Everything You Need To Know About India’s First Craft Brewery: White Rhino Brewing | Stay Tipsy
For us Indians, drinking beer can be counted as one of our favourite hobbies. We have all had at least one beer aficionado in our families, and every important cricket match days mean refrigerators stocked up on brews. For a country who loves beer so much, it’s only over the last few years that good quality beers from microbreweries have come up and become everybody’s drink of choice. To understand how slow movement in the beer world came to be, I spoke to Ishaan Puri, founder of White Rhino Brewing from Delhi, which happens to be the first craft brewery in the country. Read on to know everything about White Rhino!
Tell us a little bit about you, the founder behind White Rhino Brewing Co.
I’m a hardcore beer geek, and to be honest I’m a geek when it comes to most things. I enjoy detail and learning new skills, and have always had a lot of drive and sense of adventure. It’s these traits that allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone and setup a brewery in Gwalior, having never worked in the alcohol business in India. I’m actually an ex- finance professional and worked in New York before moving back.
While I had conviction in my vision for White Rhino Brewing Co., I really had no idea what I was getting into! It has been an incredible adventure not just for me, but also for our founding team – which includes our first head brewer, James Garstang, and our first few sales people. We’re all incredibly passionate about what we do and have immense faith in our product and what we bring to the market.
Tell us a bit about your brewery – its setup, functioning, and more.
The two words I would use to describe our setup are modern and hygienic. We’ve invested a lot of time in setting up one of the nicest brewing facilities in the country. The brewery is built on a seven-acre plot, just outside of Gwalior, and it took about three years to setup if you include licensing as part of the setup process. The process was lengthy and tiring, which is why we are still one of two craft breweries in the country with bottling or canning capabilities.
The simplest way to explain our brewing philosophy is that we take no shortcuts. We like to give our beer time to mature and develop the smoothness and flavor without the use of enzymes, finings, stabilizers, foam enhancers or preservatives. We work exclusively with German malt and very high quality hops from either Europe or the US depending on the style of beer. After fermentation, all our beers are conditioned/matured for a minimum of two to three weeks, and our lager is actually matured for over a month because we need to achieve that clean flavour profile where only the malt and hops come through rather than any fermentation by-products. We also are very particular about not using any extracts or artificial flavours. For example, for our wheat beer we use fresh orange peel and whole coriander seeds as opposed to processed flavouring substances.
What is White Rhino’s USP? What are its standout elements?
We take pride in the fact that we use the best ingredients available, most of them imported, to create truly authentic beers. For us, cost-cutting has never been part of our business model. Great care is taken at every step of the brewing process and we patiently mature our beers to perfection. India is still a price sensitive market, so most breweries focus on making their beers very economically. Our goal was to carve out a segment for discerning consumers who are willing to pay a little more for a better product, and I believe we’ve been very successful in doing that.
What are some of the ingredients used in your brews and what are the flavour varieties available?
We have three different styles of beer that we currently brew – a Munich lager, Belgian-style wheat beer and an India Pale Ale. The lager is a classic German-style beer that we brew with 100% pilsner malt, high quality German hops and an authentic yeast strain that many Bavarian brewers use in their lagers.
The Belgian Wit, in addition to malted barley and wheat, is spiced with curacao orange peel and organic coriander seeds. The IPA, the most hop-forward of all our beers, is brewed with pale malt and 4 varieties of American hops. We import almost all of our ingredients as it allows us to brew authentic beers and maintain a high level of quality and consistency.
Any plans on expanding to Mumbai any time soon?
Absolutely. We will enter the Mumbai market in the first half of 2019. My goal has always been to execute our expansions systematically and to the best of our ability, and that entails opening one or two markets every year. We started out with Gurgaon, then Delhi, then Chandigarh, and now we’re planning our Bangalore launch pretty soon. Mumbai will be the next metro that we expand to after that.
Lastly, what is your personal favourite beer from White Rhino?
I think there is a time and place for each of our beers, and it’s difficult to choose! For daytime drinking it has to be the Belgian wit. If I’m looking for a beer that’s crisp and balanced then the lager would be my go-to beer, and if I want to enjoy just a pint or two of a complex, full-flavoured beer then it’s’ the IPA. It’s very mood dependent, and that’s the beauty of our portfolio – each beer caters to a different type of consumer.
After this illuminating chat, I’m even more impatient than I was before, for White Rhino to come to Mumbai. There’s always space for more and more beer brands in our hearts! See you soon, White Rhino.