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Indian Beers

The black clouds in the distance were fast approaching. The looming rain was bound to break out, clouds ready to shed the load that they’ve been carrying. I looked into the distance, lost in my thoughts – in retrospect. That’s when most of the answers led to opening a can of beer. Isn’t a glass of beer answer to most questions?

A quick pop of the can of Hunter and I was back to enjoying the lovely weather. As I popped open the can of Hunter, I couldn’t but help noticing their tagline – ‘Honestly Smooth, Refreshingly Strong. How true were they to their tagline? I was just about to now find out. India is a market ruled primarily by strong beers. Some of them total swile and some of them just plain undrinkable. Hunter is the best among a lot of Strong Beers.

Hunter Beer 2

Despite being a strong beer, you can get a lager-ish taste from Hunter Beer. The moment I poured it in my glass, the clean white head formed right on top, which dissipated quite quickly. The pale, strawy color, I quite liked the beer for its smoothness coming off the unique brewing of handpicked ingredients. The first sip off my glass and I could feel the smooth and crisp taste of the lager. It does help greatly that the hops used in Hunter Beer are the ‘Hersbrucker’ variety which are directly imported in from Germany.

Hunter Beer 1

I truly enjoyed my glass of Hunter beer and would recommend this to all the strong beer lovers out there. I do occasionally pick up a bottle of strong beer and Hunter has been a good choice among the innumerable ones which have inundated the Indian market. It does help that they’ve come out as Winners in the Monde Selection Quality Award and the beer itself finds the right balance between malts and hops.

Hunter Beer 3

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India has primarily been a Whiskey drinking market or is considered to be but they still do keep a special place for the beers. There are amazingly lots and lots of Indian beers to be had as your travel the length and breadth of the country. During our travels we saw that that beers were taken as a drink that can be guzzled at one shot than actually sitting down and enjoying one during the hot summer days. Hence when I’ve asked for a beer in quite a few places, people have actually commented “Yeh light wala bandha hai. Beer se kuch nahin hota” (He’s a light-drinker. No high happens with drinking beer.) Beer culture has now evolved and is slowly giving us more options to enjoy a good brew.

Most of the Indian beers have been subjugated to being strong lagers. The good ones have been relegated to being metropolitan drinks while the most common ones found across India are all Strong. That doesn’t mean that all of them are bad. I’ve had actually had some great ones from among them.

The below beers mentioned have not been rated in any particular order and have each been tasted by us. Below is a list from our travel diaries of the Indian beers that one must definitely try.

  1. King’s Beer – Goa’s very own pilsner. If you’ve been to Goa even once, then you definitely know the worth of this beauty. The design of the bottle is unique and the taste is crisp. It has a malty zing and evaporates off your tongue soon as it hits it. Now that King’s is available in Mumbai and Bangalore too, but consuming one there just doesn’t have the same charm as drinking one in Goa.King's Beer
  2. Kingfisher Red – This variant of Kingfisher by United Breweries is even stronger than their usual Kingfisher Strong. Available right now mostly in North and East India, the beer pours a rich deep amber color. The taste was surprisingly clean and the alcohol hit quite fast too.Kingfisher Red
  3. Kingfisher Blue – If you’re one who loves spicy food, this beer will give you amazing company alongside. It has a hint of caramel and also grassy bitterness if you appreciate that kind of beers. But this is the perfect one for those lazy and hot days to chill with.Kingfisher Blue
  4. Royal Challenge – Chicken Tikkas and Royal Challenge. I remember many of my college days were spent having Royal Challenge while my other mates smuggled in Kingfisher. It pours a pale yellow and is quite watery too. It has a light body and gives off fair amount of carbonation with a fruity, malty taste.Royal Challenge
  5. Knockout – I still remember the first time I had Knockout. I was in my teens and scared that I might just be knocked out by the name itself. The Indian beer brands have never had a great history with naming their products. And Knockout too went down the same road. I’ve had quite a few times now and even shared one while sitting under a tree in complete darkness with a couple of local villagers with only crushed garlic as ‘chakna’ For the uninitiated to Indian drinking lingo, chakna is our version of alcohol accompaniments. This is mostly famous in the south of India.Knockout
  6. Haywards 5000 – There was a time when I had moved on to the imported beers. Then for research terms alone was the time when I ventured on to Haywards 5000. It has a huge carbo-head, white and bubbly. One of the better ones of the mass produced Indian beers. There is also the Haywards 10000 which is quite a rare find and is even stronger than the Haywards 5000.Haywards 5000
  7. Haywards Black– If you can get your hands on this one, then you should definitely grab hold and pick them. India’s first and ONLY stout beer, the Haywards Stout is hard to find. It’s a light stout and has a light smell of cocoa and coffee. A welcome change by SABMiller to be introducing this and also it’s categorizes itself as a strong one with an ABV of 7%.Haywards Black
  8. Hunter – This was the first beer in India which introduced the concept of strong beers. It’s the flagship brand of SOM Distilleries and Breweries Limited.Hunter
  9. Maharani Blue Lable – Notice the misspelling of ‘Lable’ instead of ‘Label’? Yes Maharani describes itself as the Queen of Strong Beers. I was absolutely hit after having two of them. I might not be a seasoned alcohol drinker, but it does deliver a hard alcoholic punch.Maharani Blue Lable & Kalyani Black Label
  10. Kalyani Black Label – The Kalyani beer is one of the bestselling beers in India made by United Breweries, the same guys who produce Kingfisher. It has a watery yellow look with a disappearing white head. It’s full, smooth and gets the job done without any of that dirty aroma.
  11. Maharani Red Lable – I guess all the products of M.P Beer Products Ltd love to display the wrong misspelling. But this was actually one of the best Indian beers that I’ve had. Have it absolutely chilled and the golden amber color is the best looking stuff that I’ve seen among Indian beer products. This is a must try if you can locate some of the Indian states selling these.Maharani Red Lable
  12. Dansberg – The Dansberg has acquired cult status in the north-east India. Brewed by Yuksom Breweries which is owned by our very own Bollywood baddie, Danny Denzongpa. It’s brewed using Sikkim’s spring waters and is actually pretty nice.Dansberg Beer
  13. Godfather – If Francis Ford Coppola put the thought of Marlon Brando as Godfather in the American heads, the Godfather beer does likewise in to our Indian bodies. Like most beers brewed in India, it’s a strong lager available in North, East and West of India.Godfather
  14. Indus Pride – I had picked these up from a liquor outlet in Bangalore just coz of the uniqueness of flavors. Aside from their regular lager, they have three other variants of Cardamom, Coriander and Cinnamon. Not many beers produced in India would pride themselves in selling such flavors.Indus Pride
  15. Palone – This is a pretty amazing beer to get your hands on. In fact the Palone brand was the very first beer that was launched by Carlsberg when they ventured into India. That itself speaks volumes about this beer though it’s hard to find it nowadays. It has a dark almost mahogany color with a nice big and fluffy head.Palone
  16. Hercules – The Greeks have left their mark in India too. The first time I had this beer, I found it a tad too sweet and was actually one of the better ones. It almost has a white grape flavor and finishes fairly dry.
  17. Cobra – It’s easier finding the Cobra beer in London than here in India. I had the Cobra beer in a suburban Indian restaurant in London and have since then not been able to locate it in India. It’s light on the palette and quite smooth. If you’re lighting up a BBQ, don’t forget a Cobra alongside then.Cobra Beer
  18. Concorde – When in East India while driving through villages, I couldn’t help but notice the Concorde brand proudly across many of the liquor shops. For a brand I had seldom heard off, this kind of marketing took me by surprise and I had to try it. Purchasing one, I was sent two floors underground to sit and drink. It was and still will be one of my shadiest experiences till date. I couldn’t have more than 100ml and I gave up after that. But this beer shall go down as one of the definitive experience in my beer drinking adventures.
  19. Hit – The Hit series again comes from the house of Yuksom Breweries. Yep the same guys whom I had mentioned in my Dansberg descriptions. While I had one standing by the shop, this drunk comes along and says “Hit bahut hit karta hai” (The Hit beer gives you a hit quite hard) which it truly did.Hit Beer
  20. Kotsberg – The Kotsberg beer comes from Devans Breweries, the same ones who are famous for their Godfather brand of beer. The packaging is almost made to international standards and priced in direct competition to Carlsberg and Budweiser Magnum. But did it match up in quality too? For people who love the taste of strong lagers, this might. But for me it just didn’t.Kotsberg

Special Mention

Bira91 – I have a special place in my heart for Bira91. Made by a group of individuals who actually understood beer, India’s first hand-crafted beer was born. It’s now almost become a household name in Bengaluru and Delhi. They have two variants, the Bira 91 White and the Bira 91 Blonde. And in case you’re wondering what the 91 stands for? It’s the country code of India that it so proudly displays.

Bira 91

Do let us know in the comments of any other beers that you’ve tried. We’d also love to hear some of the experiences that you’ve encountered while having a drink or two in a bar/town or any place in the comments.

Dansberg Photo Credit – damienroue
Hit Beer Photo Credit – shankaronline

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