I’ll be honest, I’ve always been one to take jabs at Kingfisher for not paying its employees and being run by a billionaire who in a 1998 video joked that he was different from Donald Trump because he was ‘nowhere near bankruptcy’. Now obviously those are legitimate points but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Kingfisher is actually pretty frikin good, probably one of the better beers of the world.
Everyone in India who isn’t an elitist snob or the State Bank of India loves or at least respects the hell out of Kingfisher, and that’s the problem. We’re all so comfortable with it that it’s no longer cool and exciting, it’s just a generic, run-of-the-mill beer. India has no shortage of great beers, but only a few are readily available in Mumbai and even fewer have names you’ll be able to recall. That doesn’t mean they’re any worse or better than Kingfisher, it just means there’s way more than one choice when it comes to good desi beer.
The beers we selected are all made in India and are Indian brands. Foreign brands made in India have excluded though we most likely bought them at the liquor store and drank them anyway. A lot of Indian brands are owned by European companies, but we’ve decided to let that slide because the Indian beer industry has had a long history of association with Europe thanks to the whole colonialism thing. The beer also has to be available at local liquor stores on demand and not specifically ordered.
Let’s Do This.
Price of a Bottle: Rs.125
For generations, brave travellers to the distant land of Goa spoke of a stout brew that dulled the senses and soothed the weary. They called it Kings. For the longest of time it was out of the reach of people who couldn’t afford to go to Goa or didn’t have any friends who could smuggle it across state lines. All that changed in 2015 when Kings finally started being sold in Mumbai’s liquor stores, it’s a good Rs. 20 more than a bottle of Kingfisher but still a hell of a lot cheaper than going to Goa every time you need your fix. Kings is a stout beer and rather bitter, but most importantly, it tastes of Goa.
2) London Pilsner
Price of a Bottle: Rs.90
London Pilsner as its name suggests comes from the small British colony of Wadala, Mumbai. It’s to Bombay what Kings is to Goa; it’s a drink of the people and in many ways one of the most genuine beers out there, once you get past the misleading name obviously. As far as beers go, LP as they call it on the streets is fairly light and pleasant to taste, a lot like Kingfisher Premium. It’s not the most exciting beer out there and despite its reputation of being uncouth and classless is actually pretty tame and civilised. It’s the cheapest beer on the list, a good 15 bucks cheaper than a bottle of Kingfisher even though it’s pretty much the same in every other way; it even has Kingfisher engraved on the bottle. LP is the only true Bombay beer in existence, it’s about time we showed it some respect.
Price of a Bottle: Rs.125
Haywards is the wildcard of the beer universe, you either love it or hate it, there is no in between. It takes a veteran beer drinker to truly appreciate the bitterness that a Haywards 5000 leaves in your mouth. If you’re looking for a pure, unadulterated beer to get your kick Haywards is the way to go, though I have to warn you it’s strong, really really strong. It makes Kingfisher Strong look and taste like a Bacardi Breezer and takes some time to get used to, but once you get to know it you’ll never look back.
Sadly, this is where our list ends. There are just three truly Indian beers you can get at any liquor store in Mumbai, it isn’t that there aren’t brilliant beers being made in other parts of the country, it’s just that they aren’t easy to come by because of the way market lines are drawn and the economics of the whole business. But if King’s success in Mumbai has taught us anything it’s that maybe the future isn’t all that bleak, and that we’re ready for regional beer cultures to mix and intertwine, so we can all drink a a lot more beer.