In a nation of beer lovers, a podcast is helping people understand and appreciate everything about the brew.

Author: Ganesh Vancheeswaran

Nearly 2 years ago, I started writing this column on beer because I wanted to chronicle the various dimensions of this delightful drink in India and take them to a large audience across the world. To me, beer has never been about just drinking. It’s never been about just Stout, Gose, IPA and the various other styles. It’s been about everything happening around the brew: the people who supply hops and malt, the people who design and setup breweries, those who serve beer at public houses, brewers and their methods, beer drinkers, the history of beer, the story of great breweries, the many memories beer triggers in our mind, events centred around beer, conversations spawned by this drink (they can go from soulful to silly and back in an instant), friendships born from a shared love of this brew… Like I said, everything about it. 

In foraging for story ideas for this column, I have been privileged to meet several people doing interesting stuff. So imagine my surprise and delight when I found someone who looks at beer just the way I do and has embarked upon a fascinating venture focussed on this drink!

Meet Chatty Girija, the founder and host of India’s only podcast on beer: aptly named Cheers Chatty. An “ideas designer” who has worked in the field of brand communication for two decades, Chatty has always been in love with beer. From bottled lagers to the latest styles in craft beer, she loves them all. “I look at everything through the lens of this drink,” she tells me with a short laugh when we chat over the phone. 

It is this love that made her think of a beer-focussed podcast in December 2019. “As a beer enthusiast and beer writer, I was looking at a different canvas of communication to promote this beverage. I gave myself a simple brief: talk about the other — the real — side of beer that’s not shown in advertising. Fortunately, my advertising background opened up a plethora of new media options. And there it was…a podcast was the answer.”

And so began a journey on which she has met a wide range of interesting people. Brewers, beer drinkers, someone developing precision engineering in the brewing process using AI, lovers of beer history, suppliers of yeast, suppliers of brewing equipment, someone who upcycles beer and liquor bottles, a Master Cicerone from Canada – Cheers Chatty’s lineup of guests includes all these and more. From time to time, the podcast runs thematic series such as Pint Podcasts, Grandparents Day series, Hate-Love Beer Experiences, Cheer Social Responsibility and Good Women Podcasts. 

Launching the podcast was a logical move for Chatty. Her curiosity and easygoing nature make her a ready fit for good conversations. Her long stint as a brand communication professional has given her a deep insight into storytelling and helps her steer narratives effectively. It has also prepped her on the potential of new-age communication channels. 

Podcasting is a recent development in India, but observers have pinned great hopes on it. The Media and Entertainment Outlook 2020 report brought out by PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PWC), names India as the 3rdlargest market for podcasts globally, after the USA and China. With a base of 57.6 million monthly listeners, and a projected compounded annual growth rate of 30.4% over the next five years, this country is looking at a spike in the number of listeners. Sensing this, and perhaps with an intention to put lockdown time to good use, several podcasts were launched from India last year. According to this report published in The Hindu, an Indian newspaper, Anchor, a leading podcasting platform, added more than 25,000 podcasts from India in just 2020.

India’s interest in this medium is easy to understand. A podcast has the intimacy of radio, a medium that generations of Indians have been fond of. And it lends itself easily to conversations and storytelling, traditions that have been handed down over centuries in this country. 

The Cheers Chatty show has nearly 100 episodes under its belt. “We don’t release our episodes at a particular frequency. Our approach is a combination of identifying participants and thematic topics associated with beer and brewing, and getting them recorded and published on priority,” says Chatty.  

Ankur Napa, brewing consultant and a close associate of Chatty, says her passion for beer is what makes this podcast tick. “In the early days, she used to ask me several questions about the technicalities and science of beer. I clarified her doubts and encouraged her to read a lot. Pretty soon, she had a good understanding of the nuances of this drink.” Ankur paints a picture of a person who goes to great lengths to understand the brew, unearth different facets of it and educate her audience on these.

Each episode of the Cheers Chatty podcast opens with the sound of a beer bottle being popped open and the liquid being poured. Most episodes feature a 20-to-30-minute conversation. Though she shares a few key questions with her guests beforehand, Chatty says she is keen to keep the chats flexible. So some parts of the conversations are impromptu. After all, when you are talking about beer, you have to go with the flow. Beginning with a few pleasantries, Chatty gets her guests to open up about their background, story and work. Many of the guests on the show come from regular — even humble — backgrounds from the smaller cities of India. The podcast foregrounds their passion, skills, work and dreams. As for us listeners, we get to learn an aspect or two of beer that we may not have known about, before. We come away entertained and enlightened. 

In the episodes, Chatty comes across as someone who is easy to talk to: at certain points, you can even hear the smile in her voice. She is curious, down-to-earth and empathetic, traits that help her guests share their thoughts comfortably. Sumiran Sharma, brewer at Toit Brewpub-Pune and a guest on the podcast, says, “It was easy to establish a connect with her. Even before the podcast was recorded, she spoke to me for a while. We got to know each other. This helped establish a rapport between us and put me at ease. And our conversation just flowed from there!” 

When I ask her how she feels running this podcast, Chatty replies, “High. On top of the world. Being an outsider, I didn’t expect the industry to welcome me unconditionally, with open arms. But that’s just what it did. The industry stakeholders have the same personality as beer — welcoming and chilled.”  

Chatty has signed up with podcast aggregator Audiowallah to distribute, promote and monetise Cheers Chatty. With these aspects handed over to a trusted professional partner, she says she can focus on developing great content for her show. She believes this tie-up will take her podcast to more people in India and abroad (psst: a large number of the show’s listeners are based in the USA). Partnering with beer brands to create content is another priority for Chatty. World over, podcasting has emerged as an effective medium through which brands take their stories to a focussed, discerning audience; Chatty wants to leverage this potential. 

“I firmly believe that beer makes the world a cheerful place to live in. I want to talk about the different aspects of the drink that are relatable to life. My aim is certainly not to get all technical and scientific with beer. Make it light, make it cheerful is what I tell myself. I want to end every series or episode with a positive story people can remember,” says Chatty, who loves cricket and tennis and regularly practises bat knocking at home.  

Cheers Chatty is a free podcast available on the following links:

Linktree: https://linktr.ee/cheerschatty​ 

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnrPBC7WM8AuqKFwWpDHkhA/videos

Anchor: https://anchor.fm/chatty-girija​ 

Apple Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/in/podcast…​ 

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7Bc1WAf…​ 

Google Podcast: https://podcasts.google.com/?feed=aHR…​ 

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/girija-chatty

Having heard several episodes of the show, I’d sum it up thus: connection, informality, intelligent questions and demystifying beer. Each episode of the podcast is like great beer: a frothy, flavourful, textured brew which, when it lands on our aural palate and mind, leaves us with a sense of discovery and deep satisfaction. 

Pictures: Ganesh Vancheeswaran