Pune’s Independence Brewing Co has a Seasonal Beer
It has been a year since Independence Brewing Co (IBC) opened it doors to patrons. Later in October 2014, they finally had their brews ready and on taps. It has been 3 months now and the journey has been great says Shailendra Bist, cofounder, CEO and head brewer of IBC – “People love the beers and also the fact that we give them such wide variety to choose from. Right now we have 8 beers on tap that we brew.”
IBC started out by introducing 6 classic styles of beers which will be regular year-round beers and include Belgian styled wit beer, American Pale Ale, Brown Porter, Belgian Pale Ale, Saison and IPA — their flagship. “IPA is an intense beer and drinking it is a sensory experience, an overload even!” he adds. The brews, themselves, use only liquid yeast for fermentation – first of its kind in India. The recipes, brewing technique, equipment quality, etc, all play a role in brewing a quality beer. Along with these 6 beers, the brewpub will have additional seasonal styles as specialty beers.
Their current seasonal beer is Sangre Del Toro – it is a barley wine style of beer with deep ruby color. What makes the brew special is the fact that it has a very high gravity and poses lots of challenges in mashing. To give it an intense melenoidin malt character the mash is boiled for over 3 hours compared to an hour of most other beers. The yeast strain to ferment such a high gravity beer also needs to be very healthy and perfectly matched finally it is aged for a long time for the flavors to round out and alcohols to become soft. “We made it even more complicated by adding bourbon soaked medium toast oak chips to give it a very vanilla/woodsy character. Sourcing oak is not easy and there are a lot of process issues to be considered in oaking a beer,” explains Bist.
This style of beer for many will be extremely complicated and difficult, but it is a challenge that the IBC team is willing to accept. Their aim is to offer people a really out there beer, intense, full of flavor beer and then let them decide if they like it. “Let’s not make choices for our guests and treat them like uneducated kids. Give them respect and give them a big beer. Let them like or dislike it,” Bist adds. He added that their flagship IPA has been successful, proves that people already have the palate for more intense, flavorful and honest beers.
Their flagship IPA has been successful, proves that people already have the palate for more intense, flavorful and honest beers
Beginning of the Journey
Beginning of the IBC journey is a curious one. Bist describes the entire endeavour as “passion for great beers.” An engineer in training and profession Bist picked up brewing as a hobby when he was working in the US. “Hobby slowly became a passion. I took several courses in beer/brewing including the Beer Judge Certification Exam. I also interned in several microbreweries in California,” he adds. While he was actively training in beer craft, few states in India were taking a progressive approach by issuing microbrewery license policy initiating the beginning of microbreweries and brewpubs. This was in 2010. Some time middle of the same year Bist met his partner Avanish Vellanki over a few Belgian ales in a small town in Northern California, both startled to find the extent of knowledge each possessed about the Indian beer market. “We both had unique skills sets – Avanish came from a career on Wall Street as an investment banker for major US institutions, and I with an immensely strong process background and accomplished home brewer. It was a natural and fortuitous fit! Both of us were craft beer nuts,” Bist says happily.
The biggest achievement, apart from getting their licenses and permits, for Bist and Vellanki would be when Greg Koch, cofounder and CEO of the famed Stone Brewing Co came onboard as a partner and an investor. “We looked for an advisor/mentor for this project and approached pretty much every one we idolized in the craft beer space. Greg with his mission to support the spread of craft beer was very interested in our project and we finally managed to get him involved,” Bist says. He also clarifies that there is no direct association with Stone Brewing Co, but they are always available for advice and help. For a segment which is still in its nascence, foreign investment in Indian craft beers is a very big thing. Only other brewpub which has a long standing association with a foreign brand is Arbor Brewing Co in Bangalore.
Expectations are high for both consumers and founders. The founders are backed by their optimism, “with our brewing background we think we are well positioned. We want to offer a wide array of well crafted beers to our consumers and let them decide what they like. No need for excessive promotions/gimmicks so you can shove a poor quality beer down their throats,” says Bist. Pune will be their flagship property and they are looking at other cities in India for possible expansion, but for the moment they want IBC Pune to be fully operational and stable.