Business Standard

Ale is well

Bangalore is developing a taste for freshly-brewed beer. But which of the newly opened micro-breweries offers the frothiest mug?

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What could be worse than a pub that’s out of beer, or a microbrewery that’s run out of brew? That is more or less the case when a friend and I drop in at in Indira Nagar, one of Bangalore’s three microbreweries, to determine which can claim to be the best. Toit is split over three storeys topped by a giant tiled roof but still manages to be cozy and welcoming. It lists six beers on its menu but on Sunday night, the waiter breaks the news to us that only two are available, unless I want Tuborg. Left with no choice, I order the Tintin Toit, a Belgian whit bier (white beer). The straw-coloured beer arrives in a tall glass and turns out to be light and refreshing, with an aftertaste of coriander. The other beer available is a coffee-flavoured stout, titled Toit’s Dark Knight, but that’s a trifle diluted. The food is ordinary. The “Jamaica Maan” pizza with jerk chicken and chicken salami lacks flavour and spice, while the cheesy potato skins are average. Things improve when we return in two days. Two more beers are available — Toit Weiss, a crisp German wheat beer which is delicious, and a rye ale, also quite good. We have better luck with the food, too. The beefy loaded potato, halves of roast potato filled with minced beef and topped with salsa, is great beer fare. And the music, thankfully, has returned to Dire Straits and Crash Test Dummies instead of the club music (anathema to Toit, I would have thought) that had to be endured last time.

Beer: Good, Food: Average,
Service: Good, Ambience: Excellent
The bill: Rs 890, inclusive of taxes, for a (Rs 200 for 500 ml), Jamaica Maan (Rs 375) and Cheesy Potato Skins (Rs 150)

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Koramangala, another buzzing neighbourhood in south Bangalore, is the location for the city’s microbrewery newbie —Delhi chain Punjabi By Nature’s Beer Garden. While its rivals are more pub-like with loud music and boisterous groups, Punjabi By Nature has elegant, beautifully appointed interiors, with its diners more likely to talk in hushed tones over the gurgle of artificial water bodies. But can its Beer Garden whip up a mean brew? The microbrewery offers diners four kinds — a premium, a blonde, a stout (all lagers) and an ale. The waiter graciously lets us sample all four, free of charge. The stout has the requisite almost-black colour but doesn’t seem to be very “stout” so we begin with a glass of the ale and the premium lager, along with two plates of kababs. The kababs, when they arrive, turn out to be sublime. The Murgh Malai kababs have been cooked to perfection while the tender galoutis, with a sliver of saffron-flavoured roti tucked beneath each, are delicately spiced. But the beers are a far cry from the food — both are a bit flat and flavourless, with one barely distinguishable from the other. Punjabi By Nature might well come out on top if one were to judge it on the basis of its food alone but then, this is a quest for Bangalore’s best microbrewery.

Beer: Bad, Food: Excellent,
Service: Good, Ambience: Good
The bill: Rs 1,500, inclusive of taxes, for a premium lager (Rs 195 for 500 ml), an ale (Rs 195 for 500 ml), Murgh Malai Kababs (Rs 395) and Galouti Kababs (Rs 425)

* * *

That honour can safely be claimed by The Biere Club, located at the junction of Vittal Mallya Road and Lavelle Road, a stone’s throw from Vijay Mallya’s UB City. Spread over three floors, its dim lighting and checked tablecloths lend the air of a pub, albeit a posh one with loud music (mostly crowd-pleasers like Bryan Adams, MLTR and Queen). One wall on the ground floor is dominated by a colourful caricature of The Biere Club, somewhat in the style of Cafe Mondegar in Colaba, and you can espy the gleaming copper-coloured microbrewery behind the bar counter. The only quibble I have with its decor is the ornate gilt frames for its flat screen TVs, at odds with the lighthearted ambience. Partly because of its excellent location, The Biere Club is invariably crowded on Friday and Saturday nights and seems to be a favourite with expatriates as well. But people are also trooping in for its beer. Starting with four styles when it opened in May 2011, The Biere Club has since expanded its repertoire to six — a lager, a wheat, a stout, an ale, a seasonal offering and a club special, all of which come in different varieties throughout the year. On average, The Biere Club brews two to three times a week, in batches of 1,000 litres. We order mugs of the German Pilsner (lager), the hefeweizen (wheat) and the India Pale Ale (the club special) and samplers of the fresh mango ale (the seasonal beer), Irish red ale and stout. The cloudy yellow hefeweizen is excellent — it is crisp, has a smooth finish and is delicious. The wheat beers, Biere Club’s director of operations, Vishal Nagpal, tells me later, are always the most popular. That’s not to say the other brews are laggards — the mango ale is refreshing and the pilsner is a pretty good lager, though it could have been slightly more chilled. Both the amber India Pale Ale and the Irish Red Ale go down smoothly, while the dark brown malt stout has the characteristic burnt aftertaste. The Moroccan chicken we order to go with the beer, a Mediterranean kabab of sorts that comes with pita bread and grilled vegetables, is fairly good, though the platter of seafood in beer batter is unremarkable. But with the variety and flavours of beer and its cheerful atmosphere, The Biere Club carries the day. So if you’re in the city and in the mood to try something other than the ubiquitous lagers in the market, you know where to head.

Beer: Excellent, Food: Good,
Service: Good, Ambience: Good
The bill: Rs 1900, inclusive of taxes, for a hefeweizen (Rs 199 for 330 ml), a pilsner (Rs 159 for 330 ml), an India Pale Ale (Rs 220 for 330 ml), three samplers (Rs 90), seafood in beer batter (Rs 520) and Moroccan spiced chicken (Rs 380)


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