You can make anything by writing – CS Lewis
What does a man wants in his life? Summing it up all in the words of standup comedian and actor Denis Leary, “All men hear is blah, blah, blah, blah, SEX, blah, blah, blah, FOOD, blah, blah, blah, BEER!” Imagine a dream job where all you got to do is that exactly, taking care of the last two – food and beer. Meet Rahul Singh who is the brain child behind The Beer Café who has made good International beers easily available in India with lip smacking food. And coming up with brilliant ideas like Pour Your Own Beer, making it is one of the largest chains in the country and going strong. He shares insight how he is enjoying his drink and doing well in business also.
The best way to enjoy your favorite brew is to savor every sip and not chug to get drunk. Use the right glassware and chill the beer to about 10-15 degrees before drinking. Beer is a versatile beverage and pairs well with Indian and international cuisine. You can pair it with anything you’d like. Complimentary foods enhance the taste of the beer and help bring out subtle flavors.
Beer needs to be stored well to maintain the quality and taste. The beer must appear fresh and not be hazy. For lighter beers it is easier to tell, as the color would be golden and usually transparent. It should have a distinct aroma based on the type of beer/ingredients. It could be fruity or it could be really unpleasant, in which case you know something is off. You can also tell by the froth created while pouring the beer – so if it’s very bubbly and dull looking then the quality is questionable. Great brews generally have an all white layer of froth.
And the best way is to taste the beer. A good beer will have a refreshing taste that will linger on.
The world of brews is so vast! The main types are Lager, Ales, and Stouts.
Lager – The most popular beers in the world are lagers. They have crisp, refreshing taste with a smooth finish from longer aging. Most, lagers are pale to medium in color, have high carbonation and a medium to high hop flavor.
Ales – Generally robust and complex with a variety of fruit and malt aromas, ales are fuller-bodied, with nuances of fruit or spice and a pleasantly hoppy finish.
Stouts – It’s darker, not as sweet to the taste, feature a rich, creamy head and flavored and coloured by barley. It is very coffee-like character.
Beer is the oldest alcoholic beverage known to man. One can trace it back to the ancient Babylonians who used fermented bread to make beer. They thought it was divine (of course!). The Romans and Egyptians too brewed their own distinct variations. Over the centuries, hops was introduced in some areas of Germany and gradually spread across the country. The brewers came up with a set of standards for German beer and began commonly mass-brewing it, rather than home-brewing. These mass production methods and guidelines quickly spread throughout Europe and were christened The Beer Purity Law (year 1516). The law is a pledge that guarantees the drinker a certain level of quality when drinking a German brew. They ensure that one is never served a ‘bad’ beer. Finest beer in the world would be Erdinger/Paulaner.
Overall beer constitutes just about 5% of total alcohol consumed in the country. A lot of microbreweries are coming up too and the Delhi government recently announced that malls and pubs could have breweries on location. In terms of consumers, there has been a great shift from hard liquor to beer. They prefer the stronger beer varieties. Globally, it is the opposite where most of the beer consumed is mild. But we are noticing a gradual shift toward lighter brews in India as well. Usually Indians prefer whiskey that is stronger and can give them an instant buzz, but with rapid globalization you would see young corporate and a well-traveled consumer who prefers to relax and unwind with a pint rather than a peg.
India has a very diverse climatic range. For hot and humid climate one should definitely go in for lagers, that are light and refreshing and a perfect way to beat the heat. For the cooler months one could go in for Stouts or Dark beers. Beer is so versatile that it can be paired any regional Indian cuisine. Enjoy crunchy dahi kebabs or fish tikkas with light ales, spicy dishes such as tandoori chicken or biryani with wheat beers and creamy kormas and deserts would pair well with the stouts.
There is no alcohol based food service chains in India. Every now and then, a new fad comes in form of discotheques, night clubs, and lounge bars. But cafes remain consistent with their offerings. Socializing is now an inescapable phenomenon and these cafes serve as a perfect neighborhood meeting place for urban consumers. We saw a white space there and filled it with merging the two – beer and café. Thus began The Beer Cafe’s journey in April 2012, with the launch of our first outlet in Gurgaon. It started with a vision to stimulate communities towards a fun and responsible drinking culture. The response has been overwhelming and The Beer Café is already the largest and most profitable alco-beverage brand in the country.
There are a lot of Government approvals and licenses needed to open a beer cafe. Being in a mall makes things easier, but we are still seen as a place that sells alcohol (although beer is not considered to be alcohol in a lot of countries), and for the Indian government, there is no difference between a beer drinker and a hard liquor drinker. In Delhi alone, around 12 licenses have to be procured from the Department of Tourism, the nearest police station, the pollution control certificate, MCD trade license, tax license, etc, before you can actually get a liquor license.
A beer cafe cannot have a temple or a school in the vicinity. That is why we prefer to be present in malls because malls come with approved plans. But since malls get the footfalls, we have to deliver the best too, so there is revenue sharing. The good part is that malls don’t see us as a ‘nashekidukaan’! In fact, many have positioned us near a food court, which was an unheard of thing earlier.
The second challenge is dealing with staff, most of who come from QSRs. They have a different mindset, for example, there is no hierarchy at McDonald’s. We are trying to follow the same practice, and have around a 100 people, with very low attrition. We offer incentives to them for target sales on a daily basis.
We believe in innovating and providing value to our guests in every way possible. We want our guests to have access to an international beer experience right in their neighborhood. We already have 10 outlets in Delhi NCR, two in Mumbai, and one each in Chandigarh, Amritsar, and Pune. We’re aiming for 40 outlets this year.
We recently introduced ‘Brew Miles’ an app based customer loyalty program to strengthen our bond with guests and have relationship that goes beyond transactions over the counter. We will continue to build on this and introduce newer features, in the coming year.
I’m 42 and apart from beer I’m extremely passionate about gizmos, travelling and sports. An ardent reader, my favorite books are Flip It by Michael Heppell, Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy and The Saint, The Surfer, and The CEO by Robin Sharma. I like to unwind by spending time with my wife Bineeta and our son Madhav, going on a holiday whenever possible.