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26.10.2017

For Nakul Bhonsle, a fresh-out-of-school Finance Grad, serendipity came on his way back from work one day in New York, when he stumbled upon a home-brew store. Many visits and half a decade later, he’s Director and Head-brewer of Great State Aleworks (GSA), Pune’s latest craft brewery making and selling their own beer.
 
We catch up with the Great State team at O-Pedro to sample brews. On the menu tonight is Kan-Kon & Nariyal Pani - a tamarind saisson and coconut cream ale that the GSA guys brew exclusively for the O-Pedro bar, paired with chorizo, freshly baked pois and more. Steadily eating and drinking ourselves towards a Susegad state of mind, we listen in on their future plans.
 
Unlike most microbreweries, GSA is a production-only unit without a restaurant or taproom front. The decision was born out of a desire to focus on crafting brews using eclectic and hard to find ingredients. The hope was that if the beers were good, there’d be enough eateries interested in serving them/ collaborating. The other reason they decided to stick to only production (in the tradition of true American micro-brewing and distilling) was because it gave them more freedom to innovate.
 
Today, while a lot of their 9,000-litre brewing unit focuses on pushing out their flagship American-styled Pale Ale and Belgian Witbier (currently being poured across all Sassy Spoon branches and select Pune eateries), the GSA team’s pride and joy is their ‘Small Batch’ unit, a 200-litre set-up purely for experiments and collaborative efforts. Besides the O-Pedro specials, recent trials have included experiments with pineapple, indigenous millets, and, this writer’s favourite ingredient – the gondhoraaj. Unfortunately, they’re not getting a steady supply of the King of Limes to make this a regular pour at bars yet.

Recent small batch trials have included experiments with pineapple, indigenous millets, and, this writer’s favourite ingredient – the gondhoraaj.

As we talk, we can’t help but realise the steady repeat of pints that our table keeps requesting. And that’s what’s great about GSA brews: Even with the radical infusions of tamarind and coconut, the saisson and cream ales are well balanced and tasty. What makes them better is the fact they really complimented the food. Our strongest pairings of the evening are the saisson and buff assa-do and cream ale with wood-fired shrimp. The sharp finish of the Imli (the inspiration – Mamma’s homemade chutney) really cuts through the rich meatiness of the buff while the buttery-creamy ale is a soothing foil to the shrimp’s punchy green chilli heat.
 
But this pairing is also probably the two beers’ shortcoming as well, the fact that they need the context of food to shine. At the end of the day, the brews just don’t have the amazing all-day drinkability you associate with a Goan Beach or even another former Bombay Canteen limited edition gem – The Darling-Jee.
 
But they’re working on it, so we have hope.
 

Getting there: You can find GSA at the Tap Takeover at Cafe Terra on Nov 5; Guided Tasting Session at Woodside Inn Lower Parel at the end of November; Millet Workshop at WeWork with Happy Roots and Bombay Canteen in November.

This story was conducted by Auroni Mookerjee, a freelance writer and chef.

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