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Microbreweries: How did making beer for a living become a legit career option?



It was till barely a decade ago that Indians went by the principle, “One size fits all”’ when it came to their beer, opting for mass-produced, commercial beverages that may or may not appeal to their palate.

However, all that changed when Prateek Chaturvedi and Suketu Talekar, pioneers of beer microbreweries in the country decided to introduce Indians to freshly brewed beer, free of synthetic additives, fresh and flavourful, customised to the desi palate. Setting up India’s first microbrewery, Doolally, in Pune, the IIM graduates laid the founding stone for budding microbrewers in India.

Prateek Chaturvedi, co-founder of Doolally

So, what led the entrepreneurs to leave the safety of their corporate jobs in Singapore, and literally ferment a beer revolution in the country? “One day, I was sitting in a microbrewery called Brewerkz in Singapore, and I realised that there is no microbrewery in India. That’s how it began… I left my job and came here and had to work with the government to set up a license,” said Prateek, speaking to indianexpress.com.

In 2009, Doolally’s gates opened to give the public a glimpse into what a microbrewery feels like – what with its large vats brewing beer and taps pumping fresh beer.

In almost 10 years, microbreweries in metro cities like Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi NCR are commonplace.

Akshay, co-owner of Ministry of Beer

Ministry Of Beer (MOB), is one of the largest beer microbreweries in Delhi NCR. Its co-founder, Akshay says, “Wheat Beer is our standard bestseller. However, we did a vanilla-coffee flavoured porter a few months back and people absolutely loved it.”

With people travelling more and experimenting both with food and alcohol, consumers are becoming more evolved and “know what they are looking for”.’ To make beer more appealing to customers, Akshay says that they have been experimenting a lot. From an English bitter porter that finds fans in expats to a Miami Citrus Vice that leaves a sweet aftertaste for female patrons, Akshay believes that the fact that they offer a large variety of beer draws more people to them.

Manish Sharma, Founder – Molecule and The Drunken Botanist

Possessed by the entrepreneurial bug, Manish Sharma quit his investment banking job in the UK to start a business venture on home turf. Fascinated with World War II, he opened Molecule which has been set up as a ruined German atomic lab combined with unique Molecular Gastronomy while also doubling up as a microbrewery.

“Once when I went to help my friend sell a restaurant property to his client, it was then the idea of owning one struck my mind. I liked the property so much that I prayed that my friend’s deal with the client didn’t work out. Thereon, I came into the picture; bought the property and opened my first restaurant,”’ says Sharma.

Behind the Scenes: Setting up a microbrewery

For a great tasting beer, the equipment that it is brewed in plays a major role. Commenting on the cost of setting up a microbrewery with a restaurant, Prateek flatly states, “If you’re looking to earn a reasonable amount, you need to invest at least Rs Six to Seven crore, excluding real estate, if you don’t want to compromise on the quality of the beer.” A small chunk of that, around Rs 1 and a half crore, goes into setting up the stainless steel equipment. “Many people end up buying Chinese equipment for Rs 50-60 lakh but it starts rusting and starts going bad in 6 months,” add Prateek.

Philtre cofounder, Neeraj Sharma, jots down the cost of setting up a brewhouse and dispenser at Rs 65-80 lakh, depending on the capacity and plant size. This is in addition to Rs 15 lakh needed for raw materials initially. “We generally import our equipment from Germany and China”, ‘says Neeraj.

Meanwhile, Manish Sharma gives a rough estimate of Rs Five to Seven crore to set up a microbrewery.

The ethical side of the business

While it is a lucrative business, microbrewery owners are issued a strict warning before being given the license. “We follow strict procedures in terms of following the cycle of brewing. There are a lot of players in the market who are serving raw beer that can be dangerous to one’s health as well,” adds Akshay.

Around seven to eight microbreweries have been struck down in Gurugram, because they violated the strict regulations which are laid down by law.

If you can play it by the book though, and your heart skips a beat at the thought of making beer, this career might well be worth taking a plunge in.

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