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Have you drunk these new Indian beers?

By Dhruv Munjal
January 18, 2020 11:54 IST
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Dhruv Munjal discovers BeeYoung and Yavira.

Kindly note the image has only been posted for representational purposes. Photograph: Michaela Rehle/Reuters

The last time I tried sipping on beer that came in a peppy yellow can -- it was a popular brewer's attempt at making beer of the non-alcoholic variety -- my experience was plain hideous.

The so-called beer was almost like a weird concoction of ginger tea and cough syrup -- more a remedy for a cold than something to excite your taste buds and liven up your senses.

My recent tryst with yellow-coloured packaging was far more pleasant. A lovely medium head, a rich gold tone and a thick but perfectly clean texture.

What I'm referring to is BeeYoung, a new offering from Kimaya Himalayan Beverages.

The beer, which arrived in Delhi late last year, is among a handful of crafted strong beers making their way into the Indian market.

After cashing in on the wildly popular trend of Belgian-style witbiers, many brands are now shifting their attention to strong beer, which continues to be the preferred choice of over 80 per cent of beer drinkers in the country.

"The problem with strong beer is its perception. In India, it is seen as this foul-tasting drink that you have only to get drunk. What we needed was a strong beer that did not compromise on quality and one that you could also enjoy," says Abhinav Jindal, founder and CEO, Kimaya Himalayan Beverages.

 

That is one of the reasons why I generally abhor strong beers.

The inebriation aspect aside, the popular ones taste dreadful, being awfully heavy on the palate.

BeeYoung surprised me because it drank incredibly well for a beer with 7.2 per cent ABV.

In fact, it was so smooth that I initially had it mistaken for a standard pale lager.

It's made with water sourced from the Bhakra Dam, and the hoppiness is near perfect -- it uses Styrian Golding hops, a variety mainly grown in Slovenia and Austria -- offering a gentle bitterness that will gladden purists.

The company also promises a citrusy twist at the end, but that somehow managed to elude my taste buds.

Another unique thing about BeeYoung is the packaging -- unlike all other beers (available in 330ml, 500ml and 650ml), it only comes in 500ml bottles and cans.

"We wanted to find the right quantity. 330ml is too small to share with friends, and 650ml is too much," explains Jindal.

"We wanted to ensure that the beer retains its temperature and texture, hence only the in-between size."

Photograph: Kind courtesy Yavira/Facebook

Along with BeeYoung, Kimaya has launched Yavira -- Sanskrit for beer -- a lighter variant that Jindal hopes will appeal to a more "evolved audience".

Crafted with imported Argentine barley and fused with Basmati rice, Yavira, despite having around 6.2 per cent ABV, is being marketed as a lager.

"We don't like to call Yavira a strong beer because there was no attempt to make it like that. Our recipe was such that it ended up having that amount of alcohol," clarifies Jindal.

"In other parts of the world, there isn't really a concept of light or strong beers. People just go for whatever they like, without fussing too much about the alcohol content," he adds.

Yavira, available in a bold black-and-gold avatar, is a fine example of balance -- just enough punch, complemented by a delicate creaminess.

Having said that, I would have liked some more aroma, and some extra fruitiness to go with the crispness it offers.

Currently only retailing in Delhi, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, Jindal is determined to take things slow.

Having seen other craft beer brands go after large volumes, he doesn't want to compromise on quality.

"We have seen the mistakes that others have made. For us, it's all about ensuring that every tiny detail, every ingredient is taken care of," he says.

But in a country where beer drinkers are still somewhat shy when it comes to experimenting, how difficult is it to force them to switch loyalties?

"It's like eating butter chicken. Each restaurant makes it differently, but you like one the best. It's the same with beer. You give them a quality product and they'll keep coming back to you."

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Dhruv Munjal
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