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Brewer Talks: Harsh, Crafting The Future Of Beers At Bira 91

This interview is a part of Brewer Talks, a continuing series of interviews with the Brewers of the beer industry and community from across the world. Brewer World will share business and personal insights from Brew-masters, Head Brewers, Brewing Managers each week to help build the industry network and consumers understand beer well.

Craft beer has taken over taps everywhere from unique pubs to weddings and corporate/music events. Across the globe, craft beer sales have seen an increase in the last few years.

It was not that long ago that craft beers in India were virtually unknown. There was no real innovation in taste or quality for fans of the frothy drink, as their options were limited to just a few. It was the year 2006 when Indian craft beers made their debut in India for the first time and a new era of beer connoisseurs began.

In recent years, beer drinkers have become more adventurous. Ankur Jain launched Bira 91 as a solution for people seeking new, stronger flavours. The company initially imported its own brand from Belgium. Then they set up their own breweries in India. Craft beer has never been more accessible, since then. At Bira 91 Taproom, Harshvardhan Jadhav is currently the Innovation Brewer. In addition to Cucumber Kolsch and Mysuru Imperial Stout, he is the brewer behind many other beers that can be found at Bira 91 Taproom.

From a microbrewery to a small craft brewery to a commercial brewery, Harshvardhan has an extensive background in brewing. During his Masters, he worked as an intern brewer with Doolally Brew Crafts, India’s first craft brewery. Through this role, he gained a solid understanding of beer styles and basics.

After completing his master’s degree, he joined AB inBev through a campus placement. He worked in a variety of roles, from quality assurance to brewing projects. Harsh joined a start-up Goa Brewing Co. after AB inBev, where he contributed to the establishment of the brewery, bottling plant, utilities, and developed some of the most critically acclaimed beers. Harshvardhan recently was awarded the Level 1 Cicerone certification. Brewer World had the opportunity to interview Harshvardhan Jadhav, and below are excerpts…

Are you trained in the science or art of brewing? If not, how did you learn this craft?

Oh yes, I have done my Master M.Sc. in Wine brewing and Alcohol Technology with a specialisation in advanced brewing technology.

If you will, a brief history of your brewing experience (where have you brewed)?

I started as an intern at a microbrewery (Doolally) in Pune while studying and got placed in a major beer campus placement, working there in Projects. I wanted to get back to brewing beers and experimenting so joined Goa Brewing Co., as a founding head brewer. I was able to create some of the highest rated beers in India, and am now working for Bira91.

How do you feel your job has had to adapt to the beer market compared to a few years ago?

Craft beer had just arrived in India when I started, and it was simple. The industry has evolved so much since then. The country has hundreds of microbreweries and everyone is trying to push the limits of brewing and create more and more exciting products.

Who is your mentor in the industry and why? What have you learned from them?

Throughout my internship until now, all of the master brewers I worked under have been my mentors. There is something new to learn from every brew master, and each one has their own style of brewing and making recipes. It is a blessing to be working with industry pioneers.

Would you like to mention a recent addition to your brewery that was unique or contributed to business success (equipment, technology, or employees)?

We have promised our consumers that we will be serving 1 new beer every week. This helps us make a lot of beers and experiment and innovate, and the consumers also get to try new styles, so this is a win-win situation for all.

If you could implement one business strategy to improve the brewing industry, what would it be?

I believe the best strategy that can be used is to deliver the best product possible. I wouldn’t change anything other than this.

Has there ever been a bad batch for you? In that case, how long did it take you to discover the cause?

Bad batches are a part of this Job. Once you taste the beer you understand what went wrong. It is quite instantaneous.

How large is the Bira 91 brewery?

We have 5 huge commercial breweries in total at Mysore, Kovur (AP), Nagpur, Maksi and Gwalior.

Is it automated or is there a lot of exercise involved in your brewery’s operation?

All the plants are fully automated with state of the art facilities.

Can you give a hint if anything might be coming from your brewery (new brew, special brew, etc.)?

We will be launching more beers this year than the combined last 5 years.

Describe the weirdest ingredient you have ever put in beer.

Tried adding marshmallows to a brew and failed. giggles…

Any awards, either for you or your brewery?

Bira91 as a brewery has received multiple awards in various categories. People really love our beers.

Which beer would you choose to give to a stranger, and why?

The West Coast IPA that we brew for our taproom is one beer I will ask a stranger to drink. It is brewed keeping in mind the Indian palate and food.

Favourite beer and food pairing?

I love a crisp lager with  Korean spicy fried chicken. Nothing better than that, trust me.

What do you like to do in your time away from the brewery?

I like exploring good restaurants, local cuisines and local markets.

Describe your perfect beer day (outside the brewery).

Sunday brunch at my favourite Microbrewery.