Arbor Brewing heads to India

Brewery expansion seems like the norm these days, though Arbor Brewing’s is anything but ordinary. When you plan to open a new location 9,000 miles away in Bangalore, India, I suppose that’s to be expected.

The ABC India project—as co-owner Rene Greff calls it—is an expansion three years in the making. The idea came about when Gaurav Sikka, a University of Michigan grad who’d moved back to his hometown of Bangalore, India, contacted the brewery about partnering up to take advantage of a recent wave of legislation that would legalize microbreweries in his state of Karnataka. Intrigued, both Matt and Rene Greff decided to pay Bangalore a visit—with the company’s lawyer in tow—and worked out a joint venture to give Sikka and his partners the rights to use Arbor Brewing recipes and branding throughout the country.

Of course, it wasn’t as easy as that, so we asked Rene Greff to tell us about some of the amazing considerations Arbor had to contend with while planning ABC India, a 10,000 square-foot brewpub with 250 seats spanning a bar, two dining rooms, a terrace and private event space; opening as early as this winter.

Getting the equipment to the brewpub.
“India has a 40-percent import duty so it was not cost effective to purchase tanks from the West. Fortunately, we have a good friend who does a lot of work at our breweries and also designs breweries. We enlisted his services to design the brewery and found a local fabricator in Bangalore. Our fabricator has a lot of experience serving the pharmaceutical industry but this is their first brewery so that has been a long and complicated process.”

Infrastructure.
“There are infrastructure complications: No potable tap water, no municipal-piped natural gas service, sporadic electricity. So we had the added expense and complication of installing a reverse-osmosis water filtration system and water tanks, a high-capacity generator and a system of liquid gas tanks.”

Lack of ingredients.
“Since craft brewing is brand new in India and there are only about a half-dozen or so [microbreweries] open so far, there isn’t a distribution network for things like two-row malted barley, specialty malts, the diverse array of hops needed to brew American-style craft beer and then all of the little things like clamps, gaskets, hoses, etc., that we can easily get here from our brewery supply company. The other brewpubs are sourcing their raw materials from Europe and we will be sourcing from the United States. Because we are doing our own importing, we have had the added complication of getting an import permit and phytosanitary certificate.”

Tweaking the line-up.
“Our line-up is going to include some of our established brands like the Sacred Cow IPA (renamed Raging Elephant for the Indian market), Big Ben English-Style Mild Bitter, Bollywood Blonde (brewed with orange peel and coriander), Phat Abbot Belgian Tripel, Bavarian Bliss Hefeweizen, Michael Faricy’s Irish Stout and then some Indian specialties we’ve been playing around with like a Garam Masala Pale Ale, Chai.P.A., Gingered Tamarind Wheat and Pineapple Blonde. We are also going to be implementing our sour program with oak barrels inoculated with sour beers from our breweries here.”

Finding a brewmaster.
“Logan Schaedig [Arbor’s head brewer] will be brewing there for the first six months and training an assistant to take over for him. We are looking for an American brewer interested in a minimum of a two-year contract to brew after Logan leaves. This brewer will train at ABC in Ann Arbor for a month or so and will then train with Logan for four to five months before taking over as head brewer in India.”

So, there you have it: Next time you’re in Bangalore, swing by ABC India for a taste of Michigan, a taste of India and a chat with an adventurous—and possibly homesick—brewmaster.

[Image courtesy of Arbor Brewing]


Posted on Monday, June 25th, 2012
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