The craft beer wave began a decade ago with a few Indian microbreweries making and serving fresh beer on-site at brewpubs. Ever since the industry has grown steadily in India. A recent surge in the number of home-grown craft beer brands — Kati Patang in 2018 by Empyrean Spirits Pvt Ltd, Medusa in January 2018, Thirsty Beer in 2017, White Rhino in 2016 — offering many new varieties such as India Pale Ales (IPAs), stouts, wheat beers and more, brewed in places such as Bhilai (Chhattisgarh), Malanpur (Madhya Pradesh), Gurugram (Haryana), Pune (Maharashtra) and Bengaluru (Karnataka), has marked the beginning of a new success chapter in the beer industry.
Craft beer can be described as a drink that is manufactured in a small, independent brewery with high-quality malt and water. “By using the term craft, home-grown brands distinguish themselves from industrial or mass beer. Craft beers differ significantly in appearance and flavour. It comes in a variety of colours based on the brew, and the head provides a crisp look and taste that lasts longer. Moreover, this frothy has a specific flavour palate that varies in each batch. To ensure that the customer enjoys the flavours better, the bottles are served only at the temperature of 10 and 12 degrees Celsius.
“The Indian craft beer movement is taking the American route, by promoting the IPAs, ales and exotic beer mixes,” says Pradeep Verma, who has four decades of experience in providing turnkey solutions to the brewery, distillery, microbrewery and craft brewery industry. He has been an advisor to international companies such as Lowenbraeu Keller Buttenheim, Kaiser Braeu, Destila and Weyermann in Germany, Hoppris in Slovenia, Aberko in Scotland and Brewtech Asia. He is also a visiting faculty member at the Department of Alcohol Technology and Biofuels of Pune-based Vasantdada Sugar Institute.
India’s craft beer industry accounts for two to three per cent of the country’s $6 billion beer market, which is largely skewed towards the stronger versions. Goldstein Research analysts claim that the pub and bar culture in India is escalating at a significant pace and is becoming more popular in the age group of 20 to 45. The market is anticipated to reach the $23.5 billion mark at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.9 per cent as alcohol consumption is growing in the urban areas of the country.
The rising prominence of the brewpub culture in cities like Pune, Mumbai, Gurugram, Bengaluru and Delhi, has undoubtedly made the consumer more experimental.The surge of interest in premium craft beer, which is more authentic, made from hops, barley and water, has been driven by millennials, says Vinak Nayak, Mid-Fielder and Beer Crafter, Denis’ BeerFarms, a company which specialises in brewery commissioning and brewing services. “Consumers are demanding variations and different styles of craft beer now more than ever. People are willing to spend more on better quality food and beverages. Thus, we see a shift from standard brands to premium brands, spurring the launch of niche craft beer brands,” says Nayak, adding that craft beers are making beer styles and brewing methods more creative and region-specific.
According to Evgenya Prazdnik, Head Mixologist, S.E.A at Assagao in Goa, the craft beer movement in India has leapt forward because of the new styles of beers, modern ways of consumptions and funky bottling. “These companies have introduced much-awaited craft styles of beer like India pale ale, nitro stout, Belgium style of wheat and lots of seasonal options by using flavours of pineapple, cucumber and mango, among others,” she says.
When one observes the selling pattern of beer variants in the most dominant craft beer microbrewery or restaurant, it becomes evident that around 75 to 80 per cent sales is of lager and wheat beers, says Verma, also a Principal Partner at CFB Associates, a food and beverages consultancy company. “The new entrants of beer variants that have gotten media coverage and hype are very much influenced by American ales, IPAs and innovative beer styles that change constantly,” he adds.
Avers Avneet Singh, Founder, Medusa Beverages Pvt Ltd says that lager has got to be the most significant change in the Indian drinking scene. The alco refreshment showcase will make an enormous jump in terms of trade development with the changing way of life of customers and lager utilisation design. Backed by customers’ requests for different drinking experiences, the premium brew showcase is set to improve.
Indian government’s many regulations on the beer industry in regards with licensing and permits and the unorganised supply and distribution chain are the major hurdles still hurting the beer industry. “The microbreweries are getting affected due to lack of deep pockets and sales volumes, even though the product is of the highest quality, catering to the local markets,” says Nayak, adding that easing the policies and regulations and introducing some social reforms will safeguard the local craft beer culture and brewery interests. Craft beer brewers are confronted with the same challenges as numerous other little businesses, says Singh. “The alcohol industry has several advertising restrictions as well. Moreover, the dissemination of lager changes in every state of the country. In a few states, such as Tamil Nadu, the government acts as a merchant and markets it, whereas, in a few others, the dissemination is semicontrolled by the state governments. Apart from this, the brewing industry is profoundly controlled. There are 26 diverse alcohol-specific charges in India. This constitutes almost 50 per cent of the customer cost, which is among the most noteworthy in the world,” he says.
The beer market in India is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 6 per cent during 2019-23, out of which craft beers that are sold at a 50 per cent premium will claim 1 to 12 per cent of the Indian beer market share by 2025. “Mega and macro-breweries are also entering the craft beer segment by launching local brands. Apart from tie-ups with fine dining restaurants, small chef-owned restaurants, five-star hotels and millennial hotspots, craft beer is slowly entering the packaged format as well, that is bottles and cans, to increase the brands’ profit margins,” says Nayak. According to Verma, the craft beer industry movement in India is taking shape much faster than its American counterpart. “We expect the craft beer market to become a nearly `4,500 crore industry with approximately 1,000 micro-breweries or craft breweries by 2020,” he says. In the end, it is the Indian consumer who would have plenty to choose from. Cheers to that.
CRAFTS BEER BETSY ON CATHAY PACIFIC
Cathay Pacific’s Betsy Beer is back with a new taste, new look and a new rollout; available to all passengers on long-haul flights in all cabins. Guests visiting Cathay Pacific’s lounges at Hong Kong International Airport can also enjoy a bottle before they board their flights. Betsy Beer became an instant hit when it was first rolled out in February 2017 to First and Business Class passengers on flights between Hong Kong and the UK. The beer takes its name from ‘Betsy’, Cathay Pacific’s first aircraft, a Douglas DC-3, which flew passengers around the region in the 1940s and 1950s. The new Betsy Beer is a citrus-forward Pale Ale, created in partnership with Hong Kong brewery Gweilo Beer. Building on the original Betsy DNA, the beer is brewed from a predominantly unroasted malted barley base with some slightly roasted barley to give a sweet, malty profile with hints of bread, biscuit and toffee. Locally sourced orange peel is added in the boil to enhance the flavour. The beer is then fermented using Gweilo’s house ale yeast after which it is dry-hopped with a blend of citrus and orange-forward hops to complete the aroma and flavour profile. “Craft beer is enjoyed across the globe by all beer enthusiasts. It is for this reason that we are once again delighted to offer this distinctly flavoured Hong Kong brewed beer to our customers, says Mark Sutch – Regional General Manager, South Asia, Middle East and Africa. “Have been initially launched over two years ago, Betsy Beer gained immense popularity amongst our travellers. The specially crafted flavours of the beer appeal to a wide spectrum of palates. Its unique character is the perfect choice for of our customers, wanting to indulge in the diverse options served as part of our inflight culinary experience.”