A corporate job in asset management punctuated with beer breaks to brewing beer for creating assets – sounds like a dream? Well, it came true for the gent who presented India with its first craft beer – Ishaan Puri, Founder of White Rhino Brewing Co, “I can’t say it was always my desired path in life – I got the diploma from Brewlab (UK) only after deciding to set up the brewery,” as he shares. As the desire for quality craft beer in India led him to set up his own brewery in Malanpur, Madhya Pradesh, 2016 saw the capital shifting its sipping loyalties to the White Rhino lager and wit. Having ruled the beer turf for one year now, White Rhino is set to welcome its newest member – India Pale Ale. A pioneer in Indian-made IPA, they’re taking the cause of craft beer a notch higher with their latest. As the IPA ships to the UK and preps for sale in India soon, we get chatting with Ishaan on being a flag bearer of homegrown quality beer in the country.
What went behind choosing IPA as your next offering?
The IPA is our way of contributing to the local craft beer movement, we want to introduce patrons to beer styles that have gained immense popularity in more mature craft beer markets overseas. Our space will never grow if brewers don’t help educate consumers, and India will forever remain a wheat beer & lager market! Craft beer has become a global phenomenon because brewers continue to push the envelope and offer quality along with variety, and while a handful of brewpubs are doing this, there is a huge void in the market for bottled beer. That’s where we come in – we are a premium, boutique brand and it’s important for us to expand our portfolio beyond wheat beer & lager, to styles such as IPA, Stout, Pale Ale, Saison etc. We want to be the brewery that helps the market grow and helps consumers develop a better understanding of craft beer.
Take us through the process of how you and James Garstang (Head Brewer) created the IPA; what should patrons expect from it?
When I asked James to start working on the recipe, we decided to do two versions – one for the export market and the other for the domestic market. The domestic version is a dry American-style IPA. We don’t like our beers overly full-bodied or sweet, yet we didn’t want a hop character so dominant that none of the other flavours would come through. So what we have here is a 6.5% ABV & 40 IBU beer. The aroma is incredible – we’ve used an unexpected combination of American and European hops, and slightly darker pale ale malt gives it an almost amber-orange colour. Fruity and tropical up front, with some malt and a decent amount of bitterness in the finish, it’s light-to-medium bodied’ so in spite of the high alcohol content it’s a very sessionable beer! And I have to say this again – the aroma is just incredible.
You share a great working equation with James, how does this translate into your joint vision for White Rhino?
James and I work with the same level of intensity and are very proud of what we do. At the same time, there’s an element of pragmatism to how we go about things. We want to make great craft beer, but are mindful of the fact that consumers need to drink our beer, so it’s never too assertive. While we could have made our lager a hoppy pilsner-style beer, we decided to go with Munich helles (Munich-style lager), which is lower in bitterness but still has some pleasant noble hop (traditional European hops) character. One thing we both completely agree on is that we don’t want to use enzyme additives, preservatives, or take shortcuts of any kind. Our beers are the cleanest and most natural beers you will find in India.
How have the patrons responded to this craft beer movement?
The market reaction has been excellent! We insist on using the best malt and hops in all of our recipes and the people have readily discerned the quality we offer. We are moving ahead with our plans to bring a bouquet of beer varieties to our customers. Our audience is anyone who understands craft beers, and is willing to pay for a quality experience. There is a significant base of well-travelled, highly aware, and sophisticated consumers in the NCR, and we reached out to them first. Now we will start the process of educating other consumers and widening our client base.
How have the last 6 years in the business been for you?
It has been extremely challenging, but at the same time the overwhelmingly positive response to our beers has been very rewarding. Over the past few years I have learnt everything from scratch and I’m glad I studied the subject. There’s no other way we could have achieved what we have with White Rhino.
Ready to be the first brewery to export Indian-made IPA to the UK, and soon making an appearance at bars & restaurants in Gurgaon, the White Rhino IPA has us reserving our chillers for this new kid on the beer block.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this feature are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of DSSC & its affiliates.
Image courtesy: White Rhino.