Delhi’s beer buffs reveal what it takes to make the perfect pint
By Karishma Kuenzang for India Today on May 27, 2018
Ever wondered what goes into the making of the perfect beer? Or cared to know the stories behind your mug of foamy happiness? As people pile into pubs and bars seeking respite from the summer heat, Mail Today talks to some of the pioneering beer buffs in Delhi-NCR to find out what it takes to make the perfect pint.
Rahul Singh, the founder of the popular Beer Cafe chain, is one of the first in the Capital to serve a wide range of domestic beers and international brews from China, Japan, Germany and Belgium. His obsession with beer started at the illegal age of 16, when he was still a school boy.
My friends and I sneaked in a bottle of strong beer called Thunderbolt. Since we didnt have a facility to cool it, we gulped it warm. It felt awful. But the sheer curiosity and kick was worth it, recalled Singh.
It was this beer drinking nostalgia that led him to open Beer Café. Rahul now intends to bequeath his love for the brew to the next generation by taking his 17-year-old son to Oktoberfest, the annual German carnival held in the city of Munich, where over 7 million litres of beer are served during the 16-day festival, later this year.
Rahul loves beers which have a rich, malty and strong flavour, with the hop bitterness just right to support the sweetness of the malt.
(Hops are flowers of the hop plant. Rich in anti-oxidants, these flowers are used as a stability agent in beer. It also imparts its bitter and zesty flavour to the brew and prolongs shelf life.)
The aroma of the beer is crucial. A big part of the taste that we get while drinking beer is actually an olfactory response: Rahul Singh, Founder, Beer Cafe.
I like a slightly full-bodied and smooth texture, with low to moderate fizz, sans the harshness or the caustic feel that some carbonated beers have. The aroma of the beer is crucial, said Singh, adding that a big part of the taste that we get while drinking beer is actually an olfactory response.
For Nishant Grover too it was love for beer that led him to become a food technologist. This head brewer at the Molecule Air Bar in Gurugram, a region teeming with microbreweries, began brewing and experimenting with the fermentation of wines and beers, inside labs, six years ago, after his studies.
His job now is to introduce innovative beer flavours to the bar menu.
SO WHAT MAKES A BEER STAND OUT?
Four ingredients: Water, malt (grain), hops and yeast. Most breweries in Delhi-NCR source the malt or processed barley/wheat/grain from either Germany or Belgium.
The malt is crushed, and then mixed with hot water at different temperatures, depending on the malt and the desired flavours. The brewing typically takes about six to seven hours. The juice or wort, which gets separated from the grain, is then boiled and the hops are added.
The mix is then chilled to 10-15 degrees, after which yeast is added. This is when the sugar from the malt gets converted into alcohol.
The mixture is then allowed to ferment for a week, chilled again and allowed to rest for 10 to 15 days or till the time it gets mature. We want malt thats high in starch and has low protein because protein adds cloudiness to your beer, which is the reason why wheat beer looks hazy, said Grover. The colour of the beer also depends on the type of malt used.
The pale yellow colour comes from barley grains, so even in wheat beer we have to put barley malt to get the colour, added Nishant. Not surprisingly, the most important ingredient in beer is water. Water makes up to 90 to 95 per cent of beer.
The mineral content of water used to craft the beer is critical in determining the quality. For instance, hard water is best suited for making stouts, while pale lagers and pilsners require soft water, said Singh the Beef Café founder.
The water should ideally not be too hard. Excessive sodium gives a salty taste to the beer along with making your throat feel dry.
– Sayantan Mukherjee, Head Brewer at Prankster
Most breweries in Delhi-NCR use purified water or what is known as RO water. The water should ideally not be too hard. Excessive sodium gives a salty taste to the beer along with making your throat feel dry, and even the calcium concentration should be limited to 50ppm (parts per million), said Sayantan Mukherjee, head brewer at Prankster.
FACTS BEHIND THE FOAM
The amount of froth in a beer is determined by its hop content, protein content and carbonation. Hops are flowers of the hop plant. Highcarbonated brews with high hop content generate more froth which lasts longer. These beers can be bitter than the ones with less froth.
The residue left from the foam beer head as you drink, usually forms rings and tells its own story. This is called lacing. Beer with high hop or protein level induces uniform lacing. The slower you drink a beer with a healthy head, the more lacing youll see, said Nishant Grover, head brewer at Molecule Air Bar.
HOW ENZYMES TRIGGER FLAVOUR
The temperature at which the beer is brewed also varies according to the type of beer. Wheat beer is usually mixed at 44 degrees then increased to 52 degrees with hot water or steam, then 62 degrees and finally 72 degrees. Lager usually start from 52 degrees, stouts begin at 66 degrees.
There is a particular temperature range at which enzymes work get activated to give a specific flavour, which is why the temperature also plays a role in the aroma and flavour of the beer, said Sayantan Mukherjee, head brewer at Prankster.
The pale yellow colour of beer comes from barley grains, so even in wheat beer we have to put barley malt to get the colour: Nishant Grover, Head Brewer, Molecule Air Bar.
QUALITY AND TASTE LIE ON THE TONGUE OF BEER HOLDER
The colour, aroma, taste, mouth feel and the overall impression determine how good a beer is. Whether or not a beer is good also depends on the category that it is in.
The nuances and qualities that make for a good American Light Lager are very different from the desired attributes of a Märzen, which is an Amber Malty European Lager.
The ultimate judge of the beer quality, however, is the person drinking it. If you like the taste, feel, smell, and smoothness, then it is a good beer, said Singh, founder, Beer Cafe.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU SIP
- Make sure the beer is clear and not muddy, unless it wheat beer.
- There should be a one and a half inch foam head for the first three minutes of pouring.
- Make sure it has just about enough fizz. As the carbon dioxide brings crispiness to the beer, if its oxidised and flat, it will be off flavour and taste bad. Too much carbonation is also not good as the taste of the beer will be lost.
- Lacing.The lacing also depends on how mature the beer is, so every beer should have some lacing. No lacing could also indicate a dirty glass.
- Body. A good beer needs to have a thick body because if its thin you wont be able to taste the beer. Expect the maximum amount of creaminess in wheat beer and close to none in lager.