The Best Of 2017 – Part 1
2017 was a very colorful year in many ways from travel across India to trips abroad to sampling several different types of /Beer.
Last year, I had published a list on the best Imports of 2016. This was very well received and those Beers on that list are still top notch however may not be in the market at present. You’ll find a link to related articles at the bottom of this post.
There’s a lot of great bottled/canned Beer out there and it’s time to round up these favorites from around the world.
To keep things interesting, I’ve chose 4 sets of Beers:
- 4 Domestic Craft Beers.
- 4 Imported Beers. (Available In India)
- 4 Beers Not Available In India. (Will be covered in a separate blog post)
4 Domestic Craft Beers
With brewpubs sprouting up all over the country in the last decade, consumers have been exposed to the idea of Craft Beer and the next logical step is to put those Beers in their hands to try in the confines of their homes or beers to be shared with friends.
In 2014 and 2015, we saw Witlinger and Bira enter the Indian market as packaged “Craft” Beer brands. Witlinger at the time were just limited to kegs but Bira entered the market with their bottles and took the country by storm. Their contract brewed Belgian batches were refreshingly good and their marketing/branding helped put Bira into the hands of consumers across the country.
However on transitioning their manufacturing to India, we started to see several issues mainly batch inconsistencies and the launch of lack luster variants that literally left a bad taste in the mouth of consumers. It’s quite clear that the public and die hard Beer fans want something else to satisfy their thirsty palates.
2017 saw quite a few new variants being released and these brands make up my list for the best Domestic Craft Beers in 2017:
Simba Jungle Stout
Simba Jungle Wheat
Witlinger wheat Ale
White Rhino Brewing Co – IPA
Simba are from Chhattisgarh and own their own production craft brewery and also contract brew the new Indian batches of Witlinger. They had launched a lager/strong lager in their home state and select northern states before developing their craft recipes and releasing thier Stout and Wheat Ale in late 2017.
Witlinger was being contract brewed in Wales for some time but is now being made at Simba’s facility. Witlinger have 2 variants – a lager and a wit.
White Rhino have their own production Craft Brewery close to Gwalior MP and currently have 3 variants – a Helles Lager, Belgian Wit and their newly launched IPA. Their beers are also available on draft. White Rhino have also done a limited run export lager and IPA for European markets.
Simba Jungle Stout – 4.5% ABV | Availability – Goa , Delhi (Jan 18)
Pours dark brown, almost black with a creamy off white head that dissipates shortly afterwards.
On the nose, coffee dominates supported by toffee, caramel and hints of dark chocolate. These flavors transpose themselves to the palate as well as roasted grains. Smooth and creamy mouthfeel but a lot lighter in body than most other stouts with a low bitter finish.
Stout purists can argue that this Stout is too light bodied but if you do your homework, you’ll find that some Stouts can indeed be lighter bodied to make them more sessionable.
Simba Jungle Wheat – 5% ABV | Availability – Goa , Delhi (Jan 18)
This take on a Belgian Wit includes lemongrass along with the orange peel and coriander altering the aroma and the flavor.
Pours golden, slight opaque in appearance with a fluffy head that dissipates shortly after.
On the nose, you can make out the lemongrass aroma mixed with the citrus and spice from the coriander along with some bready notes. On the palate, slightly sweet and grainy, light bodied, with the lemongrass, citrus and spice all working together to add to the flavor ending in a light bitter finish.
Citrusy, Light, Easy and Refreshing overall. This is a nice change from the other bottled wits in the market so far and it’s not overly sweet, which is great.
Witlinger Wheat Ale – 4.5% ABV | Availability – Pan India
It definitely is now #BoldlyBritish with the Bull Dog on the label and the bold colors.
The Indian batches have been surprisingly good so far. Carbonation and Head retention – absolutely fantastic – check our the Froth on the right!
Tastes a lot better than the batches from the UK – Bolder with more pronounced citrus and spicy flavors not just from the orange peel and coriander but also phenolics from the yeast used. Just the right body with the right malt vs wheat balance.
Refreshingly good for a first batch from their Indian production site. Great to see Witlinger being made here on home soil! .
White Rhino India Pale Ale – 7% ABV | Availability – Gurgaon only
One of THE most exciting and anticipated launches of 2017 by far.
White Rhino’s Craft Lager and Wit are truly amazing, they really are but they pale in comparison to this gift to mankind, their version of a true India Pale Ale NOT to be confused with an Indian Pale Ale. No shortcuts, no cheap ingredients, adjuncts or “flavors” This is an authentic Craft Beer through and through.
On opening, you get a nice bit of smoke. Amber colored and pours well with plenty of clean wispy foam and is hazy, as expected. Good head retention and carbonation.
The aroma you can literally smell a mile away. A combination of European and American hops make this Beer smell amazing. You can smell the American C hops in this one – resin & pine as well as tropical fruits galore – pineapple, mango and if you think hard enough lychee/passion fruit.
You can smell this beer for hours. I would bathe in this. That’s how delightful it is on the nose. Nicely balanced, medium bodied with those juicy hops coming through with a nice bitter finish that doesn’t last too long but it’s there.
For India this is what we need to teach people what hops are. I’m a firm believer in balance – hop as much as you want but balance it out with a healthy grain bill to reduce perceived bitterness.
One can hope that White Rhino spreads their wings this year and their product portfolio finds its way to Maharashtra and Karnataka and other Indian cities that appreciate well made, true to style Craft Beers.
4 Imported Beers
Our Beer movement is in its infancy. We have milestones to achieve before we can truly say we have the Best Beers in the World. We barely have any production craft breweries and have limited beer styles available in packaged format.
For consumers, imports serve as a chance to sample different styles of Beer that may not be available in the country and consequently expand their palates.
Here’s’ a round up of some of my favorite imports from 2017:
Chimay Trappist Ale (Red)
Delirium Tremens Tripel
Chimay Premiere (Red) – 7% ABV | Availability – Select Cities
Some of the best beers in the world are made by the Trappist monks from Belgium. Chimay is one of the 11 monasteries producing Trappist ales. Their offerings include:
- Chimay Red (Premiere) – A Dubbel – full of complex bready notes, sweetness, the richness of dark fruits (like a rich fruit cake) and spices.
- Chimay Blue (Grande Reserve) – Dark Ale full of malt & caramel/toffee notes with hints of spice. Originally brewed as a Christmas Ale.
- Chimay Gold (Blonde) -An interesting Beer with elements of a Wit – Orange Peel and Coriander along with fruity esters and spicy phenols.
Currently in India you will find the Red and Gold. My personal favorite is the Red as it’s rich and complex malt character gets me excited, every single time!
Delirium Tremens – 8.5% ABV | Availability – Select Cities
Two variants available in India, this blond/tripel and the dark version the Nocturnum.
The Blond is perfect – high in alcohol, carbonation and rich in malty notes, fruity/citrusy and spicy esters and phenols, medium bodied with a nice bitter, dry finish. Very well made Beer that will have you coming back for more and more. It’s almost addictive and will make you wonder if there’s some “magical” ingredient that’s the cause behind this.
The brewers at Browerij Huyghe certainly know what they are doing. A few pints of these and you’ll be living up to this beer’s name!
Available in Delhi and Mumbai with other cities to follow.
Edelweiss Hefeweizen – 5% ABV | Availability – Select Cities.
From the Heineken stable, comes this Hefeweizen from Austria. Alpine water and speical alpine herbs add to the flavor of this Hefe.
Pours yellow/golden with a fluffy, mousse like head. Hazy and not as cloudy as other Hefeweizen brands. High on carbonation with small, fast rising bubbles, excellent head retention that leads to excellent lacing till your last sip.
The addition of Apline flowers/herbs adds perfume like floral notes on the nose, coupled with your the expected Banana esters from the yeast. You can also pick out the bready and yeasty notes along with spicy clove phenols coming through. The clove is more evident on warming.
The aroma translates well to the palate. This beer is clean, light to medium bodied with a nice creamy mouthfeel. Starts off with malty sweetness from the malt bill, is fruity (banana), has a hint of tartness (citrusy) and finishes with a slightly spicy & bitter hop finish. Overall highly refreshing.
Affligem Blonde – 6.7% ABV | Availability – Select Cities.
Pours golden in color, clear (didn’t swirl the bottle enough) with a dense fine head with plenty of carbonation and medium rising, fine bubbles.
Head retention and lacing are excellent in the beer and you’ll have plenty of carbonation till your last sip thanks to the double fermentation in the bottle.
The “soul” of the Beer, the yeast in Belgian Beers is responsible for most of the dominant aromas, both esters & phenols in Belgian Beers.
The Affligem Blonde is no exception and a classic example of a Beer that smells different at serving temperature vs when it warms up.
The aroma first starts out estery- fruity (pears/apples), slightly citrusy, yeasty and malty/biscuity/bready and then on warming the phenols reveal themselves with notes of pepper. You also get some notes of alcohol.
The high carbonation in this beer gives a nice crispy mouthfeel with a slight hint of tartness from the carbonic bite. This isn’t unpleasant and does not clash with the flavor of the beer. The beer starts off spicy, with some malt sweetness, is medium bodied and finishes dry with a slightly bitter finish.
This Blonde is to be savored and its remarkable how different the flavor profiles are on warming vs cold.
Ok the Holidays are over, so Happy New Year Instead!
That rounds up 2017 nicely and I’m really excited for 2018 as there are several new brands both local and international entering the market. You can bet your buns the next post like this will be jam packed!
What were your favorites for 2017? Share these with our Beer/Craft Beer commune on our Friends Of Froth Facebook group. Would love to hear about them.
Cheers and Stay Frothy!
JJ The Keg
All Images Courtesy: Tales Of Froth Unless Otherwise Noted
- The Best Imports of 2016 – Click HERE
- The Rumor Mill – Beer & Craft Beer News (Updated Dec 2017) – Click HERE
- Edelweiss – Click HERE
- Affligem – Click HERE