Numerous Indian Americans across the U.S. and Canada are starting to show their prowess in the craft beer industry, with South Asian-owned breweries becoming staples in their respective regions.
Vine Pair recently published an article noting “five Asian-Indian craft beer pioneers in North America to watch,” with breweries such as the Ravi Patel-owned, Branford, Connecticut-based Other Desi Beer Co. among them (see India-West article here: https://bit.ly/34eOus4).
The report notes that in the beer world, a South Asian presence is paper-thin. With close to 9,000 craft breweries in North America, barely more than a handful are owned by Indian Americans, the report notes.
That said, the five breweries selected from North America – in Dallas, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Queens, N.Y.; Connecticut; and Ontario, Canada – are “punching above their weight and making their presence known in the beer world,” the report noted.
They’re doing this by establishing an exciting cross-pollination of American craft brewing and Asian Indian cuisine, adding fruits and spices common in traditional Indian cuisines, such as cardamom, rice, mango, and cinnamon into their beer menus, it said.
The breweries are paving the way for a wider appreciation of Indian flavors, the Vine Pair report continued.
In doing so, they are proving that greater integration of South Asian and Asian-Indian culture into the craft beer world is possible, it stressed.
The U.S.-based breweries noted in the report were Patel’s Other Desi Beer; Windmills Brewery in Dallas, led by chief executive officer Ajay Nagarajan; Chicago’s Azadi Brewing, co-founded by Bhavik Modi; and 1947 Craft Beer in Queens, founded by Nirav Vyas.
Nagarajan bought a Mr. Beer homebrew kit from his local 7-Eleven in Dallas in 2008. What started as a hobby quickly developed into a passion, eventually leading Nagarajan to attend Chicago’s Siebel Institute, a premier brewing school, where he earned his brewing certification in 2011, the report noted.
Then, the opportunity to open his own brewery in India came up. Nagarajan partnered with Kamal Sagar of Total Environment Building Systems, who wanted to open a beer and music venue in India. Nagarajan left Dallas and the tech industry behind — he had worked for Texas Instruments and Micron since 1998 — and seized the chance to take the lead in bringing brewpub culture to Bangalore, the report added.
Windmills Brewery opened in Bangalore in September 2012, only the third brewpub in the city at that time. But integrating high-quality, American-style craft beer and Indian cuisine on one continent wasn’t enough for Nagarajan.
Nagarajan got his wish when Windmills’ parent company began work on a development, The Colony, in a suburb of Dallas, and agreed to incorporate an American branch of the brewpub there offering boutique Indian dishes, the report says.
Currently on tap in Dallas are a sticky, glutinous Rice IPA, and a bright, aromatic saison with mango, passion fruit, and pineapple that balances full, tropical flavors with a gentle yeasty zing, it said.
Azadi Brewing goes by the motto, “Born in Chicago, Indian at Heart.”
It was launched by Modi and his best friend and business partner Gator Schrand. The brand launched as part of the Pilot Project brewery incubator in Chicago’s happening Logan Square in November 2020, the report noted.
The idea to start Azadi, which means “freedom” in Hindi, came after Schrand earned a degree in brewing science from Cincinnati State. Modi relocated to Chicago and fell in love with the inclusive vibe of the city.
The booming restaurant scene, local breweries and influx of cultures created the perfect melting pot for a brewery serving the Indian-cuisine-inspired beers that Modi and Schrand had already started creating as homebrewers, the report noted.
Azadi’s flagship beers include the Kavi Cardamom Golden Ale and Gir Kesar Mango IPA, both boldly showcasing traditional Indian flavors, it said.
This focus on quality and authenticity is central to Azadi’s brewing: Himalayan pink salt and Kashmiri chili powder give a spicy kick to Azadi’s Bhogate Grapefruit Gose; and the recently released Doosra Basmati Rice Lager gives nod to India’s de facto national sport, named after a type of bowling (pitching) on the cricket field, the report said.
Headquartered in Long Island City and brewed in Harrisburg, Penn., 1947 Craft Beer was founded in 2009 by Nirav Vyas out of a love of beer and food — and the desire to find the perfect beer to pair with spicy dishes, the Vine Pair report said.
Vyas says a focus on brewing a high-quality beer with a firm flavor that makes for flexible food pairing has been key to the brand’s success, according to the report.
Vyas’s background in finance meant that he was well equipped to enter the competitive craft beer market, and he has been swift to establish his product by working with high-end restaurants and securing distribution in more than a dozen states Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Illinois, Oregon and Washington, according to the report. (See earlier India-West article here: https://bit.ly/2TUv7ms)
The flagship Premium Lager is crackling-crisp, with bright, clean floral-herb hops and a gently bitter finish, an excellent foil for spicy food and an all-rounder to suit a multitude of cuisines. To date, 1947 has been featured at a total of nine James Beard Foundation House Dinners.
With the craft beer market booming in India and a growing appreciation for craft beer among Asian-Indian drinkers, it is certainly likely that more Indian Americans will enter the industry, and there is a strong sense of positivity among those paving the way, the Vine Pair report says.
Also mentioned in the Vine Pair list was Hamilton, Ontario, Canada-based Merit Brewing, co-founded by Tej Sandhu.