Vir Kotak’s day job has taken him to Paradip, Odisha, where he’s setting up a port in between taking our calls. It turns out his idea of fun also involves a mighty slosh: Vir’s first beer, called Happy by Thirsty, has just made its society debut at booze shops around Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.
Brewer Words Were Never Spoken
Happy’s parentage involves Central European lager traditions, a dashing British beer sommelier and hops called Herkules, as well as the shipping scion racing to catch his flight back to Delhi when we last heard from him.
“Honestly, I like the idea of alcohol not as something to get drunk on, but for the taste profiles — the idea that there can be a million different expressions of the things that make up wine, whiskey or beer,” he says. Vir, fresh off his first solo photography exhibition at Mumbai's Jehangir Art Gallery, may be in a soulful mood, but he assures us Happy is intended to live up to its name, overflowing with the joys of summer.
We stop by Colaba’s Woodside Inn to test this promise with a side of sweet potato crisps. Happy is a handsomely golden drink, clear to the eye and watery to taste. It’s fruity at the beginning, just as Vir says it will be, but finishes with a dark, hotly bitter aftertaste. The reaction of the beer snob with us is “LOL, it’s easy drinking,” but we enjoy it for what it is: a cool if somewhat muscular daydream, not quite a garden party but certainly a day at the races.
Happy is a handsomely golden drink, clear to the eye and watery to taste. It’s fruity at the beginning, just as Vir says it will be, but finishes with a dark, hotly bitter aftertaste.
Yellow, I Love You
Vir’s beer credentials start with Tsingtao and Schneider Weisse — he works on importing both to India — and a longtime secret desire to take a beer sommelier class. He had a sort of belated meet-cute with Alex Barlow, the UK brewmaster who helped him develop Happy and other beers under the Thirsty superbrand, when he realised that Barlow is the beer expert he’s been planning to take a class with forever.
Happy’s glamorous internationalism doesn’t end there: the beer itself is currently brewed in Bosnia, although Vir says he’s more than open to making it in India. Why not just open a microbrewery like a real hipster, then? “The equipment and set-up takes time in a place like Mumbai,” he explains. “I’m not sure we want a brewpub of our own, but we’re working on creating a micro-brewery."
The bright, emoji-yellow Happy will soon be joined by younger sibling Thirsty — Simona, a biker-chick of a wheat beer that we’re told will be “full-bodied, more German, with quite a sophisticated taste profile.” (Should we just call it ‘Angela’ out of respect?) To get into the Happy habit, meanwhile, Thirsty hopes to lure you with sleek ‘Happy’ gym merch and party packs with free beer pong rigs. Take a fratty bow!
Getting there: Happy by Thirsty is available at select wine shops around Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, and some bars, including all the Woodside Inns and Eddie’s in Mumbai. A 500 ml can of Happy by Thirsty costs Rs 170 in Delhi, Rs 225 in Mumbai and Rs 250 in Bangalore.
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