The Bira 91 Story – Imagined In India
Hand-crafted beer, Imagined In India, with the effect of unleashing your inner self- that fun, friendly, smart and slightly odd creature that is inside of us.
That’s the description of Bira from the little handout created by the good folks at Bira.
In the last year, this new Craft Beer – imagined in India and brewed in Belgium has been rapidly spreading hoppiness across the country.
The modern, up-beat red and blue labels can be seen across bars and retail outlets across the metros including Bangalore. Craft Beer has been steadily gaining popularity with the introduction of beer cafes, brewpubs and microbreweries popping up all over India.
There is a growing awareness of hand crafted lagers and ales with all of this and the added fact that we as Indians are starting to travel the world, discovering new Beers along the way. There is a shift towards choosing Beers that are different from the fizzy yellow lagers we have been used to for decades.
Bira 91, a brand from Cerana Beverages aims to do just that. Launched in February 2015, Bira is available in two distinct styles – Bira Blonde(Lager) and Bira White (Belgian Style Wheat Ale). These are contract brewed in Belgium by Brouwerij Martens (founded in 1758), Bocholt. The Beers are then transported to Antwerp and shipped to Mumbai by sea. From Mumbai these are transported across the country.
Currently Bira can be found in Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkota, Goa and several more cities in the months to come in the next twelve months.
Bira White is a Belgian Wit and the Bira Blonde is a blonde lager. We shall examine these styles a little later on in the next blog post specifically on Bira Beer.
Bira 91 is the brainchild of Ankur Jain, founder of Cerena Beverages. An entrepreneur who started out in the technology field, Jain’s fondness for Craft Beer began after sampling several during his time spent in the United States. Upon his return to India, he launched Cerena Beverages in 2008 to address the lack of a proper selection of Beers in India and then went on to create Bira 91.
I recently met Ankur Jain at Bira’s Bangalore office and got his perspective about the brand and what their future plans are and this is what he had to say.
What’s the Logic behind the name. How did it transform from Biru to Bira?
The brand has a fun, unorthodox, slightly quirky imagery that can resonate with the young Indian. It’s a handcrafted beer that is imagined in India – so meant to be a name that is fun, linguistically Indian and meant to evoke beer. Bira means ‘brother’ in north India and variants of this in other parts of the county. Our mascot is a monkey because most of us have a monkey inside us. Added 91 as it is the country code of India and it makes it sound distinctive.
Biru is the generic name for beer in Japan. Previously the name suggested for Bira 91 was Biru but after a registration challenge in Japan we changed it to Bira 91.
Whats the long term brand vision?
There seemed to be a huge untapped market with tremendous potential to create a brand that had a highly unique identity and was not a colonial hand-me-down. The Indian consumer has come a long way and is willing to experiment, willing to choose ‘taste over testosterone’ (that the incumbent brands have always harped on), and therein lay the opportunity to create a fun, unorthodox, slightly quirky brand that can resonate with the young Indian. It is in this attempt that we launched Bira 91. It is a handcrafted beer, Imagined in India and made with a careful selection of world’s best ingredients- The vision is to bring a revolution in the craft beer category in a market that is ready for it. Also, by giving it a linguistically Indian name we want to re-emphasize that being Indian is cool and we can create globally exciting products – A product that can ‘sit on a shelf in NY’ but has been proudly imagined in India.
Will you be introducing more variants besides the Belgian Wit and Blonde Lager currently on offer?
Yes, we are planning to launch a variety of beers in the near future that fulfill the demand of the market.
When will you be shifting brewing to India and what potential challenges could face with this transition?
Brewery shift to India will happen in early 2016. Maintaining good quality and taste are few challenges that we can face.
*Update* – Bira just secured $6 million from VC firm Sequoia Capital and will use this for marketing and to set up a pilot brewery first and then full scale production in India later this year, in Madhya Pradesh. Read about it here:
Bira Blonde’s Ingredients include select Indian hops. Is India good for growing hops and how is the quality so far?
Making good beer is like making good food. – It needs the best Ingredients, processes and passion. Handcrafted beer is made of carefully selected ingredients, processed with special techniques, with a pre-eminent focus on taste rather than costs.
We have been working with the undiscovered traditional farmers in Lahaul & Spiti (Himalayas) in order to source high quality hops from them. There are only 20 families who produce this special quality crop. As a brand we expect to create a lot of product indigenization.
Geist came up with the same concept a few years ago but did not last. How is Bira different?
Formally launched just a few months ago, Bira 91 has already become a household name among beer lovers in the capital and Bengaluru. We feel that this is in large part due to the fact that we have caught the pulse of the new India – young, urban, unapologetically Indian.
Bira 91 is a handcrafted beer, Imagined in India but with global standards. The brand has a fun, slightly quirky imagery that is resonating with our audiences. Our logo is a reverse B, with a monkey as our mascot, which shows a spirit of rebellion against the conventional. We are trendy, unorthodox and a smart brand of beer that is positioned between the Indian brands and the expensive imported beers.
Bira91 White (a low-bitterness wheat beer) and Bira 91 Blonde (an extra-hoppy craft lager) are made in Belgium with French and Belgian malts and hops from Himachal Pradesh. The focus is on taste and experience in a market that is dominated by strong beers. We are telling the world to #Be Bira and drink us because we’re handcrafted in India and are a delicious beer – a taste that you can savor!
Bira is on tap in select cities such as Delhi & Mumbai. It’s wonderful to read that Bira has Growlers, freshly filled off the tap (1.5L) – Where have these been launched?
Bira Growler Fest ran throughout October in Delhi & Mumbai across 100 tap points.
*update – Bira is now being served on tap in Pune, as well. Bangalore – we just have to wait longer for all the necessary approvals from the Karnataka State Beverages Corporation Limited (KSBCL) – that’s the real bottleneck and the reason why we have such a poor selection of imports, inventory flow and very few Beers on tap in this city!
When can we expect to see events/promotions and Bira merchandise in Bangalore?
We can expect Bira approved events in Bangalore from December onwards.
Website & Social Media Channels
Bira 91 Website: – http://www.bira91.com/
Thank you Ankur Jain and the Bira 91 team for the interview and for meeting with me and for the sampling session. That was just awesome and we need more of those!
Images Courtesy : Bira 91 & Tales Of Froth
Looking For Bira and More About Bira Brews?
The next post covers tasting notes, more detail about both Bira’s offerings – The Bira Blond and White, price points and where to find Bira in Bangalore.
Cheers and Stay Frothy – please follow Tales Of Froth (see below) to stay updated about all the Tales Of Froth happening in this city, across India and the world of Beer & Craft Beer.