Published on April 4, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour


Indian takeaway

Globe-trotter Nick Snaith continues his search for indigenous beer

Southern India is not the easiest region of the world to drink in. The southernmost states of Kerala, Karuataka and Tamil Nadu each have their own regulations on the sale and consumption of alcohol, whereas the northern states have banned it totally.

Kerala is the most difficult of the three; each town in the state might have only two or three “beer and wine” outlets in upmarket hotels, charging 180-250 rupees (£2-£3) for a 650ml bottle of 6.0% abv beer. Wine is also available from locally-produced grapes – but don’t go there! Needless to say, their bars are largely empty and are lacking in atmosphere.

The local bars in Tamil Nadu are usually situated down an insanitary alleyway and are exclusively male preserves. Buying beer goes something like this: Purchase a bottle of the ubiquitous Kingfisher from a man behind a metal grill for about 40 rupees. Take the bottle to a table or bench where another man will come and open it for you – and sell you a plastic cup (five rupees) to drink it from. Repeat the performance for subsequent rounds.

At 8.0% abv, some Tamil Nadu beers hit the mark, being well chilled – which is particularly welcoming in 32ºC heat. Haywards 5000 Gold Premium Strong Beer (7.5% abv) is easy-drinking and full-flavoured with a detectable yeast and hop aftertaste. Zingaro Magnum Strong Beer (8.0% abv) comes with a small-print warning, “Liquor ruins country, family & life” above an illustration of a cowpoke wrangling wild horses. It is extremely sweet and malty with a nose of over-ripe fruit. A more popular drink in local bars is “brandy” – 40cl bottles retailing at about 220 rupees which is washed down with water from plastic packets. Not for the faint-hearted.

Bengaluru (Bangalore) is the capital of Karnataka and India’s call-centre and IT hub (think unsolicited phone calls about that car accident you never had in 2013). Microbreweries spring up on an almost monthly basis catering for the burgeoning middle classes. Inevitably, they are situated in expensive suburbs and command prices to suit. Cheaper bars do exist but are not places you would necessarily take your granny.

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Alastair Gilmour

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