Sunday, March 17, 2013

How mushrooming microbreweries are taking beer guzzlers to a new high

How mushrooming microbreweries are taking beer guzzlers to a new high
Microbreweries are springing up all over country. Gurgaon was the first off the blocks, Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai are fast catching up.
Microbreweries are springing up all over country. Gurgaon was the first off the blocks, Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai are fast catching up.


Indians aren't exactly beer guzzlers—they like their hard liquor more. And the frothy brew they drink is mostly the staid, lager variety that is consumed sometimes a few months after bottling. While this hardly mattered to the novices, bon vivants—especially those who tasted the full-bodied beer on offer at microbreweries abroad—were left yearning for freshly brewed stuff. A few decided to take matters into their hands, and set up their own microbreweries here in India.

"People are well-travelled today. They know their beers, and they know what a good microbrewery offers as well," said Arvind Raju, sitting at his two-year old microbrewery , The Biere Club, located in Bangalore's trendy Lavelle Road.

"We aren't competing with the mass-beer producers, but we do feel that we are offering a superior product." The 30-year-old and a few other entrepreneurs across the country are in the process of transforming the average Indian beer drinker into a connoisseur of fine draughts. Weaned on international brews, and armed with business chutzpah, these 20- and 30-somethings are crafting a range of new flavours onpremise and serving them in settings starkly different from the smoke-filled pubs of the 1990s. And they obviously see a huge money spinner in the works. Microbreweries are springing up all over the country. While Gurgaon was the first off the blocks, Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai are now fast catching up.

According to industry estimates, the market for such finely crafted beers currently ranges between Rs75 crore to Rs 125 crore. "Beer clubs and microbreweries are expected to expand their reach and even target second- and third-tier cities all over India... premium and handcrafted beer have strong potential for growth," stated a report by global market research company Euromonitor.

At the microbeweries, which cost about Rs 6 crore on average to set up, it takes about seven hours to brew each variety of beer using imported ingredients. "It's a bit like how restaurants conceptualised the open kitchen format. So, if you liked seeing how your food was being prepared , why wouldn't you like seeing how your beer's being brewed?" reasoned Raju.

But there are hurdles. With liquor being a state subject, microbrewery operators have to obtain a separate licence from the excise department—an arduous task to say the least. To make matters worse, there are only a handful of states—Haryana , Karnataka and Maharashtra—that give out microbrewery licences.

"Getting a microbrewery license is a time-consuming task, because it is a licence that not only has to allow you to brew beers, but also sell them on your premises," said Gaurav Sikka of Arbor Brewing Co. Separately, getting people to recognise and appreciate their brews is a challenge as well. India, while one of the largest liquor markets in the world, has a tiny beer drinking population which has largely been brought up on a liquid diet of mass-produced lagers.

"Before going to study at the University of Michigan, I hadn't tasted anything like craft beer. I had never had anything like ale, never seen a black beer or an orange beer. Tasting something so full-flavoured left a lasting impression on me," Sikka said.

The 28-year-old is the first in the country to bring an existing micro-brewery—Michigan , Ann Arbor-based Arbor Brewing Co—to Bangalore. After returning to India in 2009, Sikka got in touch with Matt and Rene Greff, the owners of Arbor Brewing, where he discovered his love for craft beers, for a possible partnership.

"We never thought about exploring India as a market. But Gaurav invited us to check out the scene in Bangalore... We've realised that he is sitting at the cusp of what is going to be an incredibly dynamic renaissance of brewing and restaurants in India," said Matt Greff.

Sikka has invested close to $1 million in his microbrewery, partly with his own funds, and the rest from family and friends. The Greffs, who get a licencing and consultancy fee and own a small equity stake in the venture, have also completely immersed themselves in the operations of the microbrewery . Though it may be early days, Arun George of Toit Brewpub is already looking to compete with the best.

"We're planning to enter some of our brews in competitions across Asia for starters. It's a way of benchmarking ourselves against the best. We have good brews and it's time to match ourselves against the competition around us," he said.

Source : BISWARUP GOOPTU,ET BUREAU 
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