Beer in India

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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. Beer is not as popular as stronger alcoholic beverages like whiskey. The most popular beers in India are strong beers.[1]


Traditional beer[edit]

Traditional beer vats in Meghalaya

Beer was well known in India before the arrival of Europeans. The Vedas mention a beer-like drink called sura.[2] It was the favourite of the god Indra.[3] Sura is also mentioned in the Ramayana.[4] Megasthenes has recorded usage of rice beer in India. Kautilya has also mentioned two intoxicating beverages made from rice called Medaka and Prasanna.[4]

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.[5] Millet beer is also prepared by some tribes. According to 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.[6] Elephant herds have been known to attack villages to drink this rice beer for which they have acquired a taste.[7][8]

European beer[edit]

European-style beer was introduced in India by the British. By 1716, pale ale and Burton ale were being imported to India from England.[9] 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.[10][11]

In 1830, Edward Abraham Dyer, father of Colonel Reginald Edward Harry Dyer of Jallianwala Bagh massacre, travelled to India and set up India's first brewery in Kasauli.[12][13][14][15][16][17] It produced the beer brand Lion, which is still available. In 1835,[18] the Kasauli brewery was shifted to Solan near Shimla. In 1885, it was incorporated as Dyer Breweries. Later, more breweries 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.[11] By the year 1882, there were 12 breweries in India in all, including one in Rangoon.[19]

In the year 1892, 4,831,127 gallons of beer were 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 1967 the price was only 6.5 rupees.[20]

In 1937, Burma was separated from India and the company lost its Burmese assets.[11] The company was restructured and renamed as Dyer Meakin Breweries. It was listed on the London Stock Exchange.[21] 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.[11]


A bottle of Kingfisher Premium

Established in 1969, Lilasons Breweries in Madhya Pradesh is known for their strong beer brand Khajuraho. It is considered the first super-strong beer brand in India.[22] 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.[23] In 2000, SABMiller India entered Indian market by acquiring Narang Breweries.[24] In June 2001, it acquired the Mysore Breweries.[25] In 2003, SABMiller India acquired 50% stake in local Shaw Wallace's beer business.[26] In November 2002, SABMiller India acquired Rochees Breweries.

In May 2005, SABMiller India acquired Shaw Wallace's beer assets for 600 crore.[26] 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.[27] In late 2005, UK-based Cobra Beer entered the Indian market by beginning negotiations with in December.[28][29] In 2006, SABMiller India acquired Foster's Indian assets.[30]

In February 2006, Anheuser-Busch Inbev, the makers of Budweiser, entered a partnership with Hyderabad-based Crown Beers.[27][31] Also in 2006, Ravi Jain divested his holdings in Millennium AlcoBev.[32] In 2010, United Breweries consolidate its assets, merging Millennium AlcoBev and other units back into itself.[33] In 2011, United Breweries announced that they would produce the Heineken brand beer in India.[34] In 2012 after India allowed foreign-direct investment from Pakistan, Murree Beer representatives stated that they were seeking to export their brand to India.[35] The Rawalpindi-based Murree Beer, which was established in 1861, has been trying to enter the Indian market since 2003.[36]

"Oktoberfest Goa", a beer, food and electronic music festival has been held every year since 2011 in Goa.[37]

Brands and breweries[edit]

The largest selling India beer brand is Kingfisher. Other major Indian brands are Hunter, Taj Mahal Indian Lager, Kalyani, Tiger, Lion, Cobra, Black fort, 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, Som Distilleries and Breweries ltd and Anheuser-Busch Inbev.[1] In 2013, United Breweries had a market share of 55% and SABMiller India had a share of 23%.[38] SABMiller India owns the Haywards brand and Foster's Indian units.[38][39]

Although imported beer brands like, Corona, Singha, Tsingtao, Victoria Bitter, Geist and Christoffel (nl), are available in India, they are costly due to high import duties reaching up to 100%.[40] 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.[1]

Some of the major beer brands in India by market share are:

Popular beer brands by market share (2014)[41]
Company Market share (%) Beer brand Market share (%)
United Breweries 51.1 Kingfisher 41.2
Kalyani Black Label 2.7
UB Export 2
Sandpiper 1.5
Bullet Super Strong 1
Zingaro 0.9
London Pilsner 0.2
SABMiller 25.6 Haywards 15
Knockout 8.7
Foster's 1.3
Royal Challenge Premium Lager 0.6
Carlsberg 7.6 Okocim 5.1
Tuborg 1.3
Carlsberg 1.2
Mohan Meakin 3.1 Golden Eagle 1.7
Black Knight 1.1
Vorion 0.2
Anheuser-Busch 2.1 Budweiser 2
Molson Coors 0.2 Cobra 0.2

Beer bars[edit]

Beer Cafe and The Pint Room are two beer bar chains in India.[42]

Craft beer and awards[edit]

In Feb 2015, Cerana Beverages (now b9 Beverages) launched India's first craft beer in draft form.n April 2016, Kaama Impex Pvt. Ltd. launched India’s first craft beer brand, ‘Witlinger’ in fresh bottles. Witlinger was launched in two variant namely, Witlinger Wheat Ale and Witlinger Lager. [43] Inspired by the vibrant UK craft beer scene, Witlinger is the first crafted beer in India brewed by Master Brewers at Brains Brewery in Cardiff, United Kingdom. With over 130 years of traditional brewing heritage, knowledge, and expertise, Witlinger beer is brewed with the finest of ingredients to offer distinctive flavors, giving a real and honest craft beer experience.[43]

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.[44]

In August 2017, Beerworks Restaurants and Microbrewery (Beerworks) relaunched Geist craft beer in draft form. This brewery is the first commercial brewery to be set up as a Microbrewery with the ability to supply Craft beer in Kegs to pubs and clubs in Bangalore.

Sales and consumption[edit]

In 2014-15 financial year, the beer market in India grew by 6% to 22.3 million hectolitres (or to 286 million cases). On the one hand, this rate is twice faster as compared to the 2013-14 year; on the other hand, it is half than the average rate over the preceding decade.[45] The per capita consumption of beer is 1.6 litres.[38] 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 the growing middle class.[1] The increased consumption has raised the price of barley in India.[46]

Indians prefer stronger alcoholic drinks, like whiskey, over beer, because it is cheaper and has a higher alcohol content. Indians mostly consume stronger brews. Strong beer with alcohol content in the 5-8% range accounted for 83% of the total beer sales in 2012. Beer accounts for only 5% of the total alcohol consumed.[1] The low consumption is attributed to high cost, availability and stringent regulations. Karnataka and Kerala are the only two 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%. The latest entrant into the Indian market is the Bira 91 brand with its headquarters in Delhi, making a steady rise in the beer market.[38][47]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Stronger is better: brewers tap India thirst for potent beer". Reuters. 24 September 2013. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  2. ^ Abraham Eraly (23 January 2002). Gem In The Lotus. Penguin Books Limited. p. 165. ISBN 978-93-5118-014-2. 
  3. ^ Amitava Dasgupta; Loralie J. Langman (2012). Pharmacogenomics of Alcohol and Drugs of Abuse. CRC Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-4398-5611-6. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Om Prakash (1 January 2005). Cultural History of India. New Age International. p. 503. ISBN 978-81-224-1587-2. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  5. ^ Sarit Kumar Chaudhuri; Sucheta Sen Chaudhuri (2005). Primitive Tribes in Contemporary India: Concept, Ethnography and Demography. Mittal Publications. p. 57. ISBN 978-81-8324-026-0. 
  6. ^ Rabindra Nath Pati; Jagannatha Dash (2002). Tribal and Indigenous People of India: Problems and Prospects. APH Publishing. p. 123. ISBN 978-81-7648-322-3. 
  7. ^ "Beer-swilling elephants terrorize Indian villages". The Seattle Times. 14 November 2004. Archived from the original on 16 October 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  8. ^ "India elephant rampage". BBC News. 24 December 1998. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  9. ^ Pete Brown (11 August 2011). "Chapter 17: Hodgson's India Ale". Hops and Glory: One man's search for the beer that built the British Empire. Pan Macmillan. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-230-74047-1. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  10. ^ Global Histories, Imperial Commodities, Local Interactions. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 40. ISBN 978-1-137-28360-3. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  11. ^ a b c d "Spirits still soar at Asia's oldest brewery". The Economic Times. 13 August 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  12. ^ Colvin, Ian Duncan (1929-01-01). The life of General Dyer,. Edinburgh; London: W. Blackwood & Sons Ltd. 
  13. ^ Colvin, Ian Duncan (2006-01-01). The Life of General Dyer. Unistar Books. 
  14. ^ Collett, Nigel (2006-10-15). The Butcher of Amritsar: General Reginald Dyer. A&C Black. ISBN 9781852855758. 
  15. ^ Saikia, Arunabh (2016-04-23). "How Old Monk went from India's star to another has-been". Mint on Sunday. Retrieved 2017-01-30. 
  16. ^ "Reginald Edward Dyer 1864-1927 - Ancestry". Retrieved 2017-01-30. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Himachal Pradesh: Solan". Government of Himachal Pradesh. Archived from the original on 10 December 2012. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  19. ^ Sir William Wilson Hunter (1886). The Indian Empire: Its People, History, and Products. Asian Educational Services. p. 616. ISBN 978-81-206-1581-6. 
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  21. ^ "Calcutta Stocks Neglected". The Indian Express. 5 November 1948. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
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  26. ^ a b "SABMiller buys S Wallace for USD 135m". The Times of India. 28 May 2005. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  27. ^ a b "Beer war hots up in India". Rediff. 4 December 2007. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  28. ^ "Ravi Kaza to head Cobra Beer India biz". The Economic Times. 16 October 2008. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
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  31. ^ "Budweiser beer to be made in India". The Hindu Business Line. 24 February 2007. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  32. ^ "UB, S&N buy Ravi Jain's 20% stake in JV for Rs 18 cr". The Economic Times. 14 May 2006. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  33. ^ "United Breweries to fold in Millennium Alcobev, other arms". DNA India. 15 September 2010. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  34. ^ "United Breweries to manufacture Heineken beer in India". Reuters. 13 September 2011. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  35. ^ "24 May 2012". The Guardian. 24 May 2012. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  36. ^ "Pakistan eyes the India beer market". Asia Times. 1 July 2003. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  37. ^ "Beer, music, food: Oktoberfest back in Goa". The Times of India. 15 September 2013. Archived from the original on 8 October 2013. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  38. ^ a b c d "Beer still a luxury for the average Indian". Live Mint. 29 September 2013. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
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  44. ^ "The World's Best Strong Beer is Australian Max". International Breweries. 24 November 2011. Archived from the original on 22 March 2014. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
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  47. ^ "Sales and Revenue". Kerala State Beverages Corporation Limited. Retrieved 2016-01-30. 

Further reading[edit]