Mumbai: Brewery opens doors for beer geeks to experiment with recipes

By  Phorum Dalal | Posted  12-Mar-2017

As a city brewery opens its doors for beer geeks to experiment with their recipes, we follow the process over a fortnight to get a hang of it

It is a busy afternoon at Andheri's Brewbot - servers waltz from one table to another keeping up with the frenzy of orders. Standing in the crowd are a bunch of youngsters, the "beer geeks" as they'd like to be called. They are there, but they don't quite blend in. A glance at their signature double-shoulder bags (that are like second skin to them), and their careful sniffs and sips on their beer mugs, you know they take their brews rather seriously. They are awaiting their turn to go upstairs for one of their monthly sessions where they get to "geek out on beer".

Pratik helps brewmaster Vaibhav as he works the electric beer brewing system. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
Pratik helps brewmaster Vaibhav as he works the electric beer brewing system. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

To give the city's craft beer culture a shot in the arm, executive chef Anand Morwani has opened the doors of his brewery for Brewhanmumbai, a group that was founded by beer experts Pratik Bavishi, Abhishek Chinchalkar and Ravi Soni to bring together like-minded people who share a passion for beer. "We meet every month at various brewpubs in the city to try different beer styles and geek over them," Bavishi says.

Bavishi looks closely at the colour of the brew during the tasting session. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
Bavishi looks closely at the colour of the brew during the tasting session. Pic/Sneha Kharabe

Craft beer is essentially beer created in smaller quantities. Ever since the first brewery in the country opened in Pune back in 2009, the tribe of enthusiasts has been growing. Today, with so many microbreweries and beers, the trend is to try as many craft beers as possible, until you find the one that matches your palate. Meet-ups like these create an ideal environment for beer enthusiasts to get to be nosy parkers, and learn more from licensed makers. Hanging out with this bunch, I learn one thing: You must try bad beers for the hope of trying some really good ones.

Members of Brewhanmumbai sample craft beer. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
Members of Brewhanmumbai sample craft beer. Pic/Sneha Kharabe

Flash back
A fortnight earlier, this group had met up to help brew master Vaibhav Anand Asharani prepare sweet wort (see box), which was divided into four parts to make four distinct IPAs (India Pale Ale). It involved three enthusiasts deciding on how it should be fermented and dry hopped. That was followed by a couple of weeks of stopping by to check the progress of the fermentation. Today, is the test. "Last time we brewed 20 litres of wort, and divided it into four batches. For each, five-litre mini-batch, a different yeast and hop combination was used," Asharani explains.

Tasting times
The group gathers around a table placed in the centre of the room, and the conversation swings freely from "aeration" (exposing wort to oxygen during brewing), fermentation and different kinds of hops that lend flavour and act as stabilising agents. The bottles are placed in order of the tasting. Handing me a plastic glass, a member says, "Hold on to your glass. After every tasting, rinse it," he says. The first beer poured, the casual banter dies down as members nose the drink, hold the sip on their palates to recognise flavours. Mango, lemons, strawberry and melons are some of the words used to describe the taste.

In the next one, we get a pronounced taste of mango, with resinous or tarry notes in each sip. "This hop originates in New Zealand which is famous for hops which lend tropical fruit flavours (mango, citrus, papaya) to the beer," Bavishi explains. The third variant stands out for its citrusy notes and malty backbone. It releases some amounts of esters which lends a slight fruity profile and a residual sweetness, we learn.

The fourth one is Bavishi's recommendation, an American hop usually used for American style IPAs and Pales Ales. This one was slightly dry and released a citrusy blend of orange and lime aroma.

These tastings also allow one to meet all sorts of people. The only woman in the group that day was Yoginee Budhkar. Armed with a PhD in biotechnology, she has trained in mead making from Honey and Pollination Centre at UC University, California. When we raise a curious eyebrow, she explains, "If you ferment malt, you get beer. If you ferment fruit, you get wine. If you ferment honey, the drink is called mead." Budhkar is currently in the process of acquiring a license to set up a meadery where she can produce mead commercially. We hope to taste it soon enough.

Until this session, we hadn't pondered about beer as a subject, and the world of possibilities craft beer holds. "The idea was to keep the base beer the same, and play with the yeast and hops to see how it transforms the taste. While most of us preferred the melony first, people with a palate for slightly dry beer enjoyed the citrus and pine notes of the fourth one," Bavishi signs off.

The beer lexicon
  • The brewing starts with mashing which is steeping malted barley in hot water to activate the malt enzymes which convert the grain starches into fermentable sugars.
  • Then comes 'sparging' wherein hot water is run through the grain bed to extract sugars
  • Next is the 'lautering' sweet liquid called 'wort' in the boil kettle.
  • After that, the wort is boiled for 60 mins and the hops are added at intervals. Then it is cooled down rapidly to pitch the yeast to start the 'fermentation'.

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