Bangalore’s Entry Into Craft Beer – The Biere Club Story
Craft Beer in India got a head start when the first brewpub opened in Gurgaon, in 2008. Bangalore, the country’s pub capital followed in 2010 with The Biere Club opening its doors.
Brother and sister duo, Arvind Raju and Meenakshi Kumar had planned to open a microbrewery and a trip to Singaporean brewpub served as a catalyst for them.
Location is important for every business and what’s interesting is that ironically The Biere Club is housed in the building that used to Kingfisher Airlines, on Vittal Mallya Road! 153 Biere Street opened a few years later in Whitefield and we now have the Biere Club in two excellent locations.
The Biere Club’s brewing philosophy relies on heavy rotation however you do have a few staple beers that serve as house beers. Very few brewpubs in Bangalore deviate from their standard offerings namely a lager, wheat or wit, seasonal/special and a stout. The Biere Club keeps experimenting with new recipes and this is where they really shine. The DNA of Craft Beer is innovation and you need brewpubs to push the envelope to keep the art of Craft Brewing alive. Other brewpubs tend to take a conservative approach which is fine but you run the risk of being labeled boring!
Friday May 20th, marked Biere Club’s 5 year anniversary of their Beers on tap and the week from May 13th to the 20th was a celebration of this anniversary. Special offers on Beers, giveaways, a new food menu and fun is what this week was all about. Members of the media/blogging community were treated to a special party, as well.
I got to speak to the owners, brewer and ops team about their experience over the last 5 years and this what they had to say:
Arvind Raju – Co-Founder
Q: Congratulations on the 5 year milestone. What lessons have you learned over these five years and what do the next five years have in store for the Biere Club? What are your expansion plans?
I guess starting a trend is always a risky bet. Looking back, when we took the decision of starting the first Microbrewery in South India, it took a lot planning, convincing and eventually after a long wait, the dream finally came true. Today when I look back, it seems like a phase that left a lasting impression that I can take back with me and use in future to start off something else, with more ease. It sure was a learning for many of us. Being the ‘First’ of a kind takes certain courage as it can either make or break you, and in our case we are glad to thrive in the former. The Biere Club holds a lot of significance in Bangalore now, and we would like to start other chapters of the brand across the country, and hopefully one day go global. As of now, we are looking at extending across a few cities that have gotten used to the Microbrewery culture and would like to see the same response as Bangalore.
Q: In terms of State Excise regulations what would you like to see changed? I’m assuming kegging and bottling are high priorities for most owners and if so, how would you and the other brewpubs and CBAI convince the State Govt to make amends?
Recognition of a brand, amongst a vibrant market such as Bangalore, is certainly a priority that every proprietor or owner of the brand would like to amass. But factually, we opened The Biere Club to break the stereotypical practice of drinking bottled beer. I speak only for The Biere Club when I say that we opened an outlet that produces fresh Beers, without compromising with the quality, so that our patrons could indulge in an experience, rather than sipping on a pint that sat on a shelf of a store for a month. With regard to Excise regulations, we do hope certain areas get a little more relaxed, but as of now, there are no major issues.
Q: What would you like to say to all your loyal customers?
Over these 5 years we have seen people grow along with the brand. From a toddler to our oldest customer, we are glad to have been able to cater to everyone riding in with expectations at The Biere Club, be it with our Bieres, food or our weekly events. To our patrons who have been involved since the genesis of The Biere Club, we would like to convey a big ‘Thank You.’ It’s our customers who make us look good and so far every loyal guest has done precisely that.
Rohit Parwani – Head Brewer
Q: Brewing is an art form and like most things in life, the more experience you have, the better it gets. What have learned so far whilst brewing at the Biere Club?
The most valuable lesson I have learnt in the three years that I’ve been a brewer is that the job is never about pleasing everyone. Every person has a different preference for beer and different expectation for what a particular beer should taste like. I’ve learnt that brewing is abstract, just like music. Some people may like what I make and others may not, but all I have to do is make sure I give my all in every batch of beer that I brew, well and make sure it doesn’t get contaminated.
Q: You’ve done a great job with your seasonals. What can we expect in the months ahead?
We’re taking out kiwi saison this month, along with a citrus based lager. In the coming months, look out for peach, coconut and litchis; at least these are the ones we’re working on currently.
Q: The feedback from fellow Craft Beer Enthusiasts has been that sometimes the brews at the Biere Club lack body. Is there a reason for a deviation from true styles? What’s your brewing philosophy?
Back in the day my philosophy was to take every review to heart. When that started getting too taxing I realized it’s all about individual perception. We offer our take on a particular style of beer keeping in mind our customer base. When you look at it technically, beer parameters are always mentioned in ranges and we make sure never to deviate outside said ranges.
Q: People are quick to criticize and may not understand the challengers a brewer has to face here in Bangalore. What are some of the challenges you face?
Well when you finally realize that brewing is better off done in the ways of the ancients (i.e.) you brew because you want to express yourself, not impress every other person on the planet you realize that the only challenge you face is what beer you ought to brew next.
Q: What would you like to tell future Brewers and Beer enthusiasts?
My only advice to future brewers is that brewing, like music, is a way to express what you feel. Brewing a style of beer from another part of the world, one that you haven’t been to or tasted any beer from is all about offering your liquid opinion to interested people. Don’t stress yourself out too much if people don’t like that glass of beer, as long as you know you have done your best, it’s all good. And to the beer enthusiasts, as long as you guys are alive, we’re alive.
Keerthan Noble – Assistant Manager | F&B
Q: What are the challenges in running two locations in the city that are quite far apart? Is there a marked difference in what customers expect in terms of Beers, Food & Service between both locations?
The distance between both the outlets is vast but that has never been a reason for our limitation. The challenges we face sometimes are within the individual outlet itself. However, operationally, we are dependent on each other for certain resources, and that may sometimes spell some minor challenges. The Biere Club Lavelle Road and Whitefield are distinctive when it comes to catering to its respective set of clientele. While the former caters to a more affluent and opulent crowd, Whitefield provides its services to corporates, expats and families living in the neighbourhood. With the distinction laid out, it safe to say that both the outlets have their work cut out. Biere is the central theme of our business and that is reason enough for our large following in the city. With other Microbreweries opening and ideas brewing everywhere (pun intended,) it gives a chance to find out in detail what customers are looking for and helps in customising some of our Brews according to the customers liking. When we started off, the Wheat was a major hit (and still is) but we are glad to see people, visiting both outlets, developing a taste for other styles such as Ales, Lagers and Stout. Food and Service has been the same, comfortable and easy, since the day we started, which has been well perceived with majority of our customers.
Q: How often to you re-vamp brewing calendars and food menus.
Our Brews are revamped based on availability of resources. 2016 at The Biere Club so far has been ‘The Year of Productivity’ and we have been tapping some great seasonal Bieres- Orange Thyme Lager, Coconut Porter, Cucumber Coriander Lager, Smoked Pineapple Ale, Orangina Lager, and our signature brew- The Mango Ale, to name some. Also, our varied options within the Styles of Biere we offer, are also what set us apart. The Food menu is an integral part of the brand. The Menu has an assorted list of casual and fine dine treats, all of which are a hit pair with each of our Bieres. It’s all about comfort food here at The Biere Club.
Q: Is there anything special about the new menu change?
The new Menu is special in a way as we introduced it on the day we hit our 5th Year. To commemorate the occasion, we have included a few dishes indigenous to some popular street food across India, and some outside the country as well. The Menu has received the response we were hoping for.
Q: What makes it fun to work at the Biere Club?
The Biere Club, has been misconceptualized as a place for the elderly and as a dining option for a quiet and sophisticated evening. But it is far more than that. When The Biere Club started off, the sole purpose to cater to people from different walks of life. Pubs and Bars then had strict dress codes that had to be adhered to. The Biere Club opened to break such stereotypes. Even today we openly welcome corporates who visit the outlet in their cargos and shorts, just as much as we welcome ladies in their plush and elegant sarees dropping in for a kitty party at the outlet.
As an employee at the outlet, sampling different Beers every day, is reason enough to keep coming back to work.
Q: What would you and Bijesh like to tell the good folks of Bangalore?
To the people, of/visiting/residing in, Bangalore, the Team at The Biere Club would love to thank you for all the reviews, remarks, suggestions, feedback, police complaints and support you have shown us in these 5 years. You Make Us Look Good… Keep drinking!
We wish the Biere Club all the best for the future and say Cheers for giving Bangalore its first taste of Craft Beer!
JJ The Keg
All Images Courtesy: The Biere Club, Tales Of Froth, Rohit Parwani
That’s not all…
Come try the Orangina Lager and the new menu at the Biere Club and you can find out more about Craft Beer and Whiskey to at our next workshop at the Biere Club, Vittal Mallya Rd, on Wed, June 29th at 7:30 pm.
Event Information & Tickets – please click HERE