Hooch hunters are going beyond the charade of pasteurised and packaged beer, and are waking up to fresh brew! Microbreweries, mushrooming around Delhi, claim responsibility. Kaizad Bhamgara takes a gulp of this liquid gold.

Credited as the oldest beverage known to man, the first batch of beer was accidentally created by farmers from Mesepotamia (Iraq). Dating back to 6000BC, beer has been around for longer than most alcoholic beverages. Beer in India was imported in the 17th century and has been natively manufactured since the late 1820s. It has come a long way from the first ‘India Pale Ale’ that was created by George Hodgson in his London brewery.

The government in Delhi wants to classify microbreweries as ‘green industries’ to encourage them coming up in the state’s commercial zones. This would set a remarkable precedent for the brewing of beer by small and medium sized businesses as opposed to the giants of the industry. One will find many microbreweries around Delhi with a loyal customer base. Reason? The beer flavour is kept as natural as possible since it’s free of preservatives.

Rockman’s Beer Island: This is the biggest microbrewery in north India. It powers the beer needs of Rockman’s very own multicuisine restaurant ‘Kegs & Barrels’ and their Bavarian restaurant next door. Rockman’s beer comes close to the kind of beer brewed in Germany, which takes its beer very seriously. They are well-known for making beer only using Munich barley and malt.

Rockman’s uses 17 kilos of malt to make 100 litres of beer and brews up to a 1,000 litres every second day. It takes a week to ferment and two weeks for the flavours to mature. They offer a variety of beers ranging from yeast brew, clear yeast brew, dark caramel, clear lite, to wheat brew. If you want to witness the brewing process, you can call in advance and book it.

Howzatt: Launched in October, 2008, Howzatt was the country’s first microbrewery pub. Brewer extraordinaire, S K Kohli, and his team create upto 250 litres of fresh beer every day. The theme of the pub and the beer made here is inspired by cricket, as is evident by its name.

The ‘Doosra’ is their lightest beer, the ‘Bouncer’ is a dark brew with a bitter and sweet balance and the ‘Googly’ is a light-bodied wheat beer. Fresh beer has a life of barely 75 hours so asking for a bottle of their delicious brew to take back home is a futile task.  Ask for a sample, and the mug arrives on a tray shaped like a cricket bat. Howzatt also has an informative menu that states the benefits of their in-house beer. The brewery staff claims that 1,100 ml of fresh beer has fewer calories than 650 ml of milk, cola or apple juice!

Vapour: One of the smaller microbreweries, Vapour is popular for serving four kinds of beer. ‘Premium’ is unfiltered beer where one can find some yeast remains. The ‘Light Pour’ is a clear version of the Premium brew. The ‘Dark Beer’ is made from roasted barley and has a sweet flavour and aroma. ‘Wheat Beer’ is arguably the most popular of the lot, with a mild citrus hit. Vapour is also adventurous with its menu and experiments with beer cocktails, incorporating freshly brewed beer with fruits like kiwi pulp or lime.

Vapour uses Austrian grains and brews up to 500 litres of beer each day. A notable feature of their style of production is that they rest the brew for three hours after it’s ready to be served, to help it develop a better finish. Vapour is popular for its afternoon lunch combinations of Indian food and freshly-brewed beer, and the limited staff is enthusiastic and perpetually busy.

The Indian beer audience has come of age and seems poised to start appreciating the finer nuances of beer brewing. A microbrew allows one to appreciate the brewing style and the ingredients. These brewpubs serve beer by tap and do not store leftovers.

5 myths you can wash down with beer:

1)Having light beer can help you beat a beer belly: Light beers have around 100 calories on an average and regular beers have less than 200. So unless you’re drinking more than 100 beer bottles a week, it makes no difference to your waist line. As researches have pointed out, ‘there is such a thing as a beer belly but it has nothing to do with beer. The same way thunder thighs have nothing to do with clouds.’

2)Beer is ruined if it gets warm and refrigerated again: Beer is ruined far more easily by factors such as air, light and time. It can get ruined gradually if you keep changing the temperature it’s stored at repeatedly. This is called the beer ‘skunking’. Avoid this by getting fresh beer and consuming it quickly.

3)Beer shouldn’t be bitter: The bitterness of a beer comes from the hops. They’re found in all beers to act as preservatives and to balance the sweet malts. Some beers such as wheat beers have lower levels of hops content and some have a lot more, like India Pale Ales which need longer preservation, as they make their five-month sea journey to India from England. People say beer is an acquired taste because of the presence of hops.

4)The best beer is in green bottles: Brown bottles protect the beer from light much better than green or clear bottles. This myth was created after World War II where there was a considerable shortage of brown glass in Europe. European bottles changed to a green bottle and thus green bottles became the colour of imported beer.

5)Non-alcoholic beer is alcohol-free: Beers can be classified as non-alcoholic universally if they contain less than 0.65% alcohol. This type of brew is called ‘near beer’ and is extremely complicated and expensive to make.