Beer in India
In India, traditional beer has been prepared from rice or millet for thousands of years. In the 18th century, the British introduced European beer to India. The consumption of beer and other stronger alcoholic beverages like whiskey, is popular in India.
Beer was not unknown in India before the arrival of Europeans. The Vedas mention a beer-like drink called sura. It was the favourite of the god Indra. Sura is also mentioned in the Ramayana. Megasthenes has recorded usage of rice beer in India. Kautilya has also metioned two intoxicating beverages made from rice called Medaka and Prasanna.
Rice beer or handia has been traditionally prepared by indigenous tribes of India, in which Ruellia suffruticosa is sometimes added for flavor. Rice beer also has ceremonial use among the Asur people. Millet beer is also prepared by some tribes. According biologist J. B. S. Haldane, local beer helped in keeping diseases like beri beri checked in these tribes. Recently, government and social workers have been trying to curb alcohol usage among these tribes. Elephant herds have been known to attack villages to drink this rice beer for which they have acquired a taste.
European-style beer was introduced in India by the British. By 1716, pale ale and Burton ale were being imported to India from England. To protect the beer from spoiling during the long journey, it had to have high alcohol content and hops were added to it. This led to the invention of India pale ale in about 1787 by Bow Brewery.
In 1830, Edward Dyer travelled to India and set the up India's first brewery in Kasauli. It produced the beer brand Lion, which is still available. In 1835, the Kasauli brewery was shifted to Solan near Shimla. In 1885, it was incorporated as Dyer Breweries. Later, more brewries were built across India, Burma and Sri Lanka, and added to it. Later, H. G. Meakin bought the Solan brewery and added some more. It came to be known as Dyer-Meakin & Company. By the year 1882, there were 12 breweries in India in all, including one in Rangoon.
In the year 1892, 4,831,127 gallons of beer was produced in India. Out of this 2,748,365 gallons were purchased by commissariat and rest was left for consumption by the civilian population. But, British soldiers reportedly didn't like local beer and preferred imported beer which they were able to acquire cheaply.
In 1937, Burma was separated from India and the company lost its Burmese assets. The company was restructured and renamed as Dyer Meakin Breweries. It was listed on the London Stock Exchange. In 1949, N. N Mohan acquired all the assets of Dyer Meakin Breweries and added a few more units. In 1967, the company was renamed to Mohan Meakin Breweries.
In recent years, foreign companies have been entering India and acquiring local businesses. In 1999, United Breweries floated a subsidiary called Millennium AlcoBev. It was a joint venture between United Breweries, UK-based Scottish & Newcastle and Ravi Jain. In 2000, SABMiller India entered Indian market by acquiring Narang Breweries. In June 2001, it acquired the Mysore Breweries. In 2003, SABMiller India acquired 50% stake in local Shaw Wallace's beer business. In November 2002, SABMiller India acquired Rochees Breweries.
In May 2005, SABMiller India acquired Shaw Wallace's beer assets for ₹600 crore. Also in 2005, Carlsberg entered India with its local venture South Asian Breweries. Also in 2005, Singapore-based Asia Pacific Breweries acquired a 76% shared the local Aurangabad Breweries. In late 2005, UK-based Cobra Beer entered the Indian market by beginning negotiations with in December. In 2006, SABMiller India acquired Foster's Indian assets.
In February 2006, Anheuser-Busch Inbev, the makers of Budweiser, entered a partnership with Hyderabad-based Crown Beers. Also in 2006, Ravi Jain divested his holdings in Millennium AlcoBev. In 2010, United Breweries consolidate its assets, merging Millennium AlcoBev and other units back into itself. In 2011, United Breweries announced that they would produce the Heineken brand beer in India. In 2012 after India allowed foreign-direct investment from Pakistan, Murree Beer representatives stated that they were seeking to export their brand to India. The Rawalpindi-based Murree Beer, which was established in 1861, has been trying to enter the Indian market since 2003.
Brands and Breweries
The largest selling India beer brand is Kingfisher. Other major Indian brands are Taj Mahal Indian Lager, Kalyani, Tiger, Lion, Cobra, Haywards, Knock Out and Zingaro. The largest brewery in India by market share is the Bangalore based United Breweries. Other major breweries in India are Carlsberg, SABMiller India and Anheuser-Busch Inbev. United Breweries has a market share of 55% and SABMiller India has a share of 23%. Carlsberg's Tuborg Booster Strong brand (8% ABV) and Anheuser-Busch Inbev's Budweiser Magnum (6.5% ABV) are sold only in India. United Breweries' Kingfisher Strong (8% ABV) is India's best selling brand. SABMiller India owns the Haywards brand and Foster's Indian units. Although imported beer brands like, Corona, Singha, Tsingtao, Victoria Bitter, St. ERHARD, Geist and Christoffel, are available in India, they are costly due to high import duties reaching up to 100%.
Some of the major beer brands in India are:
Beer Cafe and The Pint Room are two beer bar chains in India.
Craft beer and awards
In 2011, International Breweries' Australian MAX (7-8% ABV) won the titles of the "World's Best Strong Lager" and "Asia's Best Strong Lager". Australian MAX is brewed at Khoday Brewery in Bangalore.
Sales and consumption
Indian beer industry is small (270 Million cases / 21 Million HL). The per capita consumption of beer is 1.6 litres. Due to the increase in disposable income and discerning consumers, the potential is high. The industry has been growing over the last few years and this growth is attributed to growing middle class. The increased consumption has raised the price of barley in India.
Indians prefer stronger alcoholic drinks, like whiskey, over beer because it is cheaper and has higher alcohol content. Indians have been known to consume mostly stronger brews. Strong beer with alcohol content in the 5-8% range accounted for 83% of the total beer sales in the year 2012. Beer still contents for only 5% of the total alcohol consumed. The low consumption is attributed to high cost, availability and stringent regulations. Karnataka is only state in India which has a lower tax rate for beer compared to other alcoholic beverages. Maharashtra has the highest tax on alcohol at 43%.
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