Indian connection! Craft beer made from Kerala Matta rice gains popularity in UK

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Updated: November 29, 2019 7:34:00 AM

Restaurateur-turned-brewer Vivek Pillai started by making Indian speciality beer using Belgian techniques for the brand name of The Blonde and the Premium Black, which were well received by his customers

An advertisement of the beer on display in the United KingdomAn advertisement of the beer on display in the United Kingdom

A lager made from an Indian variety of rice grown in the Western Ghats and named ‘Komban’, the name for a majestic tusker in Malayalam, is gaining popularity in the UK market.

“Made using Kerala Matta rice, considered a royal food by Chera kingdom, Komban Indian Lager has a smooth refreshing crispy finish, making it a fantastic way to wash down a curry,” said Vivek Pillai, a restaurateur-turned-brewer.

Pillai started by making Indian speciality beer using Belgian techniques for the brand name of The Blonde and the Premium Black, which were well received by his customers.

“I own a small South Indian restaurant mainly serving Kerala cuisine and I noticed that our customer base, which was predominantly British, enjoyed alcoholic beverages with their meals. The customers always asked if we served any authentic beverages from Kerala. After a lot of research online, I came to the conclusion that there was a gap in the market for an Indian craft beer. This set the ball rolling towards the creation of Komban,” he said.

Pillai, who is also the managing director of the Cochin Heritage, was an investment banker before starting his own restaurant.

He narrated that his wife helped him with the name ‘Komban’ as she thought a tusker is a strong and royal animal that is synonymous to Kerala. “A great tusker is a symbol of power. This name would do justice to the beer we wanted to create, just as royal and majestic as the Komban,” he added.

“The first two varieties didn’t have Matta rice. It was to test the market. But, I wanted to create a beer that could be proudly presented as authentic to Kerala. I had few ingredients in mind, but it has to work with our recipe. After discussing with the team, it was decided that Palakkadan Matta Rice will be the best ingredient that would work well with the present variety. I got the rice when I visited Kerala,” he said.

Reports said that Palakkadan Matta rice was the choice of the royal families of Chola and Chera dynasties of India. The rice is mentioned in Tamil classics such as Thirukkural. Pillai said demand is picking up and he is currently distributing the beer to other Indian restaurants in London. The unique beer is also receiving interests from all around the globe.

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