For all the Beer in India

Incredible India!

That’s the tagline for the Indian ad campaign around the world.  And it’s pretty true.

in·cred·i·ble

[in-kreduh-buhl] – adjective 1. so extraordinary as to seem impossible

Now, here’s the thing.  Incredible is one of those words that is generally used in a positive way.  Just like the word Awesome, which we explored with The Awesome Show.

India has many things that are in fact incredible, as we discovered during our mere 11 days there in transit.

Incredible buildings :

The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal. Will really is holding it!!!

 

Incredible garbage :

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 15.49.28

Incredible beaches :

Fort Kochi Beach

Fort Kochi Beach, Kerala

 

Incredible beer :

First of all, you can forget about the reinheitsgebot.  The ingredients in nearly all of the major brands are water, millet/corn/wheat/barley/rice, cornsyrup(!), hops.  So essentially, they just take whatever grains are cheap and available, and sweeten it in the cheapest manner, and voila.  Some of the worst tasting beer ever.  Must be drunk exceptionally cold, so as to hide the taste – although at least the price is something to smile at, coming in at around 85p a pint in a restaurant!  Granted – Czech Republic will do the same, with much better product…Of course, when these Indian brands are found overseas, they up the quality, don’t they? I know UK Kingfisher is a totally different animal at least.

Questionable beer bottle.

Kingfisher…not exceeding 5%??

Next – we have to talk about Kingfisher.  This is singl-ehandedly the most prevalent beer around the country.  And turns out there’s a reason for that.

After arriving in New Dehli and and checking out the Taj Mahal (and getting ripped off by scammy “Tourist Board” people), we got on our express overnight train at Nizamuddin in New Delhi.  We chose 2AC as our class, to avoid the mosquitoes for the 17 hour journey.  This class in set up in sort of square berths with 3 sets of 2 bunk beds, with a window on the fourth side.  We loved the train – especially the two meals and multiple tea breaks that were provided inclusive of the cost!  We were there with two other couples, one of whom had a little boy, whose father turned out to be one of the owners of a brewery! Based in Bangalore, Captain Ravinder Singh and his family were lovely, and we spoke at length about his place, Barleyz, and about how we could potentially do a touring circuit out of there next year.

Indian train food!

Food on an Indian express train!

He told us the story of Kingfisher; of how the owner, Vijay Mallya, is a big time politician in India, who used his political clout to make his brand the most successful in India.  But times are changing, and even in India there is a craft beer movement now!  Ravinder told us of how things are exploding, and how over the next year there would be more than twenty new microbreweries across the country.  This all made for a lovely journey, with shop talk aplenty.

Then –  a week later – we arrived in Fort Kochi, Kerala.  With an 8 hour overnight coach to Goa (never do this – the roads are horrifically bumpy and you will never sleep, as posh as the coach can be), and another overnight train from Goa to Kerala, this time in 3AC, which, despite more people, was equally pleasant (although no free food…), Kerala is way far away from Mumbai.  One night we find ourselves in this dank dark super hot upstairs bar having some Kingfishers (of course).  Down in Kerala alcohol is fairly looked down upon, so finding a drink has to be either pretty grim, or pretty sneaky.  So we are in this bar, and I go to the toilet.  There’s a que, and the fellow in front of me is speaking in an American accent.  Spotting a potential comrade, I ask where he’s from, as you do.  He says California, and asks me what I’m doing there – and of course I mention our beer show.  He gets super excited and invites us over to his table, where there is ANOTHER brewer from Bangalore sitting!

So while the beer can be miserable, it looks like the craft beer thing is really starting to take off in India, which is really amazing.  We hope to go back next year as it was, pretty incredible.

– Trish

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