SABMiller claims its new range of beer, Indus Pride, is India in a bottle.
Eighteen months in the making, it’s been brewed with four spices—coriander, cardamom, fennel and cinnamon, all closely associated with Indian cooking. It was launched in Pune and Mumbai on 16 July and in Gurgaon and Chandigarh at the end of the month. The company expects to bring the beers to Bangalore and Delhi in the last week of August. They are expected to be available in Goa when the tourist season begins in September-October.
“Each flavour is sharp and warm without taking away from the beer-drinking experience,” says Akash Sahu, general manager, brand communications, SABMiller India. Though the beers are brewed to be drunk in any season and with any cuisine, the coriander and cardamom flavours are the more “cooling”, citrusy options, while the fennel and cinnamon—indicatively tagged “spicy” and “fiery”, respectively—are the “warming” ones, Sahu says.
“India the world over is renowned for spices. If you want to put an Indian beer on the table, we thought spices were the way to go.” SABMiller researched the importance of spices in cooking and their impact on food habits and consumption. “We looked at the compatibility of the spices with beer, the aroma and how they would sit with the Indian palate,” Sahu says.
The company experimented with various spices but found that cumin, turmeric and tamarind were suppressed with beer. Continental spices like basil and oregano were also ruled out since the theme was India.
“Apart from the four flavours that we launched we looked at other spices. In all we decided on eight spice variations,” says Sahu, adding that there were no concrete plans to launch the other four as of now. The flavours were extracted from organic spices. “From, say, a 50kg bag of clove you can distil 500ml of botanical liquid. This is super potent. A single drop of that can be enough to flavour a 5-litre pressure cooker of biryani or whatever else,” says Sahu.
Calibrating the flavour was important, since the “beer-drinking experience” could not be drowned with a dominant spice flavour.
There is a method to tasting the beer as well. Want to sip them all in one session? Sahu suggests you follow a protocol: Try them in this order—coriander, cardamom, fennel and cinnamon—with chilled water or a plain cracker or Marie biscuit in between to cleanse the palate for the next tasting.
Many Indians like lager beer, which has a barley malt “leader”, or main ingredient, mixed with ingredients such as rice flakes and adjunct cereals. The original Indus Pride, which launched in 2008, failed to grab a share of the growing premium beer market in the country because “100% malt is a cultivated taste”, claims Sahu. The other beers were not 100% malted barley. Indus Pride was.
The new spicy brew marks a return to lager. “After deciding on a ‘pride-in-origin’ credential, we proceeded with organoleptic research,” Sahu says. That is, research into taste profiles, with the help of trained beer and spirit tasters.
Apart from Indus Pride, the company also sells Foster’s, Haywards, Knock Out, Royal Challenge, Miller High Life and Peroni Nastro Azzurro in India. So after its phased launch in Indian markets, will Indus Pride go abroad? “It might,” says Sahu.