An Indian American entrepreneur in Connecticut has gone from packing beers in a liquor store to packing cases of his own brews to send to dozens of liquor stores throughout the state and beyond.
Ravi Patel, 32, is the founder and owner of Other Desi Brewing Company, a small craft beer company located in Wallingford, Connecticut, which launched in 2018.
His passion for brewing and making beer comes from working alongside his dad — a local package store owner — where he learned the mechanics of running a small business. That excitement followed him to college where he would spend time at a local brewery, according to his bio.
‘Other Desi Beer’ blends flavors from Patel’s South Asian heritage with more traditional flavors, providing a unique experience for its consumers.
“When I was younger, I would stock bottles and beer on the shelves at my parents’ package store (liquor store),” Patel, a native of Queens, New York, who was raised in Connecticut, told India-West in an interview. “While I enjoyed my job, I became more interested in how beer, wine and liquor were made,” he said.
While attending Eastern Connecticut State University – where he would go on to earn a bachelor’s in economics – there was a brewery, Willimantic Brewing Company, down the street. Patel said he spent much of his time there in awe of them brewing beer right behind the bar.
“From then on, I decided to pursue my dream of starting a brewing company,” he recalled to India-West.
Patel actually got his start in brewing a little earlier than when he launched Other Desi Beer. He dabbled in home brew with some friends and kept at it, despite inauspicious beginnings.
“I did (home brew) at my own house and at my friends’ homes. We made some pretty terrible beers at the start,” he acknowledged, adding, “But, like any trade, we improved with practice.”
The beers improved enough for Patel to push for opening Other Desi Beer, for which the Indian American serves as founder and brewer. Other Desi Beer’s brews are crafted through a contract brewing arrangement with Thimble Island Brewing Company. Thimble gives Patel access to the other brewers from which to bounce ideas off and get help, if needed.
Currently, Other Desi Beer has two beers available for purchase – Dishoom! and Jalabae.
Dishoom! is a crushable 5.5 percent alcohol by volume New England India Pale Ale, made with Cashmere and Sabro hops.
“This beer is super light and easy with notes of melon, mango, and coconut,” the brewer explained to India-West. “I wanted to make a brew that was easy on the palette and paired well with spicy foods.”
The name Dishoom! comes from the punching sound effect from old Bollywood movies, he said.
Jalabae, in contrast to Dishoom!, is a double NEIPA, at 8 percent ABV, made with Taiheke and Pacifica hops.
“For having a higher ABV rating, Jalabae is light, but sweeter, with notes of lime zest, citrus and pepper,” Patel described. “Jalebae is derived from a pun combining jalebi, an Indian sweet similar to funnel cake but smaller and soaked in cardamom, saffron and sugar syrup, and ‘bae,’ meaning your significant other. Together, it means ‘Your sweet bae,’” he said.
On the Other Desi Beer website, www.otherdesibeer.com, other beers the company has includes Hoppy Haithi, a 6 percent NEIPA, which the site describes as its flagship; High Chai Stout, a 7.5 percent ABV imperial stout; 3 Ranis, a 4.5 percent ABV pink guava hibiscus sour; and Bangin’ Bhangra, a 5 percent ABC double dry hopped pale ale.
Patel told India that he is a huge fan of tropical hops, claiming Cashmere as his favorite.
“I’ve used (Cashmere hops) in two beers so far,” he said. “It’s so dynamic – if you use it sparingly, you’ll taste citrus and melon notes; if you use a lot, the flavor intensifies on those tropical notes, like coconut.”
The craft beer industry has made a major shift in the past decade, where a lot of breweries are making hazy IPAs, such as New England IPAs.
The haze craze, as it’s affectionately known as, is not something Other Desi Beer has stayed away from. But Patel says he’s a fan of hazy beers, as well as more crisp, hop-forward IPAs, known as West Coast IPAs.
“I personally love both styles for their unique flavor profiles,” Patel confessed. “Yes, the hazy style IPAs are still huge, but I like that hop bite bitter at the end of my beers as well. Now that I’m thinking about it, mixing the two sounds like a fun idea,” he said.
Brewing beer is an unconventional career path for members of the Indian American community, who tend to steer toward the tech or medical industries. For Patel, heading down this path has been satisfying.
“It’s both scary and fulfilling,” he told India-West. “I hope I can be an example to others that may want to pursue something else that might not be the norm,” he said.
“My family has been supportive of what I am trying to do, which has been awesome,” Patel continued. “I think others who may be hesitant to branch out for fear of what their family might think should at least try—you never know how they will react!”
Patel’s vision of Other Desi Beer is to eventually open a taproom. He said he’ll continue to contract with Thimble until that opportunity presents itself. Before he reaches that point, he adds that he hopes to enter more markets with the Other Desi Beer brand while contracting with Thimble. Currently the beer is sold at roughly 150 liquor stores throughout Connecticut and has recently expanded into Pennsylvania.
The beer company also gives back a portion of its proceeds to nonprofits in Connecticut.
In 2019, he gave 5 percent of his proceeds to Kid U Not, a living organ donor fund based in Branford. In 2020, he gave 5 percent to the Greenwich-based Breast Cancer Alliance. This year, he is giving 5 percent to the Connecticut Hospitality Education Foundation, the nonprofit philanthropic arm of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, which operates to attract, develop and retain career-oriented restaurant professionals.
Other Desi Beer – a name which came from the times he has been asked what kind of Indian he was – is on the path to success. He hopes he can inspire fellow South Asians to follow in his footsteps.
“If you have something you want to try, try it. Last year made me realize that I can’t waste any more time, and that I don’t want to regret anything. And be sure to seek support online!” he said.
“There’s a huge South Asian community that I found online that has been really supportive – if someone else was to try something that’s not the norm, they might find support there, too,” Patel added.