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25.10.2018

Let’s talk, as we always must, about the Bro Code, an oafish method of gatekeeping practised by halfwits for halfwits. More to the point, it’s also an Indian beer doing the rounds these days. A wheat beer version is called Witty Bro (Editor: My lack of surprise is immense).

I chanced upon this most manly of beers at a restaurant recently, since it was all they had left. At another, I spent an evening knocking back Simbu after Simbu, which is a drink made by ordering Simba, one of this year’s beer successes, and squeeze a lemon — a nimbu — into it. My last visit to a theka yielded one Hopper and one Sixfields, which I picked up for no reason except that they were there and I hadn’t heard of them before. It all feels like I can’t step out for a drink any more without discovering a new Indian beer.

The market is infested with a clutch of upwardly mobile beers, some of them optimistically labelled “craft.” Remember that needlessly alarmist article doing the rounds a week or so ago, claiming that global warming will cause a shortage of beer? I scoffed at it, because A) global warming isn’t real, bros!, and B) there’s more beer in India today than at any point in the past. 2018 will go down in history as the year in which it was no longer possible for us to keep track.

When I first started drinking at the age of 25 — is the age all Indians, without exception, and in complete recourse to legality, first imbibe — Kingfisher Premium (5% alcohol, 95% glycerin), in the green bottle), was easily the most accessible beer around. For very special occasions, and only for the rich, there was a Mexican option called Corona, into which you were contractually obligated to squeeze a lime wedge.

In the seven or eight years I spent being 25, a whole range of beers came and went - Faaster’s (the Australian beer), Miller, Kingfisher’s canned draught beer, London Pilsner, Sandpiper, Castle Lager, Kalyani Black Label, extra-urinated Budweiser. But the green Kingfisher remained ubiquitous, the default choice for beer drinkers. It was available at every bar, and despite its inconsistency — no two bottles tasted the same — the Premium offered familiarity. The only beer that came close to dethroning it, anecdotally, was Kingfisher’s own Ultra.

But in a tale that has now become legend, the market flipped three years ago with Bira. They introduced the very confusing Bira White, a wheat beer with a red sticker. I personally, as a lover of beer, refuse to acknowledge a “blonde” beer product they also put out at the same time. (Other notable entries in the “White” category to follow were White Rhino and White Owl, the latter of which I haven’t yet spotted in Delhi.)

In the years since, the spigot has opened fully. Tons of new young brands - not all of them in Bangalore - make IPAs, wheat beers (both the German and Belgian varieties), lagers, and even mass produce stout beer, aka Thums Up mixed with black coffee.

It’s great news for me and my friends. We drank beer! I liked beer! I still like beer! The only problem is that I don’t trust my own taste buds anymore. Those of us who turned 25 too soon could never give our palates a chance to evolve and prosper. It’s just that we’re now on the margins of beer culture. For years and years, I’ve met people who very categorically declare that they “don’t like the taste of beer” (which, in retrospect, was totally fair, considering what Kingfisher Premium actually tastes like).

Now those wet blankets and their unhabituated palates have all developed a taste for one particular brand or the other. All I have, gained through a rewarding process of drink-and-miss, is a taste for wheat beer, or “witbier” if we must. I don’t have a favourite anymore, unless we’re counting a Hoegaarden bought for me by someone else. The joke was on me, Witty Bro.

Akhil Sood is an arts and culture writer based

Photo Credit: Freep

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