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Photo: iStockphoto
Photo: iStockphoto

Beer | From masses to classes

Beer is now being used in cocktails and also consumed alongside shots of pickle juice in the coolest parts of New York City

Beer is quite possibly the most global drink. It is consumed in shanty towns to stately homes the world over, by builders at the end of a long day to barristers discussing their cases, and in bars and pubs from San Francisco to Shanghai.

One of the oldest drinks in the world, beer is incredibly versatile and comes in many forms. From a base level, ultra-refreshing lager (bubbly, cold, tall glass, hot sun), through to a real ale (often flat, consumed warm, made from highly flavoursome ingredients), it is a lot cheaper than wine and other spirits, and is the fuel to most conversations between mates. European-style beer was introduced in India by the British, and a whole new category was born: IPA, or India Pale Ale. The original European-style beers were imported from Britain for the troops and British citizens living on the subcontinent during colonial rule in the 18th century. To ensure that the beer survived the long sea journey from Britain to India, the alcohol content was kept higher and a higher percentage of hops, which act as preservative and flavouring agent, were added to the drink. This style came to be known as India Pale Ale, and these days generally have an alcoholic content of around 4% or lower. Enduring through the ages, IPA is still popular the world over.

Despite favouring stronger alcoholic spirits such as whisky and rum, the market for beer in India is one of the biggest in the world and is valued at 25,000 crore currently, according to an industry report, and is expected to grow to 43,000 crore by 2017.

The biggest selling brand of beer in India, Kingfisher, has taken hold of a market for refreshing lager-style Indian beers. I often write about hugely successful brands in the booze business, and my take on the majority of them is that the reason they are selling big is because they are good. Take Glenfiddich single-malt whisky, for example. It is the world’s biggest selling single-malt Scotch and the reason behind it that it’s that damn good! The same could be said for its biggest competitor—The Glenlivet. Both these brands struggle with the same things that make them great: their ubiquity, consistency and overall quality that, oddly enough, can turn people away from more populist brands. So let’s not write off Kingfisher, just because it sells cases of beer faster than anybody else. But straight from the bottle or poured as a pint is not the only way to drink this great lager.

The world is changing; beer is also being used in cocktails now and consumed alongside shots of pickle juice in the coolest parts of New York City (the pickleback as it is known—give it a try, it is surprisingly delicious). The Boilermaker serve has also picked up the idea of whisky and beer served together, again one alongside the other as with the pickleback. Most often seen in the fashionable bars of London, Sydney, Los Angeles and Tokyo, the idea is to match a well made whisky with a craft ale or beer. One for hipsters the world over.

Traditional Flavours

Beer varies in flavour dramatically, from a light and crisp lager, through to a hoppy beer such as an IPA, and finally the rich, dark flavours of a Guinness-like stout.

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