Beervana – The Taste of India – by Snoooze Mode Barney!

Tulleeho’s intrepid researcher tastes 5 Indian Beers.

How many genres of film can you name? Go ahead…Thrillers, Comedy, Musical ummm… Action maybe..and there are many more categories with names as complex as post modernist, neoclassical and several others.

Now imagine for one little moment that the earth is rattled and all that’s left in our consciousness is one and only just one genre. How boring it would be. No cinemas. No variety in emotion. No colour. Listlessness would prevail. Well the situation of beer in India is really much like the “single-genre” film world. All we got is Pilsners! Now I know it isn’t exactly that bad. We’re talking of beer here – Less variety, more variety, who really cares? But what about the predicament of someone who has to sit down and painstakingly taste these similar varieties and come back with their tasting notes – each different and unique. The pleasure of this predicament is mine and I’m going to try and do a good job of it.

The beers I tasted are the usual suspects – the ubiquitous Kingfisher, the international Fosters, the dying London Pilsner, the whiskey-sounding Royal Challenge and the latest kid on the block Cobra.

Color: All the beers are in the straw to golden colour range. Nothing really much between them. If you do have Dr. Watson’s magnifying glass you might say Fosters and Cobra are slightly darker than the other suspects. LP, Kingfisher and RC are slightly paler, more yellow and straw-like in colour comparatively speaking. But this is only just slightly and only if you’ve got superior eyesight such as mine.

Carbonation & Head Formation: The Kingfisher and the RC do a good job as “fizzies.” The head stays for long enough for you to request a song on the juke box and slowly trudge back to find the pretty white blanket lingering about the top of the glass. The Cobra is good enough to be third noticeably the bubble size (like the Fosters) is slightly bigger than the others. The heads of the Fosters and London Pilsner especially the latter prove great at the disappearing act. The carbonation too appears to be in the following descending order Kingfisher, RC, Cobra, Fosters and London Pilsner.

Mouth feel: Very little really to differentiate. However Fosters and Cobra have slightly heavier bodies. Again this is to a very minute degree.

Aroma: The London Pilsner lets out a pungent, sharp yeasty aroma. It is best to not try and sniff at it. You might even get the aroma of a barnyard on close inspection. The Kingfisher has a hoppy and almost piney sort of an aroma. Also you might sense the warmth of the alcohol in the aroma. The Cobra aroma is a lot less intense and at the same time its balanced. You don’t need to cringe while drawing a deep breath over a glass of Cobra. Hints of fruitiness also emanate. Fosters has an almost estery/sour aroma with strong hints of yeast. You may just also register the aroma of red wine perhaps.

Flavor: All the beers seem to balance maltiness with the bitterness of the hops. London Pilsener is watery bland for the first second or two and then its slightly sour (like vinegar) and then lots of hoppy flavour. The aftertaste has a hint of a medicine like/ phenolic taste and thankfully dissipates quickly. The Kingfisher has a mild maltiness with sour/estery notes in between (sour notes are in the beginning only). There are hints of a piney/wooden flavour. Then follows a long, hoppy, bitter but pleasant finish. Cobra is more full flavoured than the other beers. It does exercise your taste buds. You may also sense smoky notes in the middle. The bitterness grows slowly and finishes with hints of bittersweet fruits (pear perhaps). The finish is typically long. Lastly the Fosters left me baffled. Its quite full flavoured not so much as the Cobra but more than the Kingfisher. A fine balance between the malts and the hops. But there are hints of burnt toast and a medicine like sourness. Its difficult to put into perspective but if you will taste any other beer in conjunction with a Fosters you will know what I’m talking about.

I don’t wish to hurt the sentiments of any serious beer brand drinkers with my thoughts above. Any violent reactions to my opinions are pointless. Taste is subjective – go exercise your taste buds and you shall know. Anyways, I always believe in what some great drunk slob had muttered after a beer too many – “The best beer is the bottle in your hand”. Right on, mate. Right on.

Ashish Jasuja