Brews & Spirits

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Hop-ping onto the flavour highway

Hopping with Bira91’s Harshvardhan Jadhav Harshvardhan Jadhav, the brewer behind many innovations at Bira91, emphasizes on beers with new flavours.

Bira91 recently curated its first taproom pop-up in North India as part of the ‘Make Play Festival’. The invite-only event was organized at Soi7 Brewpub, in Cyber Hub, Gurugram.

Ankur Jain, Founder and CEO of Bira91, introduced everyone to Harshvardhan Jadhav, the brewer behind many innovations at the company. Harsh then catapulted the event to a different level, with an interesting talk on beers and brewing, guided and interactive tasting of Bira91’s three unique, limited-edition brews: Rocket IPA, Berry Popper and Firecracker.

My favourite brew of the day was Rocket IPA. I wanted to understand the limited edition beers better, and Harsh was kind enough to lend me his ear. Excerpts from our conversation:

What can you tell us about your story as a brewer?

I was always fascinated by beer brewing and wine-making. I am a graduate in bio-technology and Masters in wine, brewing and alcohol technology. I have done a vast array of brewing in the past 6-7 years.

My first job was that of an intern in Doolally in Pune, which is India’s first micro-brewery. I went on to join the world’s biggest brewing company, ABInbev. I then joined Goa Brewing Company as its head brewer. Now I am with Bira91.

This was your first micro batch collaboration with Soi7. How did it go?

This is Bira’s first collaboration with a brewpub in North India. We are planning to many more of such collaborations across India. The whole idea is bring people together to explore the beers they will not find in market. Sharing knowledge with consumers is one thing we wanted to do with this event at Cyberhub.

Also, Ishan Grover, who is handling the brewing operations at Soi7, is a friend. We were comfortable working with him and his team, and we like the way they make beers. I think it was a perfect recipe for our purpose. We appreciate all the technical support we got at Soi7.

Why don’t we see such beers from Bira on retail shelves?

Sometimes it is very difficult to create such micro batches on a commercial scale. It is not viable to bottle and scale up such batches in big numbers due to commercial and technical limitations.

To overcome this challenge, Bira is coming up with taprooms across India to showcase and surprise the consumers with the experimental flavours.

But there is a consumer segment that feels left out. Can we expect any such beer options in the market from Bira any time soon?

Yes, we are planning to launch six new beer variants. These beers will be somewhat similar to our experimental batches which you are enjoying now with me at Soi7.

The name, Rocket IPA, is quite interesting; and so are the others. What ingredients and beer style you have targeted with the Rocket IPA?

All the beers we have created for the event today are fun-centric beers. Our motto is ‘Play with Flavours’. Hence we have experimented a lot using unconventional methods of brewing to create beers with flavours.

But these beers are deliberately not true to any style. Rocket IPA is like West Coast IPA – somewhere close to that, but not very true to the said style.

What hops have gone into the making of Rocket IPA?

I’ll let you in on a secret: we have used Citra, Mosaic and Cascade hops. All are very aromatic hop varieties, showcasing tropical fruit. It has been dry-hopped for a week. Here I targeted a style that favours the Indian palate – a lot of flavor, but tamed low bitterness.

What about Berry Popper?

We have used 10% of the berries. There is raspberry, blueberry and blackberry that go in making the beer. To start with we have created a simple ale. We have used hops in dry hopping stage to enhance the overall beer aroma. And then we have aged the beer on berry pulp.

What makes Firecracker such a ‘fataaka’?

It’s an unconventional take on a wheat beer. Mostly wheat beers are associated with Belgian and German styles; but what we have done is we have used American ale yeast which gives esters in a different way.

It doesn’t give you banana and clove normally found in a German wheat beer. The beer is dry-hopped with Sorachi ace hops. These hops were developed in Japan and are known for their unique lemon and herbal aromas.

We have not only used this in dry-hopping, but also for late hopping. We got that lemony and citrusy aroma from the hop – without adding any citrus peel. That’s what makes it unique.

What food is good to pair with each of these limited edition beers?

I think the Rocket IPA goes with all kinds of food, especially the Asian food that is available at Soi7. You can pair a salad or seafood with a Berry Popper. The Firecracker wheat is something that you can have with anything you like to eat.