By Pratishtha Rana
After Maharashtra became the first Indian state to permit home delivery of craft beer growlers, home consumption of freshly brewed hop has surged.
During the early days of the pandemic, like other businesses, the craft beer industry also was faced with a tough situation. Micro-breweries were closed for a long time and so were hotels, restaurants and cafes where craft beers were sold. Consequently, craft beer stocks piled up and thousands of litres of beer remained unsold, and unreachable to its consumer. These severely affected the young players of a relatively young craft beer industry in the country. An immediate solution was desperately needed, and legalising growlers was it.
Unlike other filtered beers, craft beers have no preservatives and thus a shorter shelf life and tend to lose its taste and quality, over time, if exposed to air and light. Hence, micro-breweries use growlers that are either brown or amber in colour to block UV rays. “While stocking up the growlers with craft beer, we use a counter-pressure filling technique, which means that once the pitcher is placed into the machine, it is then infused with beer gas to remove all oxygen. At the same time, it is also filled with beer in a highly automated, pressurised and sanitized environment” says Manu Gulati, Founder, Effingut Breweries.
Growler with the right sort of cap will keep the beer intact for a few months. So, the best way to home deliver craft beer is in a growler, which weren’t allowed by the state government. But when Maharashtra government allowed home delivery of alcohol they also legalised growlers, enabling home delivery of crafts beer.
Around May-June, the Maharashtra State Excise department breathed in a new life into the craft beer industry by allowing home delivery of beer in growlers. “We had been discussing growlers with the government since 2016. However, like with everything else, no one wanted to disturb the status quo on the subject matter,” says Vipul Hirani, CEO & MD of Crafters, a home-grown microbrewery in Mumbai.
Much before the pandemic hit the craft beer businesses, several micro-breweries were trying to push for legalising growlers in the state. The objective was to open the market, explore home delivery of craft beer and reach the consumers directly.
Before Covid, craft beer was the only industry that had to follow the HoReCa channel,
which meant that craft beer had to be sold to people through the medium of Hotel/Restaurant/Café,” says Gulati. The microbreweries that made fresher and small batches of craft beers didn’t have the permission to retail like other alcohol categories of mass-produced beer bottles, wines and whiskies that are readily available in liquor stores.
Today, a number of micro-breweries in Mumbai and Pune have introduced exciting growler varieties.
Craft beers available in Growlers
Beer lovers can purchase their favourite ales and hops by simply placing orders on different brands’ websites or on-call or by physically picking up their growlers from retail stations. Brands including Effingut 2 Go, Crafters, Gateway Brewing Co. and subscription-based Tapped Flight have rolled out an assortment of classic and new beers that are available in growlers.
Gulati of Effingut Breweries explains his new craft beer retail shoppe Effingut 2 Go’s offerings – “We have about 13 to 14 brews on tap at all times, from beers, ciders to meads. Our Effingut classics include the popular Hefeweizen and the Dunkelweizen. We store complex and unique beers too.”
Crafters has two sizes of reusable glass growlers – 1 litre and 2.5 litres and a variety of beers. “We want our consumers to try something different with every order. So, while our standard offerings (Hefeweizen, Belgian Wit, Pilsner, Dark Lager, Apple Cider) are always on tap, the other varieties such as cucumber lager, lemon myrtle lager, and Oktoberfest lager are seasonal. We will be launching an IPA and a stout soon and are also working on a Christmas-special beer.”
Navin Mittal, Founder of Gateway Brewing Co. that operates as a shop-in-shop at Effingut Brews, Colaba, gives us glimpse of their menu too. “Our recently launched 5 litre Party Kegs are ultraportable and perfect for at-home draught-beer experience.
Whereas, Tapped Flight, one of India’s first beer subscription service is home delivering a fun mix of curated beer packages. One of the three founders, Bhakti Mehta explains, “At Tapped Flight, buyers have two options – growler subscription or on-demand delivery. With our Swingin Growler subscription, the consumer gets four new beer flavours each month. We deliver either 4 or 8 litres per month, which is split into two delivery options of two or four growlers. We also do small batch brews especially for our subscribers. We also provide them with fun pairing ideas, interesting facts about beers and breweries and beer merchandise.”
Running a growler station
To retail craft beers directly to consumers, microbreweries have set up dedicated growler stations. These stations regulate the filling of growlers and are a one-point takeaway shoppe for the customers. Gulati explains, “At Effingut, we have set up special industrial, factory-like filters and taps, but at a smaller scale.” In total, there are 14 taps, which produce 14 different kinds of freshly brewed beers. As for the workforce, these stations require a minimal staff of about three to four, who essentially fill and refill the growlers on order-basis.
Consumers love a fresh pint of beer!
Gulati of Effingut says that the demand for craft beers has surpassed the implications of the pandemic. “Customers still have many questions about the storage, sanitisation, shelf life of beers in growlers. But people are warming up to it.” Crafters’ Hirani believes that the convenience of home delivery of growlers is also playing a big role in the growing demand for craft beers.
The sale of growlers is measured in litres of craft beer, rather than counting the numbers of pitchers sold. Gulati informs that in a standard pre-Covid scenario, Effingut is capable of reaching a target of selling 25,000 to 26,000 litres of fresh beer per month. “But in the current market, the sale at our growler stations will reach close to 50 per cent of our pre-pandemic numbers.” As for Mittal, one outlet of Gateway Brewing Co. can sell about 1000 to 1500 litres of craft beer growlers every month.
Tapped Flight currently has a mix subscriber base of 100 customers a month, which is increasing rapidly. “Our men to women subscriber ratio is 65:35 and they belong to the 30 to 45 age bracket.”