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The craft beer revolution in India

The craze, passion and penchant for craft beer in India has been abundant in the recent few years, and with makers like White Owl Brewery in the mix, it’s only going to grow. From the brewery’s journey to all the facts and figures you need to know, it’s all here…

 

Less than a decade ago, the only beer one could find across India was the typical commercial lager. Today, craft beer has exploded across the country where several regional and national players have exposed the Indian consumer to a whole host of beer styles ranging from traditional international ales to more exotic, specialised brews. At the forefront of this craft beer revolution is White Owl, a Mumbai-based, Award-Winning Brewery.

Renowned for handcrafting beer using the finest of natural ingredients from around the world, White Owl advocates small-batch brewing of crisp, complex flavours and distinct aromas under the leadership of a highly-experienced and internationally-trained brewing team. The result is an extensive craft beer portfolio featuring an eclectic selection of old-world and new-age styles, packaged in bottles and cans, and available at over 2,500 bars and stores across Mumbai, Pune, Goa, Bengaluru and Delhi with several new geographies in the pipeline.

White Owl was founded to specifically address a distinct gap in the Indian beer market. Founder, Javed Murad, stumbled upon great beer when he was in grad school in Boston in 2007, which is when craft beer really started picking up in the United States. It was so easily available everywhere and so well priced that whenever he visited Bombay for a holiday it became glaringly apparent that India needed a better beer. A few years later, he decided to do something about it and moved back to put together a detailed business plan that has culminated into White Owl.

White Owl’s beer portfolio strategy is relentlessly focused on exposing the Indian consumer to the vast world of premium craft beer. In addition to Spark, an incredibly-popular summery Belgian Wit, White Owl’s Diablo, a caramel-roast Irish Red Ale is the only Red Ale available across India and its Ace, a bubbly, hops-free Apple Cider Ale was India’s first locally-bottled cider available across the country. Most recently in December 2019, White Owl launched Spike —India’s first Strong-Craft Beer—across the country finally bringing the worlds of Craft Beer and Strong Beer into the same bottle in India. Brewed using German Purity Standards, Spike—despite packing a whopping 7.9% ABV —is an incredibly smooth and flavourful Craft Beer with hints of banana and clove (and absolutely no alcohol burn).

As such, White Owl is now set to break an age-old perception around strong beer in India where consumption has historically been driven not for flavour and taste profile, but more so for higher alcohol content. Moreover, consumers nationwide can finally enjoy a strong craft beer which mirrors the high quality and flavourful profile of its mild craft beer counterparts, a very common phenomenon in more developed craft beer markets across Western Europe and North America. Whereas beer represents an incredible opportunity across the world, the opportunity in India is especially lopsided. On the one hand, the Indian consumer has always had a large number of options for the typical low-cost, mass-produced beer that will always form the bulk of every market. In stark contrast, there are almost no options available in the premium beer segment—where quality and craft supersede cost.

This phenomenon completely mismatches the trajectory of India’s young, growing, urban population that has begun to earn well, has its finger on the pulse at all times and is continuously making finer, more evolved consumption choices. For example, why does one have a ton of amazing options when it comes to premium chocolate, cheese, tea, coffee and juices, but not when it comes to premium beer? This is exactly the gap that White Owl is addressing across the country. In addition to deepening its existing presence across Mumbai, Pune, Goa, Delhi and Bengaluru, White Owl will enter five new markets across North and South India as well as two international markets, for which preparations are well underway.

 

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