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Beer isn't just for boys, say these women brewers

To mark Women's Day, six women brewers from different pubs in Bengaluru have collaborated to create a special lager that pays tribute to their city

Varsha Bhat, brewer at Mannheim Brews, adds hops to the women's day exclusive brew.
Varsha Bhat, brewer at Mannheim Brews, adds hops to the women's day exclusive brew.

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It’s that time of the year again. Brands are busting out the pink guns to try and sell to us. The beer industry is no different. Over the years, brands and pubs have marketed beers for women that are either sweet, packaged in pink, or sometimes aren’t even beers at all. Rude, considering women were the original pioneers of beer.  

In Bengaluru, the craft beer capital of India, a group of women brewers are mixing things up. They came together last month to brew a collaboration beer. It’s not sweet, it’s not pink, and it’s for everyone. Not just the ladies. 

When Varsha Bhat, brewer at Mannheim Brews, floated the idea for this collaboration to Vidya Kubher, head brewer at Geist, everyone agreed that the idea was exciting and they decided to make it a women’s day exclusive brew. Geist—being the only craft brewery in Bengaluru with the necessary permissions to package and sell craft beer in retail stores—became the host brewery. 

An all Indian, all women brew

Beer collaborations are not a new concept, but this one was special. “We have done international collab brews before. This is our first ‘All Indian, All Women’ collaboration and this is the first time in India that this beer will be available in restaurants across Bengaluru and retail stores,” says Kubher. 

The actual brew day was preceded by days of discussions amongst the collaborators, who decided on the beer recipe after taking into account a host of different factors. Since the beer would also be in retail, it needed to appeal to a wider audience. After looking at the availability of raw materials at the host brewery and the audience, they settled on a hoppy lager.

Women brewers Lynette Pires, Kajal Manchanda, Megha Dalimbe, Aishwarya Ritti, Vidya Kubher and Varsha Bhat in Bengaluru
Women brewers Lynette Pires, Kajal Manchanda, Megha Dalimbe, Aishwarya Ritti, Vidya Kubher and Varsha Bhat in Bengaluru

The Geist Stratosphere Lager is an easy-drinking, aromatic lager made primarily with Strata hops. “Our Strata lager is pale yellow and boasts strong stone-fruit like aromas and floral characteristics, with a balanced hoppy finish,” explains Lynette Pires, head brewer at Seven Rivers Brewing Co. 

Apart from serving the Stratosphere Lager on tap at its own locations, Geist is planning to package the beer for retail sale in 500ml limited edition crowlers. A crowler is a fusion of a can and a growler. Similar to a growler, it packages fresh craft beer for a limited period, but in an aluminium can. Crowlers are easier to transport and keep beer fresh for longer, if refrigerated. The beer is launching in Bengaluru on 8 March, and the crowlers will be available for pickup at Geist locations and in retail locations later in the month.

“Being a Bengaluru-based brewery, we wanted to add something uniquely Bengaluru. We used a local popped rice called ‘aralu’ in the beer,” adds Kubher. The name is derived from the Strata hops in the brew.

A beer collective

Beer has been around for about 7,000 years, with women usually brewing it at home as a calorie-rich drink, as Laken Brooks writes in The Conversation. At some point, beer brewing became professionalised; it was no longer something women did in the kitchen, like cooking dinner. When the world shifted to an industrial-based economy, brewing became another commercial product, almost exclusively controlled by men. And once again, this is slowly changing.

“At my first job, in 2014, we were three female brewers and one male. This in itself is proof that more and more women are now working in the craft beer industry. This was highly encouraging for me to continue on this path as a brewer,” recalls Bhat. 

Ladies Who Lager is an initiative by Geist to bring together women who brew beer, drink craft beer, or are interested in celebrating it. The idea is to help facilitate the production of quality craft beer that anyone can fall in love with. “We currently are a small group of six female brewers and we hope to expand and grow over the next few years, encouraging and inspiring more women in brewing industries”, says Pires. The plan is to bring together current and future members of this collective annually to brew together.

The collective is designed to veer away from traditional notions of “craft beer for women” timed around this time of the year by underscoring that craft beer is for everyone no matter who it's made by. “I don’t think any beer is gender specific. Every one of us can drink all the beers brewing across the world,” feels Kajal Manchanda, brewer at By The Peepal.

Aishwarya Ritti, the head brewer at Tiger Tiger Brewhouse, adds malt to the brew. 
Aishwarya Ritti, the head brewer at Tiger Tiger Brewhouse, adds malt to the brew. 

Love for beer wasn’t the only thing bringing these women together. They ended up bonding over many things, including the outdated crowd-favourite “what does it feel like to be a woman brewer?”, a question rarely posed to their male counterparts. 

Their reasons for starting out in the brewing world were different. “Growing up, I was a huge Potterhead. I was intrigued by the subject ‘potions’, taught at Hogwarts. Kids learnt about brewing potions using magical ingredients and experimentation. Brewing felt similar and I got into this industry to brew beer for Muggles,” laughs Aishwarya Ritti, the head brewer at Tiger Tiger Brewhouse on Sarjapur Road.

Megha Dalimbe, brewer at Byg Brewski Brewing Company, which has two outlets in Bengaluru, recalls the time she watched a brewery tour on Discovery Channel as a child. “I noticed there were no girls working there and wondered why. After a B.Tech in agriculture, I found my way to a beer and winemaking course,” she explains.

The women have all been brewing beer for a few years and each enjoys one aspect of the process the most. For Bhat, it is the transformative nature of the work. “Being able to witness the raw materials transform into the final product is amazing. I love seeing my patrons enjoy a glass of my creation,” she says.

Bhat strives to bring planning and organisation to her brews. “I like to put in the effort to read up and apply lessons to every brew,” she explains.

Ritti, Manchanda and Pires are excited by the scope for experimentation. “India is home to such a vast array of different flavours. I hope to incorporate as many of these seasonal and diverse ingredients into as many fun brews as I can,” says Pires.

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