Beers in India; time to end the lager monopoly

I want my beer and I want it right. But, in India, we do not have much of a selection unless we stay at metros or touristy hubs like Goa.

The history of India’s own beer dates back to the 1820s, when a Brit named Edward Dyer started Asia’s first brewery in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh. Here, he initiated the brewing of IPA or India Pale Ale with Lion and was marked with a punch line ‘as good as back home’. About 80 years later, Mohan Meakin, as the company was known, started making lager and till date we only know lager, may be because lager is the most commonly consumed beer across the world.  Beer itself happened due to Britain’s industrial revolution, otherwise the brewing of beer traces back to 6000 BC in Babylonia and as they say, rest is history.

After years of lager monopoly in India, Indians do have the art of craft beers to explore but only at places like Bangalore, Mumbai, Chandigarh and the tri-city, Gurgaon, etc. Unfortunately, rest of us have to still stick to lager. There are wheat beers, ales and pilsners for the astute drinkers. But, what about bottled and canned beers. Not much of a choice there.

And, even if there is, the supply never fulfills the demand and we have to give in to this economic failing. The reason is primarily not enough produce, but stern quantity production-oriented licensing laws and a society that does not approve booze easily.

My take on some popular beers that rule the Indian market.

Kingfisher premium and ultra

Ya, we don’t have anything else it seems. As far as I remember, I have seen oldies swear by Kingfisher. There were other brands like Golden Eagle and Sand Piper during those times but Kingfisher ruled the roost and it still does. I don’t understand why because I don’t like it. It is bitter with glycerin added to give an extra kick, otherwise glycerin in beer is banned in some countries. Ultra has a sweeter aftertaste and is slightly darker in hue.

Hoegaarden

Yum! I love this one particularly because it is such a refreshing change from what we have been drinking in India. The creamy Belgian wheat beer is an instant hit with hints of orange peel, coriander and spice. Try one, you will want more. Again, Hoegaarden is not available in small cities and towns.

Asahi

A Japanese favorite that makes way for some refreshing and crisp gulps. This dry beer is manufactured using yeast and is available at posh bars and if you are lucky, then retail outlets (in big cities).

Foster’s

Haa, finally, an Aussie lager that is available at the shop next to you. You often get it during happy hours at pubs of all kinds. The full-bodied and malty concoction will please you.

Heineken

Another pale gold lager, with a fruity hint and malt, Heineken is an easy drinking beer, which is available at both big and small cities.

Peroni

Italy’s answer to lager, this crisp and dry beer is good to go always. Buy it while in Goa, it is cheaper there.

Budweiser

My favorite lager. It is rather sweet and crisp at the same time. I will any day prefer it over Kingfisher, Carlsberg, Fosters and Heineken. The sweetness comes from high-fructose corn syrup added instead of glycerin. Alas, it will add to your belly too.

Corona Extra

Corona is a Mexican make and will cost double the price of Indian lager. The problem? It tastes just as any other lager. Why pay extra. The only difference is that it is normally served with lime. Believe me, add fresh lemon juice to any lager and it becomes better. So, this one is not on my list.

London Pride

A rather dark amber ale from Britain, is just right if you are looking for some smoothness in beer on a warm day.

Carlsberg

Comes in a green-coloured bottle and some people actually live for this one. Comes from the Danish land and pleases with its bitter-sweet combination. Again, tastes like any other lager. You will get this one everywhere.

Tuborg

Another easy drink. Low on bitterness and cheaper than most lagers.

Leffe Blond

A rather different Belgian beer, which has a fruity and smooth feel to it. A perfect accompaniment to an evening out with friends due to its light texture that will remind you of slightly bitter oranges. No, you don’t get lucky easily. Available in big cities only.

Stella Artois

A Belgian brew, which is full bodied and you can grab one either at a metro city or some plush five-star bar. Rest of you, keep sulking, and I am included in the sulking list.

Murphy’s

Murphy’s Irish Stout is right for those who like it slightly bitter. The stout with maltiness and black coffee to mocha throughout to the finish, is an alternative to coffee on a sunny day.

Bira Blonde

If I had my way, I would have bought almost everything that has Bira written on it. Not only the bottle looks cool, it tastes slightly better than other lagers. It also gives you a bitterness meter at the back of the bottle stating the bitterness in it. Its crisp and uber refreshing. I like it.

Bira White

I saved the best for the last. Your beer journey is incomplete if you haven’t tasted this one. It is so much better than other wheat beers. Has hints of rose, citrus and deliciousness. I can live by this one. It is available on tap and bottles. A rare find though, but easily available in Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Bangalore at pubs and bars. Try it and you will fall in love with it. It is almost always out of supply because you drink it once and you will drink it always. The best bet? Low on your pocket. Cheers!

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