So, Bira 91 as mentioned in our “Rumor Mill” post have indeed released 2 new variants that are making their way to liquor stores around the country starting with Delhi, NCR, Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore with other cities following in tow.
The new variants are the new Bira Lite – a light lager and the Bira Strong – a strong wheat based ale.
Bira is branding a lunch time lager that is low on calories that promises to be low on calories but high on flavor.
The branding is as usual top class – the logo in front with the colors and the clouds gives you that “floaty”, “light” impression. It’s typically Bira – fun, colorful, clever and catchy.
Taking a look at the ingredients, we see that the grain bill is similar to the blonde with the same adjuncts used – Malted Barley, Maize & Rice in addition to your standard ingredients – Water, Hops & Yeast.
Adjuncts are used for various reasons – at times to enhance flavors and mouthfeel/body but in general are used to reduce production costs.
Bira Lite has fewer calories than other beers, a standard glass of wine or even a cocktail. Bira Lite clocks in at 90 calories. This is definitely a variant that will catch on with those who still feel Beer is a caloric evil and the cause of the infamous Beer Belly. Ladies, please pay attention to this beer – no excuses. To die-hard Beer Geeks who love flaunting their bellies, this is a lighter, sessionable option that will keep the party going into the wee hours or a good beer for a business lunch.
So how do you make light beer? You’re thinking what if I dilute a strong beer by adding more water – that doesn’t cut down calories and just reduces the alcohol content.
So how do they do it? Typically a light beers have very little sugar left in them. In brewing terms they are highly attenuated beers. Brewers add enzymes to help break down more starches from the malt into fermentable sugars that the yeast feed on and convert to alcohol and carbon dioxide.
This also means you get a beer that’s high in alcohol. To get the desired 4-5% target ABV, this strong beer is diluted with water.
Bira 91 Lite Tasting Notes
Style: Lager | 4-5% ABV | MRP RS. 100 (330 ml Bottle – Karnataka)
Batch Number: 01 | Production Date: 17/05/17
Straw, colored, clear. Pours with a nice foamy head that dissipates quickly (low head retention). Medium carbonation.
On pouring, you get a clean malty aroma with hints of rice with slightly skunky hop notes coming through. On warming, there are aromas of green apple and fruit.
Light bodied, crisp, malty with some sweetness ending in a clean low bitter finish. For hop heads like myself who are used to very bitter beers, there is virtually no bitterness detected on the palate.
Keeping the skunky, fruity aromas aside, this is an easy drinking lager that is extremely sessionable. Essentially, you can keep drinking this beer in large quantities without feeling bloated or full. Has the lower calorie count stripped the beer of its flavor? Light lagers are not designed to have much character and this brew is malt forward with not much hop character and is hence true to style.
Bira 91 Strong Wheat
When you think of strong wheat beers, one thinks of German Weizenbocks which are essentially amplified Hefewizens.
Bira’s Strong Wheat Ale is not a Weizenbock or a Hefewizen by any means. It’s more like a hybrid and what I suspect a hybrid Belgian Wit without the signature orange peel and coriander but made using the same yeast strain to give it some flavor. There’s only one way to find out – drink it!
Update – Bira has informed me that they are using a pale ale yeast for this beer hence the missing signature esters and phenols.
Hovering between 6-8% , this new variant will aim to attract the mainstream Strong Lager drinker across India – a bold move by Bira to challenge larger commercial entities. Monkey, I like your style! I wonder what Ungil Mallya and the rest of the Wolfpack will do once Bira slowly starts eating into their share?
Orange happens to be my favorite color and once again the branding shines through – brilliant. This can will definitely stand out amongst the others. Bravo Bira.
The ingredients here Malted Barley, Wheat, Rice, Sugar & Natural Flavors in addition to the usual Hops, Water & Yeast.
The adjuncts here are Rice and Sugar. Sugar is typically added to reduce cost and help produce more alcohol in commercial lagers. You’ll find these type of ingredients in all the strong beers you find in India.
However Craft brewers and breweries in countries like Belgium use candy sugar to enhance flavor profiles. Candi sugar gives you pronounced caramel and nutty flavors and this is the approach Bira have taken. Think of a Belgian Dubbel and this will put things into perspective.
Bira Strong Tasting Notes
Style: Lager | 6-8% ABV | MRP RS. 110 (500 ml Can – Karnataka)
Batch Number: 01 | Production Date: 19/05/17
Golden/Amber, pours clear with a thick foamy head that dissipates quickly. Medium carbonation
Predominantly malty, biscuit like aromas mixed in with sweet, toffee like nutty, & perfumy aromas. The aroma reminded me of a recent trip to Lonavala – think Chikki. On warming, no significant change. No harsh alcohol notes detected.
Malt forward with biscuit/nutty flavors, light bodied, crispy, low in bitterness with some residual sweetness in the finish. For a strong ale, this is remarkably smooth on the palate and no harsh warming alcohol notes unlike other typical strong lagers in the market.
It pours clear not hazy or cloudy like most wheat based ales – filtration and does not have the typical grainy mouthfeel with a medium body like you’d expect nor does it have any significant esters or phenols that stand out apart from the slight hints of perfume like notes on the nose. The aroma and taste profile are pleasant and it’s nice to have a strong beer that doesn’t overwhelm your palate on the first sip and subsequent ones as it warms.
The flavors mentioned on the side of the can and in the press releases remains a mystery. Let us know if you detect anything significant.
An updated list will be added to the blog post once available.
Currently available in Bangalore at Blue Land Wines, Indirangar and at Thom’s Bakery, Fraser Town.
Please check with Bira on their Social Media handles about city specific availability.
Bira on Facebook – Click HERE
Bira on Twitter – Click HERE
Both variants will do well in the markets considering their USP – flavor profile & price points.
The question that may be floating around die hard Beer Geek’s heads would be whether or not Bira is still considered a “Craft” Beer after introducing variants one would normally associate with commercial breweries.
That’s a very tough question to answer. One one hand, you can point fingers and say they’ve used techniques to cut down production costs just as commercial breweries have and on the other you can look at how Bira is slowly changing the market and bringing awareness to other style of Beer that none of the other big players have done so far in India.
All the major players seem to come out with the same set of boring lagers and most have had extremely boring marketing campaigns that are quite stale to be honest. Whatever you label Bira, they’ve done a great job in promoting different styles of Beer, have been able to successfully move production from Belgium to India and are now well on their way to getting their products out to the whole of India whilst keeping price points highly affordable. Who else has managed to bring an India Beer into the United Nations? I rest my case.
We’d all like to Be Bira at the end of the day. Well done Bira. Monkey, I like what you do and keep the monkey business going. India loves you.
Cheers and Stay Frothy
JJ The Keg
All Images Courtesy: Tales Of Froth.