What’s Brewing?

The European Union continues its More Than Food campaign with a masterclass at Sidecar, New Delhi on lager and wheat beer – with provenance from Italy, Belgium, and France – as well as other spirits. We speak to Vikram Achanta, founder of Delhi-based beverage education firm Tulleeho, one of the experts who led this masterclass, on what makes European beer, lager, or ale, so special.

Vikram Achanta addressing the audience at Sidecar, New Delhi

How has your collab with the EU been for their More Than Food campaign?

Our collaboration has been very productive and rewarding, especially in terms of learning about the length and breadth of alcoholic beverage products available from the EU, the various quality certifications such as PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) and Organic and the importance that they attach to provenance. These quality certifications ensure that all alcohol is produced in accordance with strict guidelines in order to deliver the highest quality alcohol.

What is it about the uniqueness of the beer in the EU, in terms of diversity and authenticity?

The EU has around 22 beers comprising of Lagers, Wheat beers, Ales, Stouts, Crafts, that have their origins and traditional recipes protected as PDO and PGI. That’s what makes the range of styles of beer from across the continent quite remarkable. It is also good to note that despite a lot of the beer having a high Alcohol by Volume (ABV), they are still very flavourful.

Monica di Loxley on Unsplash

The tasting session was remarkably interesting. Could you please tell us why you chose the beers that you did, and why?

We wanted to choose the finest catalogue that represented different styles of beers and spirits which hewed to EU quality norm, and that were spread from across Europe. We had a variety of spirits ranging from vodkas from Sweden and Poland to Whiskeys from Ireland and France. Our selection of beer was carefully thought through keeping in mind the diversity EU has to offer. We finalized on a lager from Italy, and wheat beers from Belgium and Germany.

Can you give me some specific examples – for example, Germany has strict rules about purity of beer – you cannot add anything extra, whereas Belgium does not – so you have even chocolate flavoured beer or other fruity flavours?

Germany’s Reinheitsgebot is indeed quite stringent when it comes to adding ingredients to a beer, whereas you have the freewheeling nature of beer from Belgium. I still remember visiting a bar in Brussels in 1995 and being blown away not just by the flavours of beers available (I had a Framboise or raspberry flavoured beer) but also by the glassware that it was served in.

The beer and spirits at the tasting

Which is one region or country in Europe that has surprised you with its amazing beer – a place you totally did not expect to produce fine beer?

I had always connected Ireland with whiskey, so when I went there in 2008, I was delighted to find some of the best stout beers in the world. I also had the good fortune to travel to Dublin and Cork, two significant manufacturing centres.

What kinds of beer are best paired with Indian foods – if you could give us the beer and the dish as an example?

Wheat beer is mild, fruity, and spicy in character, which can be best paired with lighter seafood-based dishes, for example Prawn Curry. Also, mostly wheat beers are served as a ritual with a citrus/lemon/orange slice and their mild acidity makes them a wonderful pairing partner. Apart from that, try aromatic and subtle Biryani from Lucknow with IPA (India Pale Ale). To heighten the spice, pair Hyderabadi Biryani with IPA, but the better choice would be sessional IPA (a lighter beer that brings out the flavour of the hops) if you would like to tame the heat a bit.

Mr. Magandeep Singh talking about EU Beers and Spirits as Ms. Maria Fladl and Ms. Catherine Combette look on, at Sidecar, New Delhi on 30th June 2022

The rise of gourmet beer in India has led to a lot of curiosity about beers like Irish Stout Beer – which is made of stout and oats! Can you tell us about stout beer as opposed to beer made from hops – in terms of provenance, taste profile, etc.?

Although it can be an acquired taste, the coffee and chocolate flavours of a decent stout go well with the Indian palate. Irish stout has a long history, even if the style itself is a derivation of the English beer style called Porter.

Which are your top three favourite European beers?

I enjoy the Wheat beer, Dry Stout, and Strong Pale Ale the most.

(Vikram Achanta is founder and CEO of Tulleeho, a drinks training and consulting firm.)


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