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Some craft brew enthusiasts have made multiple trips to their favourite breweries already.
Some craft brew enthusiasts have made multiple trips to their favourite breweries already.

Bengaluru’s supersized breweries go the takeaway route

Thousands of litres may have to be drained as craft beer has a shelf life of three months

A little under two weeks ago, the Karnataka government allowed microbreweries to sell beer in takeaway growlers (airtight jugs made of glass, ceramic or stainless steel), bringing some cheer to brewery owners, who hope this will become the norm in a city that loves its beer but has been under lockdown for more than two months. The excise department has agreed to let microbreweries sell existing stock of beer until end of June. For brewers, this is a relief as craft beer only has a shelf life of three months. Bengaluru’s 60 microbreweries are large spaces of at least 10,000 sq ft, and brew several thousands of litres of beer.

Most of the stock of craft beer would have had to be drained by the end of June if the order had not come through. The announcement came after the Craft Brewers Association of India (CBAI) in Bengaluru spent over a month lobbying with the excise department.

Ajay Nagarajan, CEO, Windmills Craftworks, said it the utility bills alone to keep beer cold runs up to a lakh a month. “Some breweries might already have drained their brews as they were unsure about whether we’d get permission to sell," he says.

Given that microbreweries in Bengaluru are super-sized (as per a government order they have to be located within premises spanning a minimum of 10,000 sq ft), upkeep and maintenance has been a challenge with no revenue coming in since the lockdown was announced in March. The largest among them is Byg Brewski in Hennur, in north Bengaluru, which is spread over 65,000 sq ft.

Pravesh Pandey, director-partner at Byg Brewski Brewing Company, likes to look on the bright side. “When we reopen we won’t have a problem with social distancing among tables. In fact, we’ve already compiled a 30-pointer guideline on what measures we’ll be taking right from valet to hostess to service in the kitchen. There will be new roles like someone who just keeps sanitising the space," Pandey says.

Apart from selling their own brew, bars have also got permission to sell existing stock of liquor bottles at MRP until end of May. Toit, which had 20,000 litres of beer in its cold room, managed to move about 15% of its stock in the first week of the announcement being made. Additionally, they’re also selling liquor bottles at MRP. “If we could afford to retain the stock, we would have preferred that but we need to pay salaries and overheads," says Arun George, one of the co-owners of Toit. Pandey shares a similar sentiment. “Right now, we just need to liquidate whatever assets we can as there are too many liabilities," he says.

There was a rush for beer during the first weekend but demand has tapered off after that. Vishal Atreya, chef and managing partner, The Pump House, is hopeful things will pick up since public transport has been allowed now. “We have about 5,500 litres of beer in stock and I don’t think we’ve sold even 1,000 litres. There’s only a limited amount [5 litres] that one person can take away. Plus, craft beer cannot be stored at home for more than a few days," Atreya says.

Byg Brewski has stuck instruction labels regarding storage and consumption on each bottle.

Some craft brew enthusiasts have made multiple trips to their favourite breweries already. Food consultant and writer Monika Manchanda visited three breweries in the first week. “I went to breweries where I was a regular," says Manchanda, who found that each place had a fairly organised system. “At Windmills, a masked valet asks you want you want. If you are buying in their bottle, they bring what you want. You pay online via mobile apps. If you have a growler, they collect and fill it. The person is wearing gloves and mask all the time," she adds.

Akash Hirebet, beer consultant and co-founder of Craft & Co, an online community of craft beverage enthusiasts, has put up a rather helpful post on Facebook with a list of 30+ microbreweries that are selling craft beer along with details on which beer types are available. “I picked up some brew from Arbor Brewing Company few days ago but am waiting for my growler to arrive so that I can head out to more places," says Hirebet, who has also shared specifications on kind of containers people are allowed to carry to bring their beer home. Most microbreweries also have stock of one litre and two litre corked or sealed bottles that they are providing to customers. ⁣⁣

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