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Brewtiful Banaras: Campai’s Vedant Chopra on craft beers in UP

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Shehwaaz Khan
Shehwaaz Khan
Mohd Shehwaaz Khan is a journalist based in New Delhi. He won Laadli Media Award 2023 for feature writing in print.

Vedant Chopra, founder and chief vibing officer, Wallop Brewing Company speaks about being the first to launch hand-crafted beer in Uttar Pradesh, the brand’s journey and market for craft beers

Started in 2020, Campai is a bottled craft beer from Banaras, Uttar Pradesh, which aims to introduce small-batch craft beers to Indian consumers. It is operated under Wallop Brewing Company and was the official beverage partner at the inaugural MotoGP Bharat event in Noida.

The company said that it is the first craft beer brewery in Uttar Pradesh and the Purvanchal region. It was started by Vedant Chopra, a US returnee who was exposed to craft beer culture in the US and wanted to introduce it to the Indian market. The company majorly has a presence in northern India, especially Uttar Pradesh.

It partnered with Japanese beer brand IsaKado last year and plans to expand pan-India. The beer does not use any extra sugar and it is sold at Rs 150 for a 350 ml bottle.

Indiaretailing interacted with Vedant Chopra, founder and chief vibing officer, Wallop Brewing Company, to know more about the journey of Campai.

Edited excerpt:

Could you tell us more about your journey with Campai?

I’m from Banaras. For my higher studies, I went to the US and got introduced to the craft beer-drinking culture there and I became an instant fan of it. Whenever I would travel (to India), I would always get these beers with me.

When I came back to India in 2020, I did not see any choices in the market and we only had regular beer brands like Kingfisher and Budweiser.

I know that in the south (India), the microbrewery culture is doing well and the craft beers there are much better than what you get in the north (India). So, I started making beer at home because I wasn’t satisfied with the beers in the market.

It was lockdown and I was fresh out of college. So, I had a lot of time on my hands. I prepared a business proposal for my family just for fun—it involved the cost of making a brewery and other plans.

My family encouraged me to go forward with this and slowly we started. We went to Bengaluru for a feasibility study—how much it exactly costs, what the timeline would look like, and if we wanted to do this. There, we were introduced to some very good people from the industry who understood that we were serious about it. Before we even realized it, we were in the brewery project and talking to government officials.

After three years, we had a whole factory set up and then we also started brewing for a Japanese company named IseKado.

This is how the first hand-crafted brewery in Banaras and the Purvanchal region came into being.

How did the name Campai come about?

We’ve been working with the Japanese for the last six years and going to Japan every year two or three times for business.

Campai (Kanpai) in Japanese means cheers. Because of that influence and because of the Japanese techniques of brewing, we adopted the name. India does not have a word for cheers at all. The name also has a nice flow in it.

The brand’s label tells the story of Yami the snake and Chikara the mongoose, a snake charmer. And we’re going to run that more because a snake and mongoose are rivals. But we’ve portrayed them in a friendly way; they come together to resolve their differences over a pint of beer.

Uttar Pradesh is now seen as the liquor capital of India, with the revamped excise policy with lenient rules and regulations. How has the policy helped you?

When setting up the brewery, we had to first sit with the excise department and understand the policy. They were helpful and welcoming, and I was surprised that a government department was as helpful as they were.

The (excise) commissioner is passionate. The statistical officer, and the technical officer… have all been helpful.

What are the future plans for Campai?

We are going to expand to the north of India first because, in the south, people already know what craft beer is. Here, nobody is doing what we’re trying to do, so educating consumers is important.

Then, we will take it across India and slowly export it to other countries because we want other people to know that Campai is an Indian brand.

We have a plan for another beer brand as well, which should be a little more premium than this one, with locally sourced Indian spices. We want the world to know about it and to recognize Indian beers as well.

We’ve also been talking to the Japanese to start brewing in their facility. So, there will be a lot of exchange of ideas and passion from different players who we’re trying to get on board as well to start launching their products in the Indian market.

How is Campai different from beers that are already available in the Indian market?

The biggest thing is we brew small batches. If a caterer makes food for 1000 people, and if they make for two people with the same recipes, it is natural that the food that they will make for two people will use more fresh ingredients.

The same concept applies here. Whatever we do, we do in small batches using fresh ingredients.

We’ve got orange peels, we’ve got chamomile, which is a good detoxing agent. And we’ve got coriander seeds.

We’ve also got hops which are not grown in India; they’re from Australia. We want people to understand what ingredients like hops are. That is something that Indian beers do not use, and crafted beer is known for hops.

So, it’s different from the rest of the products in the market because of the batch size and the ingredients we use.

How has the response been from the audience?

Uttar Pradesh is a challenging market because the education here is not as much as it is in other states. The population is good, but it is hard to shift their habits from drinking regular beers to drinking a beer that is crafted.

For example, we don’t flash ferment, we ferment the beers for 20-22 days. It means that we don’t add extra sugars or flavours. It’s all naturally fermented, naturally carbonated, and naturally made into alcohol.

It’s as natural as it can get and it doesn’t make you feel bloated, it doesn’t make you feel heavy—which the other beers will do because of the extra sugar to ferment it faster.

Explaining all of that in Uttar Pradesh was a bit of a challenge. However, if we explained this to 10 people, five people remembered it and they got converted (into sales) because they saw the difference, the change.

It will take time, but that’s what we are here for—to educate the market and let people know that they can have good beers.

How did people react to the prices because crafted beers are expensive?

They’re not welcoming about the price and don’t understand why it is expensive. The premium is because it is unlike regular beers that use extra sugar, and extra rice – all of which harms one’s gut. This is something that people here don’t care about much.

It’s a small-crafted brewery because we don’t want to compete with the bigger brands who don’t care about the product. However, there is a market for our kind of beer as well in India.

So, it takes time and we’re ready to educate and present our products confidently to the market.

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