What makes craft beer craft?
While Pune, Gurgaon and Bangalore are steps ahead of Mumbai when it comes to brewpubs, Mumbai is slowly picking up pace. First we had, Mumbai’s first brewpub, The Barking Deer, open its doors, then we had Gateway Brewing Co. distribute their beers to the city’s restaurants and soon we will have BrewBot in Andheri and Mumbai outpost of Doolally.
It is about time we discussed why beers from these places are different and what makes them special. Unlike in the US where craft beers are very big, India is still in craft beer nascence but the future is promising. The definition of craft beer differs from person to person. But the most generic description would be that it is a beer not brewed and bottled in big commercial breweries.
According to US based Brewers Association, craft beer has been defined on 3 parameters – small size, independent ownership and traditional brewing techniques. The brewery should not have more than 6 million barrels of production (this is a huge amount for a country like India), not more than 25% of the brewery is in control of any alcoholic beverage company unless a craft brewer themselves and the beers need to be made by fermentation process of traditional and innovative brewing ingredients and not flavored malt drinks. Most such brewpubs and microbreweries have limited production and are available in a small area. In India since alcohol is a state subject, microbrewery policies ensure that beers brewed in Gurgaon, or Bangalore will not be available in Mumbai, in a way safeguarding the limited availability aspect of craft beers. These set ups would also fall under small and medium scale industries here.
According to US based Brewers Association, craft beer has been defined on 3 parameters – small size, independent ownership and traditional brewing techniques.
While most craft breweries follow the tried and tested recipes of beers like porter, stout, dunkel, etc, as their foundation, but it does not stop them from experimenting and developing new beers. There is also a lot of experimentation, care and control which goes into the production of craft beers. This is exactly what makes these brews different from the commercial bottled lagers. However, just because a beer is craft does not guarantee that it is going to be great tasting beer. Quality remains paramount and it is also very easy to compromise on it for investment costs and profit.
Flavor is what craft beer boils down to. The right combination of malt and hops is the base for the flavor. Different types of malt can be combined with different types of hops to create ales and lagers, the variations all depend on what the brewmaster thinks is right. For instance US based Stone Brewing Company uses 4 types of malts with Warrior hops to create their Stone Imperial Russian Stout. The source for the malt remains similar but it is the process of roasting and toasting which adds another dimension to the beers. Gateway Brewing Co in Mumbai to create distinctiveness in their beers source and roast their malts locally. What type of hops and how many types are used during the process also makes a lot of difference. Hops are known to add bitterness in a beer but they also add different characteristics and flavor notes to a beer.
So the next time you find a brewpub or microbrewery near you, make sure you try out the beers they are brewing. If you thought there is only so much to beer and its taste, you might be in for a surprise.
Featured Image: Stone Brewing Co’s brewery.