Bangalore's microbreweries creating a new market using local produce
By Angarika Gogoi
Bangalore: Besides the exponential growth of the IT sector in India’s Silicon Valley, a quiet revolution has been brewing in the F&B industry as well. Vivek Cariappa, 53, is one of the beneficiaries. Apart from practising organic farming in a 20-acre farm in HD Kote for over three decades, Cariappa also supplies an integral component required for a beer that is served nearly 200 kms away—malted finger millet.
For over one-and-a-half years, Cariappa has been supplying malted finger millet to the Biere Club, a microbrewery in Bangalore, that has been actively experimenting with the grain by incorporating it in their beer since last one year. Rohit Parwani, brewmaster at the Biere Club, says that about 1.6 tonnes of ragi malt that is procured from Cariappa, is used in their brewing process. In addition to that, they also buy mangoes and organic jaggery from Cariappa that they use in a few of their beers.
Parwani is not the only one to do so. Bangalore’s recent upmarket microbreweries have given hopes to the villagers in the nearby districts by creating a demand for traditional grains like millet and others like quinoa.
Co-founder of Brewsky, a modern microbrewery in South Bangalore, Narayan Manepally says it is not only healthy but it can also earn better revenues for the farmer in addition to being organic. Manepally, a member of the Craft Brewers Association of India (CBAI), said that incorporating these grains in the brews is still in a nascent stage which means there is scope for greater demand.
For instance, the millet beer produced at Brewsky has a millet concentration of a little above 30 per cent and the brewery is engrossed in experiments to raise it till 100 per cent. He said, there is great potential here as those who are gluten intolerant can easily chug down this beer. However, it would take some time to increase the volume of grains procured from the farmers, said Manepally.
The concept of craft beer originated in the United States and has had a notable impact on its economy. Though there isn’t much research on Indian microbreweries as the field is relatively new, thescope of the industry can be gauged by its contributions in America. The US-based Brewers Association report states that in 2016 over 6,000 American breweries with craft breweries contributed $67.8 billion to the country’s economy and the craft breweries alone added 4.5 lakh jobs.
Bangalore has about 20 microbreweries and according to a 2016 report by Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN), a USA government-run agricultural research organisation, the city will add 10 more locations every year for the immediate future.
Unlike western countries, major distilleries in India are not looking to acquire but enter the market of craft beer on their own. Indian beer brand Kingfisher also entered the craft beer market as they went on to launch the Bombay Bicycle craft beer in July 2018. The craft beer is a product of collaboration between Kingfisher and Freedom, which is one of UK's original craft breweries. The pale ale was created to complement Indian food and is only available in the Indian restaurant channel in UK.
Instead, microbreweries are looking to enter bottled market. White Owl started out as a microbrewery in the Lower Parel area in Mumbai in 2013 and is now selling bottled beer. To solely concentrate on its operations of selling packaged craft beer, it is likely to close its brewpub.
The bottled craft beer market has also been growing at a massive scale in the country. The three-year-old Bira 91 captured the market and is one of the most popular brands in the country. Simba, a craft beer brand, is also following suit earning $0.9 million in the first year of its launching in 2016.
Across India, there are about 45 microbreweries which is likely to grow by 100 more, according to the report. The report said most breweries are installed with 4-5 tanks of 1,000 liters and 2-3 tanks of 200 liters (including fermentation and storage tanks). The report stated that the consumption of craft beers in Bangalore is around 300 to 600 liters per day per establishment which would increase as the preferences for craft beers is expanding across India.
Sakshi Sagaraju, co-owner of a microbrewery Bangalore Brew Works (BBW) says the customer response has been positive who tried it for the first time this year. BBW has been sourcing quinoa grains from farmers in the drought-hit Ananthpur district of Andhra Pradesh through a food company.
Arun George, the co-founder of Toit brewpub, a popular microbrewery in Bangalore, says that while they do brew a few special beers that contain locally-sourced grains, currently they haven't engaged in long-term commitments with farmers. “This is definitely part of our plans as we expand into setting up our own production facility. When that facility is completely set up, it will enable us to engage with and support local communities,” George adds.
The Indian microbrewery sector emerged five years ago. The All India Brewers' Association reports that microbreweries account presently for 1 per cent of total beer sales and will grow at 20 per cent annually. The overall brewery sector is experiencing 3 per cent annual growth. Pan-India beer market sales in 2013 were about $4.1 billion (INR 240 billion), according to GAIN.
Jeevan Prashanth, Founder of Orillet Foods International, an Ananthpur based food producing and trading company that supplies quinoa grains to a Bangalore based microbrewery Bangalore Brew Works (BBW), is hopeful that more breweries, other than a handful, would be more forthcoming with the idea to blending locally grown grains.
Early this year, breweries had announced the production of millet beer to support local farmers. However, the current method of sourcing grains from those who malt as well as produce is three times more expensive than imported grains, says Manepally.
Farmers cultivating grains for microbreweries, however, do not have it so easy. The process of malting takes about a week to ten days starting from sprouting it, drying it to roasting it. It also has to be cleaned and stored in a hygienic environment. “There have been times when batches of ragi malt have been wasted because of the rains or faults in the roasting process,” Cariappa says while explaining the process of malting ragi.
He added that he has been roasting ragi malt since the time he began farming around 32 years back, using it as baby weaning food as it is nutritious. Cariappa prepares batches three times a year based on demand with a total of over one and a half tonnes in a year and makes a profit of about 40 per cent.
Since the malting process influences the quality of the beer, Manepally said that CBAI are also working with MS Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences to improve the technology. If the farmers can produce and malt before selling the grains, it will ensure them a higher price, he adds.
The Karnataka state government is promoting the collaboration between microbreweries and farmers. It has identified 14 farmers cooperatives across the state who microbreweries could collaborate with. “We also want to equip them at some point so that they can have their own laboratories to do their own testing,” Manepally says.
However, Cariappa says that the idea could work if there are better connections. He emphasised the need for a solid demand and supply chain that connects the supplier (farmer) with the retailer.
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