Throughout the dry days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Meenakshi Iyer made the most of her modest stock of whisky and gin, but when her city opened up the Pune-based food critic eagerly sought pints of craft beer during her first cautious restaurant visit.
A few months on, access to locally brewed beers has turned much easier. She simply walks into a neighbourhood store — with a menu upfront and taps at the back — to fill up and take away a litre of fresh cider or wheat beer to sip over the weekend.
“Because of their small batches, microbreweries are able to experiment more, and you get to try a variety of beers,” explains Iyer, noting that the retail outlet is useful for busy beer lovers. “They even have a way to recycle empty bottles for discounts so that is a bonus.”
Craft beer, which in pre-COVID times was savoured unhurriedly in groups at taprooms, has undergone major shifts in the last year. Growler stations, such as the one Iyer frequents, have added an over-the-counter dimension to its consumption. Several microbreweries have shown enough faith in retailing to have launched such stores in tony areas such as Pune’s Koregaon Park and Kothrud, or Andheri and Powai in Mumbai. Suburbs like Baner and Thane, where millennials aged between 25 and 35 years are increasingly moving, and smaller cities Nashik and Kolhapur are on the radar too.