Craft Beers in Comparison
For the longest time, all beer aficionados here had to contend with was either Kingfisher or if a bar was feeling particularly adventurous then Tuborg or Carlsberg. Fortunately, in the last few years craft beers—so called because of the level of craftsmanship and high quality of ingredients that go into making these limited production brews—from Belgium, Germany and the US have been slowly making their way to the Indian market. We tasted four distinct types of craft beer currently available in Mumbai, alongside Indian standby Kingfisher Premium Lager, to drink out the difference:
HOEGAARDEN ORIGINAL WHITE ALE
Type: Wheat beer
Alcohol percentage: 4.9% ABV
Price: Rs250 for a 330ml bottle
Hoegaarden, a crisp, drinkable Belgian white ale, is now available at most high-end restaurants, bars and wine shops in Mumbai. A good introduction to a world beyond lagers, it tiptoes the line between craft beer and mass-produced. Non-filtered, this classic Belgian witbeir pours a cloudy pale yellow, and leaves a frothy, creamy head. It smells of citrus, perhaps orange peel, but also contains hints of pepper and coriander. At first taste, the beer is sweet, giving way to a tart, sour finish, owing to the moderate hops. Overall, it’s smooth and easy to drink.
SCHNEIDER WEISSE ORIGINAL
Type: White beer
Alcohol percentage: 5.4% ABV
Price: Rs306 for a 330ml bottle
Hailing from Bavaria, Schneider Weisse is the archetypal German hefeweizen. It pours with a medium head, and is rich, opaque, and caramel in colour, almost like an unfiltered cider. It’s pleasantly aromatic, and smells of bread, banana, and cloves. Sweet and dark, it tastes more malty and less intense than other options in the hefeweizen category, and tastes lovely when paired with an Indian meal.
Type: French farmhouse beer
Alcohol percentage: 6.5% ABV
Price: Rs424 for a 330ml bottle
Saison Dupont was named “the Best Beer in the World” by the magazine Men’s Journal in July 2005. That may have been a bit of hypberbole, but it is a fine example of French farmhouse-brewed beer, which originated as seasonal ales in North France and the French-speaking parts of Belgium but are now brewed through the year. Bubbly when poured, Saison Dupont leaves a massive head, and looks something like cloudy champagne. Its scent profile is dominated by fruitiness, perhaps pears and grapes, with a few stray herbal and floral notes. It tastes sweet and fruity up front, before giving way to a bitter, almost medicinal but pleasing aftertaste, which is like a crisp gin and tonic. While it’s not difficult to knock back a few Saison Dupont, it’s a little too strong for a long session of drinking.
Alcohol percentage: 8% ABV
Price: Rs589 for a 330ml bottle
We owe the world-famous Trappist ale-style to monks in Belgium, who still brew these beers according to well-guarded, centuries-old recipes (Trappist beers get their name from the Roman Catholic order known as the Trappists). Chimay, perhaps the most heralded Trappist brewery, exports three different kinds of these incredibly complex, flavourful beers: Red, White, and Blue. The Chimay Blanche, the middle option, is a Belgian Tripel ale. Belgian Tripels are light-coloured, powerful ales with a drier, crisper taste than most Trappist beers. This one pours amber, yet still opaque and cloudy, with flavourful yeast particles floating about. It has a beautiful, active head, and smells of apples and figs, but is more hoppy and floral than other Trappists. It’s a delight in the mouth—slippery and almost alive with carbonation as the taste profile develops and a hoppy bitterness up front yields to a bold, malty aftertaste, with a heavy fruit component throughout. A strong beer with a high ABV, the very tart and refreshing Chimay White is definitely a dinner or dessert beer not meant for mass consumption; it should be savoured.
KINGFISHER PREMIUM LAGER
Type: Pale Lager
Alcohol percentage: 4.8% ABV
Price: Rs50 for a 330ml bottle
Kingfisher is not a bad beer. It’s actually a serviceable example of a pale lager, and is better than most beers brewed in Asia. It’s just unimaginative. It pours a pale yellow, with a tiny, but respectable head. It smells somewhat hoppy and metallic, but not in an entirely unpleasant way. However, compared to the craft beers mentioned above, the scent profile is flat and devoid of floral notes and spices. The taste is slightly oily and grainy, with moderate carbonation. There are hints of hops and fresh grass, and unlike many lagers (think Carlsberg and Heineken), Kingfisher is not too fizzy. It has a crisp, clean finish. Those who want to stick with the lager style, but still desire a craft beer experience, should try Brooklyn Brewery’s Brooklyn Lager, which is one of few truly great lagers available in Mumbai (Rs280).
You can try all the aforementioned craft beers (except Hoegaarden) at the Taj Lands End’s ongoing international beer festival that will run through till Thursday, June 23. While it’s frustrating trying to track down some of these beers, your best bet is a Nature’s Basket outlet, though we suggest you call the stores to confirm whether they have them in stock. See here for locations and numbers.Tags: beer, craft beer