) with hibiscus hints. A lovely quaffable style with spices and florals, I enjoyed the inaugural pint and will surely go back for more, and soon—200 litres is not much. But people who have been frequenting all the micro-plonk bars will never like it, so only more for the rest of us.
This was a collaborative effort between Bangalore Brew Crew, and Quaff and Lagom breweries in Gurgaon, two places that appreciate a good pint in a sea of 20-something where brewers probably sniff glue for aromatic inspiration. The only downside is that the new brew is called Ekta, which is a terrible name for a beer, acceptable only if the saintly Alok Nath were pulling the pints.
Meanwhile, in Delhi, we contend ourselves with average beers. I keep hearing of a pending micro-brewery policy, but from what I can gather, it’ll be prohibitively expensive and brewers will have to stick to insipid beers in order to fill the place up to meet costs. Save for the mercy of imported beers like Erdinger, Paulaner, Hoegaarden and the latest, Hobgoblin, a hearty and lush ruby ale from the UK (recently launched at a rather fun ‘mischief-themed’ party), which we can buy and drink at home, we have little else to comfort ourselves with at the moment.
The writer is a sommelier