Jawar, Bajra & Ragi in Beer? Pune’s Oktoberfest has a Desi Flavour
What’s not to like about Pune’s Oktoberfest this year? Ragi, jawar and bajra are being grown specially to brew beer!
“Prost!” says TJ Venkateshwaran, fondly called TJ – of ‘TJ's Brew Works’ – as he brews a fresh batch of buckwheat beer.
"We have always been a part of the Oktoberfest but we believe in doing things differently,” he smiles as he hands me a glass of buckwheat.
And rightly so. TJ's Brew Works has sold more than 1,000 litres of quinoa and buckwheat beer since the start of Oktoberfest.
Pune is the microbrewery state of Maharashtra and has more than eight micro breweries that serve beer on tap. With a strong German expat population, and lovers of craft beer, sales of our beers shoot up by 30 percent during Oktoberfest.
After brewing more than 2,000 litres of buckwheat and quinoa beer in the past 6 months – starting May – TJ is convinced that the locally brewed beers are here to stay.
Which is why – along with the Marzens and the Dunkelweissen, which are the mainstay of the Oktoberfest – the quinoa and the buckwheat also enjoy immense popularity.
The Marzen is named TJ Weiss and Dunkelweissen as TJ Oxen but what inspired him to introduce the quinoa and the buckwheat is the breweries' emphasis on a gluten free menu.
We have a whole range of gluten free pizzas and other food items on our menu. So we thought of extending it to our beers also. Quinoa and buckwheat are low on the glycemic index chart at less than 55, which makes them healthy to drink. We source these ingredients from a local supplier in India.
When I quiz him about the response these beers have received, TJ assures me they have “been well-received”. Besides, with people becoming increasingly more health conscious, there are certainly more takers.
Another brewer – Nakul Bhonsle of Great State Aleworks – has tied up with Happy Roots to procure specially malted millets, which they procure through their network of rural farmers. He tells me,
Jawar and Bajra are staple grains in Maharashtra. They are easily available. Bajra has a unique sweetness and flavour that you cannot find in regular malt, and ragi has a natural bitterness which is needed in a beer.
Having recently received his license, he is awaiting a few formalities before starting sales in a week or two, and has planned a special trial and a tour of the brewery to mark Oktoberfest.
To mark the Oktoberfest, Saurabh Patwardhan, founder of Kimaya Brewing Company, has launched the ‘grain to glass’ project, where he plans on brewing Ragi beer.
We have already planted ragi in our farms in Dapoli and expect the first batch by December.
Suketu Talekar, co-founder of Doolaly, also chimes in,
Doolaly and Kimaya Brewing Company are collaborating for the Ragi beer project.
Another master brewer from the city, Shailendra Bist, who brews at Independence Brewing Co., is busy making beers for Oktoberfest to be held at Royal Western Indian Turf Club, Race Course in Pune. This is organised by the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce. The venue organises a horse racing event on one Sunday during the fest, which undoubtedly makes it the best place to be in Pune.
With the Derby organised this Sunday, coupled with copious amounts of beer and a German band in tow, we are expecting the best of Pune to be here.
After he is done telling me about the event, Bist asks me how I liked the line up of events for Oktoberfest in Pune?
"Whats not to like?” I smile as I collect my tickets for Sunday’s Oktoberfest.
(A freelance food blogger, Pranjali Bhonde Pethe aims at getting people and their favourite food closer through her blog moipalate. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on @moipalate.)
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