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Paying Tribute to the Girls who make Craft Beer in India

On March 8, International Women’s day, the Indian Express published an abridged copy of this post. Due time and space constraints, we couldn’t feature everyone nor give the depth to the story that was originally intended but that’s why we have the Tales Of Froth blog!

Beer has been around for a very long time making it one of the world’s oldest fermentable beverages and the third most popular alcoholic beverage in our world today.

Beer is said to have its roots in what is modern day Iran dating back to 3400 BC.

As early as 4500 BC, beer brewed from Barley was very much a part of Babylonian, Assyrian, Egyptian, Hebrew, Chinese and Incan cultures.

The Sumerians from Southern Mesopotamia were the first to document the recipe for Beer in the form of a hymn dedicated to their Godess of Beer, Ninkasi.

“Ninkasi, you are the one who pours out the filtered beer of the collector vat; it is [like] the onrush of the Tigris and Euphrates.”—Hymn to Ninkasi

It was believed that Ninkasi gifted Beer to humans to preserve peace and well being.

In Sumerian society, most of the brewers were women. In fact it is said that those who preceded the hunter gathers that preceded the Sumerians were also making an early form of Beer. Whilst the men went out as hunter gatherers, women stayed at home collecting ingredients and brewing early forms of Beer. Women were not only brewers but were also bar keeps and priestesses who were well respected in society. The Egyptians who were introduced to Beer by the Sumerians, also revered Beer had female brewers.

With the Romans talking Beer from Egypt to Europe, Beer spread quickly and along the way, women continued to brew until new laws and guilds came into being that slowly became male dominated and by 1700 most women in Europe had stopped brewing. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, brewing quickly transformed into a commercialized industry dominated by men.

This is perhaps the reason why many today think of Beer as a Man’s drink but far from it once you understand the roots of brewing. With the spread of Craft Beer in current times, we are seeing an increase in the percentage of women involved in brewing as owners, brewers, barkeeps and connoisseurs.

In the US, Women ages 21 to 34 make up 15 percent of craft beer sales, according to the Brewers Association, which promotes craft beer in America. A poll by Gallup shows that women account for 25 percent of total beer consumption, and 37 percent of total craft beer consumption.

In India, many still see Beer as a Man’s drink. A friend recently told me that he was served two bottles of Beer when he ordered a Beer for himself and his wife in Salem, Tamil Nadu. Thankfully in the larger metros the perception of Beer is a bit more balanced. With microbreweries springing up in cities such as Pune, Bangalore, Mumbai, Gurgaon and other smaller cities, Beer specifically Craft Beer is gaining in popularity.

Whilst the majority of brewpubs are male dominated, there are handful of Ladies who work as Head Brewers and Assistant Brewers across the country. The quest to spread awareness about Craft Beer is not one that is targeted to just Men. One must appreciate the work these wonderful ladies do and influence the next batch of future women who will be brewing in India.

Did you know that Bangalore’s own Kiran Mazumdar- Shaw, the founder of Biocon Ltd studied to be a Master Brewer in the early 70’s but was discouraged from practicing because she was told it was an industry that was male dominated.

“She worked as a trainee brewer in Carlton and United Breweries, Melbourne and as a trainee maltster at Barrett Brothers and Burston, Australia. She also worked for some time as a technical consultant at Jupiter Breweries Limited, Calcutta and as a technical manager at Standard Maltings Corporation, Baroda between 1975 and 1977. However, when she investigated the possibility of further work in Bangalore or Delhi, she was told that she would not be hired as a master brewer in India because “It’s a man’s work.”She began to look abroad, and was offered a position in Scotland” Excerpt from Wikipedia. 

I’ve had the privilege of meeting a few of these ladies in Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore. From tours of the breweries they work in to sharing a few pints with them, it was great to hear them talk about their world of Beer and perspectives they would like to share with everyone in India.

Vidya Khuber – Head Brewer (Ex) | Big Brewsky, Bangalore

Vidya Khuber

Vidya

With Vidya Khuber at Big Brewsky

Brewday at Big Brewsky with Vidya

How did you get into Craft Beer?

It started with drinking beer. It was my beverage of choice. Travelling & spending time at breweries in Europe really made me understand my passion for brewing. My formal exposure has been a Master Brewer Certificate from Siebel Institute & Doemens Academy and internships at a few Bavarian breweries before becoming Head Brewer at Big Brewsky.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy every single aspect, whether it’s Hops, Malt, Yeast or water. Each in itself is so interesting and especially when you think about all of it coming together in a brew. So a day at work for me might be like what a round of golf might be to some.

What challenges do you face and what’s your message to all the ladies out there who are interested in Beer either as connoisseurs or future brewers?

Getting past my parents concerns of entering the “alcohol world” was the one difficult thing to get past.  The brewing fraternity stretches across borders and is always of great help & support.

What are each of your favorite beer styles to brew and what’s your favorite beer /beer style that you like drinking?
To drink: Saison, Kellerbier, Gose
To brew: Belgian-style ales


 

Raissa Cherian | Brewer | Mumbai (now Brewer at Big Brewsky)

Raissa Cherian

Raissa

With Raissa Cherian

With Raissa at Arbor Brewing

How did you get into Craft Beer?

Out of curiosity more than anything else. I was a qualified chef and I’d been working in hotel and restaurant kitchens before I decided to take a break. Around the same time Bombay was in the process of setting up its first craft brewery / brewpub. The head brewer Ben, was an ex-chef and wanted an assistant brewer preferably with some chef experience. That’s how it started.

Raissa went on to get her Master Brewer Certificate from VLB, Berlin and is currently waiting on finalizing a job offer with a brewery in Amsterdam.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Being able to see the transformation of the raw ingredients into the final product.andwatching people enjoy a glass of your creation.
What challenges do you face and what’s your message to all the ladies out there who are interested in Beer either as connoisseurs or future brewers?

There is no smooth working day when you’re a brewer. Everyday something will inevitably go wrong but that’s just part of job. Also there is learning through all of this. At my job at TBD in Bombay, the head brewer left to return to USA a month after we got our license to brew. Whatever I knew was through what he had taught me. Also, a lot was learnt through trial and error after he left.

The future of brewing for women in India – BRIGHT – if you’re not afraid of breaking a nail, heavy lifting and smelling like you bathed in beer after a long day at work. I would absolutely love to see more girls getting into brewing.

As for women beer drinkers, I’ve already noticed quite an increase in the number of women that are drinking craft beer these days and I think this number is only going to grow. Its a good time for craft beer in India , and it’s only going to get better !

What are each of your favorite beer styles to brew and what’s your favorite beer /beer style that you like drinking?

To Drink – Recently have a new found appreciation for sour beer. Rodenbach Grand Cru And Bevog’s Kramah IPA (Austrian)

To Brew – IPA’s mostly since I love drinking them.


 

Ashwini Rajagopal | Head Brewer | TJ’s Brew Works , Pune

Ashwini R at TJs.jpg

 

How did you get into Craft Beer?

I have been around Beer and brewing since I was 17 starting as a trainee with Mohan Breweries, Chennai followed by  UB, Bangalore and SAB Miller Pondicherry. I then  graduated in Industrial Biotechnology. Further training in Scotland helped me further my understanding around the technical and managerial aspects of brewing. This lead me to TJs

What challenges do you face and what’s your message to all the ladies out there who are interested in Beer either as connoisseurs or future brewers?

The orthodox community I come from is one of the biggest challenges but that hasn’t stopped me from achieving my goals.

Being a brew(st)er requires extraordinary amounts of physical and mental strength to plan and be a part of every aspect of not just the beers but also the entire brewing unit with a niche to execute the well carved plan. Of course men do the same, no less than the women folks, but to surpass religious, social and sexual taboos takes much more for a woman to thrive in the industry.

On this month dedicated to us, I’d just like to say to my co-brewsters and the ladies around, get along to let the world know we are here to make the best of beers! Learn, share, educate, and be on top of your game!

What are each of your favorite beer styles to brew and what’s your favorite beer /beer style that you like drinking?

To Drink: TJ’s Bock brew – Full bodies with hints of toffee and malt.

To Brew: Any Beer but interested in brewing Lambics and Sours.


 

Varsha Bhat | Assistant Brewer | The Barking Deer, Mumbai

 

Varsha Bhat Barking Deer

Varsha Brewing

With Varsha Bhat and Abhishek Agarwal Brewers at The Barking Deer

With Varsha at The Barking Deer

How did you get into Craft Beer?

 I had been reading and experimenting with domestic brewing/ wine-making, and reaching out to people, connoisseurs and experts alike, in this fledgling industry, also I was looking for an opportunity to develop new skills in this direction, that’s when The Barking Deer happened. The Barking Deer is Mumbai first micro brewery. It has an ingenious system which is a dream to work on as a beginner.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

It’s been a year as a brewer for me, my passion has no words to express my work, but only a good palate to appreciate it. For me beer is the way of living, the layers of life … sweet, bitter , sour a complete experience, from life to death.

This is what I love about my job , creating this potion which makes you experience various things in life

What challenges do you face and what’s your message to all the ladies out there who are interested in Beer either as connoisseurs or future brewers?

 Constant troubleshooting is one thing you cant ran away from if your working in a brewery.

 Since we are in the so called man’s world there is nothing a women can’t do, we are as hardworking as men or more, its very easy to undermine women but only to realize that they rule the world. In ancient time it was the men who would go hunt while women would stay back cook and take care of the family. Its was the women who made this magic potion unknowingly which is called beer.

 Every woman is entitled to do what she wants. One should not feel deterred from being the forefront in India’s craft beer revolution, since we are a handful of female brewers in this largely male dominated industry. Live with no fear, keep your chin up and take pride in your creation.

 What are each of your favorite beer styles to brew and what’s your favorite beer /beer style that you like drinking?

 To Brew – I like the traditional beer but experimenting with different styles and processes is one of the many challenges I love .There are the Wits , IPAs ,Stouts, Bitters & Sours.

To Drink – IPAs – The Arrogant Bastard by Stone Brewery and Sculpin From Ballast point – The Classic definition of hoppy beer!!

In my defense I haven’t still had the opportunity to explore a lot , which I am looking forward to, since brewing  is a global skill I would love to travel the world and taste different beers.


 

  Swatiraje Shinde | Assistant Brewer | Gateway Brewing Co – Mumbai

Swatiraje S

How did you get into Craft Beer?

 I was fortunate and blessed to have my family who pushed me into this field. Being born in Nasik and having our own vineyards made me interested in pursuing work related to vineyards and grape processing.  After working as a wine maker with Fattoria Zerbina, N.D. Wines, Sula, Zampa and Grover, I ended up studying and getting a Masters in wine, brewing and alcohol technology from VSI Pune.  At VSI, I was exposed to Craft Beer and decided to change directions and brew Beer instead. I’ve worked with Irish Village, Baryleyz, The Biere Club and now work for Gateway Brewing Company.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Brewing and Beers really amaze me and the chance to try my creations. It’s a profession that is creative and interactive and one that requires a lot of dedication and passion. Seeing customers enjoy our creations is what I enjoy most.

What challenges do you face and what’s your message to all the ladies out there who are interested in Beer either as connoisseurs or future brewers?

At work, technical challenges do present themselves but my husband, Paradh, who also a brewer and Krishna Naik, head of brewing operations are always ready to lend a helping hand.

My advice to all the girls out there – get into the field, be passionate, be open to learning, be the best and most importantly of all enjoy Craft Beers.

 What are each of your favorite beer styles to brew and what’s your favorite beer /beer style that you like drinking?

To Drink: Stout & Gateway’s Hefeweizen.

To Brew: Everything especially new styles. Brewing is like cooking and you can always come up with something new.


 

Beer has such a rich history to it, has a variety of flavor profiles and is a beverage that was traditionally brewed by women. All of us should raise a toast to these hardworking women and encourage other women to follow suite not just in brewing but also appreciating Beer and helping promote Beer across this nation.

Cheers,

JJ The Keg

5 thoughts on “Ladies Of The Craft

  1. Pingback: The Rumor Mill | TaLeS Of FrOtH

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