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Gurugram: The shining star for craft beer buffs


India is witnessing the emergence of quality micro brewing with more and more brewpubs springing up across key metro cities. The Clock Tower, which recently opened in Gurugram, takes this trend ahead.

Gurugram: The shining star for craft beer buffs
A microbrewery or craft brewery is a brewery that produces small amounts of beer, typically much smaller than large-scale corporate breweries, and is independently owned

A microbrewery or craft brewery is a brewery that produces small amounts of beer, typically much smaller than large-scale corporate breweries, and is independently owned. Such breweries are generally characterized by their emphasis on quality, flavour and hands on brewing techniques. The microbrewing movement began in the United Kingdom in the 1970s although traditional artisanal brewing existed in Europe for centuries and subsequently spread to other countries. As the movement grew and some breweries expanded their production and distribution, the more encompassing concept of craft brewing emerged.

Brewpub is an abbreviated term combining the ideas of a brewery and a pub or public-house. A brewpub can be a pub or restaurant that brews beer on the premises. Although the term microbrewery was originally used in relation to the size of breweries, it gradually came to reflect an alternative attitude and approach to brewing flexibility, adaptability, experimentation and customer service. The term and trend spread to the US in the 1980s and was eventually used as a designation for breweries that produce fewer than 15,000 US beer barrels (1,800,000 liters; 460,000 US gallons) annually.

Microbreweries have adopted a marketing strategy that differs from those of the large, massmarket breweries, offering products that compete on the basis of quality and diversity instead of low price and advertising. Their influence has been much greater than their market share, which amounts to only 2 per cent in the UK, indicated by the introduction of large commercial breweries of new brands for the craft beer market. However, when the strategy failed, corporate breweries invested in microbreweries or, in many cases, acquired them outright.

Microbreweries gradually appeared in other countries, such as India, USA, New Zealand and Australia. Craft beer and microbreweries were cited as the reason for a 15 million litre drop in alcohol sales in New Zealand over 2012, with New Zealanders preferring higher priced premium beers over cheaper brands.

The emergence of quality micro brewing in India was with the well renowned Rockman’s Beer Island, which came up at Ambience Mall Gurugram. Since then over 75 micro breweries have come up across India and Gurugram accounts for over 70 per cent of them. Some notable national big boys are the recently opened The Clock Tower, Manhattan Group, Soi 7, 7 Degrees Brahaus, Arbour Brewing Company, Brewer Street, Windmills Craftworks, Sutra and Factory by Sutra, just to name a few.

Licensing is a key factor in setting up a brewpub in India. Most states are still at a very nascent stage in understanding the economics, dynamics and functioning of a micro-brewery. While it is quite simple to understand, the complexities in the import of the brew house, the assembly and project setup is quite a long drawn process but extremely viable for beer economics in our country.

The latest brewer in the market is Thean Kruger, a fantastic home style brewer that has now crafted some of the finest European and Western style beers, which are the talk of town in Gurugram. Thean brews beers ranging from 6 per cent alcohol to 12 per cent alcohol, which is all well above the regular run of the mill watery brew served across most of North India. Thean now brews at The Clock Tower and a couple of other notable brewpubs in Gurugram, Pune and Bangalore.

Brewpub Economics

Equipment and costs is also a notch higher for brewpubs but the capital is well worth the investment. Ideally, a 150 to 200 cover brewpub would cost anything between Rs 3.5 crore to Rs 10 crore to set up depending on the location, the site, the brew house size, capability and overall project theme. The brew house itself can cost from Rs 85 lakh for a Chinese set-up upto Rs 5 crore for a heavy German brew house and plant. The beer quality does take a beating in the Chinese plants and this is quite evident from my recent travels to across 50 brewpubs across India. ROI and the numbers are the game changer for this style of bar business. A brew house would have a beverage cost of anything between 10 per cent to 18 per cent, taking on a significant cost load of the other beverages and food, thus making the overall F&B outlet much more viable than a regular pub or bar.

The key ingredients for beer are good quality of water, malts and high quality imported hops. The yeast is the key to produce the right amount of alcohol and in the correct fermentation period at the ideal temperature. Ingredients form the new story in beer making. The use of natural spices and herbs along with a generous quantity of hops is what forms the foundation of a great beer story. The deconstruction of beer is often done in a masterclass format at The Clock Tower, Gurugram, and this is a great way for corporates to actually experience beer making, brewing and tasting of some fine international style beers.

Trends and Market Prospects

Beer and wine cocktails still need to grow in India. They are a great bridge for the non-cocktail drinkers. For beer-strength cocktails – low ABV, fizzy, but not containing beer – to compete with the trending hard sodas, there should be a re-look at beer/wine license cocktails. The full alcohol license is prohibitively expensive for many bars, but you can craft delicious beverages with <21 per cent ABV. But there has to be more integration of micro-brews and micro-distilleries in cocktails (beertails). More science, more thoughtful pairing with food, more cocktails involving craft beer are also needed. Sours and gose beers are also becoming a newer trend in brewing. They take on so many flavours and you can add a spirit or fruit flavour to accompany them. I think it will be the next level thing on the beer scene in urban India.

The road ahead for brew pubs across main urban locations in India looks bright and on the verge of overnight growth. But there is also a bubble waiting to burst. The question: Is urban India ready for so many brewpubs? That is something which the forces of nature in the F&B market will chart out over the next few years.

The presence of all leading food brands in Gurugram is now well established. Gurugram is the new gateway to getting a footprint on the national and international level for any F&B chain, brand, outlet, hotel, food business and more. Almost every major player has an office or outlet in the buzzing millennium city.