Brews & Spirits

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Beer capital now has its ‘7 Rivers’

Beer capital now has its ‘7 Rivers’ AB InBev’s Kartikeya Sharma (L) and IHCL’s Puneet Chhatwal (R) ring in a new era of artisanal beer to hotel guests across 15 locations of the Taj Group. It marks the entry of big brewers in the craft beer market through such tie-ups.

In a vote of confidence in the Indian economy and the resilience of Indian consumers, Indian Hotels Company Ltd. (IHCL), in partnership with Belgian brewing giant, AB InBev, went ahead with the opening of India’s first 7Rivers Brewpub at the Taj on MG Road, Bengaluru, in late September.

This first-of-its-kind brewpub with an on-site microbrewery at the hotel is the first of 15 locations to be launched across IHCL hotels over the next five years with a shared investment of Rs.150 crore. Next on the cards is Goa and Mumbai.

After hunkering down for several months amid an unprecedented disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, this bold move speaks volumes of the steely resolve of both the partners and their confidence in their ability to shape the narrative.

The launch initially appeared to be counter-intuitive because of  the severe social and business restrictions that have pivoted the global F&B industry on its head and sent it into a tailspin, and considering normality is yet to be restored across the board.

The brewpub is named after India’s seven sacred rivers: the Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Saraswati, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri.

Artisanal beers

Commenting on the launch, Kartikeya Sharma, President (South Asia) for AB InBev, said, “We are thrilled to unveil our first 7Rivers micro-brewery through our exclusive partnership with IHCL, which we see as a perfect fit.”

Stating that there is a growing trend towards artisanal beers in the country, and AB InBev is looking forward to working with the emerging craft beer community and is confident that its synergies in this category will shape the craft beer industry in India.

The brewpub offers beer inspired by the quintessential flavours of the region, as well as those made from the finest locally sourced ingredients and crafted by experienced international and Indian brew masters.

The menu lists four beers: a Chocolate Coffee Stout, which is a blend of local coffee and cacao; an American Pale Ale with notes of caramel, honey and toffee mixed with a suspicion of bold citrus aroma; a light-bodied New World Pilsner beer brewed with a combination of special malts with underlying notes of marmalade and citrus; and a Witbier infused with characteristic notes of citrus and coriander with a sweet, smooth mouthfeel.

The ABVs of all the beers range between 4.5% and 6%. Also on the cards are Red Ale, NEIPA, Saison and Gose.

Classy experience

Undeterred by the competition, Kartikeya confidently says, “Brewpubs have not been a stellar example of consistency of quality. That is not a challenge for us.”

A brewpub in a city like Bengaluru, with a mature palette for craft beer, “will be a good test to see what consumers like that we can retail in commercially packaged form. Consumers who come to the brewpub will also buy the packaged format later.”

Spread across 2,700 square feet of indoor space, the 7Rivers Brewpub represents the synergies between the two leading companies: IHCL’s expertise in delivering innovative F&B concepts, its culinary prowess and exemplary service, coupled with AB InBev’s 600-year-old brewing heritage.

Puneet Chhatwal, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of IHCL said, “7Rivers Brewpub at Taj MG Road is an innovative offering, which we believe will add an interactive dynamic to the city’s vibrant social and entertainment culture.”

Designed by world-renowned JOI Design from Hamburg (Germany), the brewpub blends the traditional charm of Irish taverns with modern 21st-century designs. The brewpub will also soon launch brewery tours for guests to experience first-hand the brewing process and all the craft that goes into making a superlative glass of beer.

High expectations

Complemented by the best in music and entertainment, the brewpub features a curated menu brimming with a mix of inventive Indian cuisine and glocal fare, to perfectly pair with the unique flavours of the craft brews.

Currently, there are around 170 micro-breweries in the country that have mushroomed in the past decade. The country’s high population of Millennials shows a keen interest in craft beer, a niche segment that still accounts for just 3% of beer consumption.

But what is interesting for the “big boys” is the rate at which the segment has been growing. The decade-old Indian craft beer industry is currently estimated to be enjoying a 20% year-on-year growth.

7Rivers Brewpub also plans to celebrate Oktoberfest in a big way, with some very special offerings that includes Pretz-Ale, a Munich style lager created using handmade pretzels, paired with a specially curated menu. Wah Taj!