A recent addition to the brewing landscape of Bangalore, Hopshaus is an island of greenery and relaxed vibes.
Author: Ganesh Vancheeswaran
My first impression of the place is of plants. Plants everywhere. Rows of plants adjoining the aisles, next to the tables, in wooden planters hung above the bar counter, and bordering the walls. It puts me at ease immediately. I understand why Hopshaus calls itself a Botanical Brewery and Kitchen (I later find out that their logo features the leaf of the hop plant). From the wet floor and soil, I can make out that it has rained some time ago. I stop just inside the entrance and gaze at the whole place for a few moments, drawing lungfuls of fresh, slightly moist air.
The air hums with conversation. About half the tables on the ground floor are occupied by groups of people. Amit, head of the serving staff, comes up to us and greets us with a smile. He guides us to a table at the far end and goes to fetch us some water. And, more importantly, the beer sampler set.
We are at Hopshaus, a brewery cum restaurant in the Whitefield suburb of the Indian city of Bangalore (Bengaluru). I wanted to visit this place soon after it started brewing in early 2020, but had to shelve that plan because Covid struck soon after that. But the place has remained on my mind all along, and finally, I have been able to make it here — with my wife.
The beer sampler comprises a 60 ml glass of each of the 6 beers on tap today. Fashioned like a turntable with a slot allotted to each glass, the set looks cute. I like how breweries in Bangalore are experimenting with the design of the sampler set, trying to make it distinctive in appearance. There is Witty Belgian (Belgian wheat beer), Hip Hopster (IPA), Sassy Saison (Saison), Roasted Stout (Stout), Basmati Lager (Rice lager) and Honey Maiden (Mead).
I first reach for the Saison, while my wife picks up the mead. At first sniff, I detect a hint of pepper in the Saison. With an ABV of 6.5%, it is the booziest of the beers at Hopshaus (but not too boozy for my taste). My palate detects flavours of pepper and malt. The mead, on the other hand, sparkles — almost like champagne. The unbelievably earthy freshness of honey stands out in the taste profile. George Jacob, Brewmaster at Hopshaus and the man behind the craft brewery here, tells me that they’ve sourced the honey from a forest close by. In India, there are as many kinds of honey as there are forests, and George plans to scour the area in and around the city for more such hotspots of local honey. So much better than using packaged, processed honey, my wife tells him.
We then taste each of the other beers in turn. While all of them are good, our pick of the lot (other than the mead, that is) is the Stout, with its distinct notes (on the nose and the palate) of roasted coffee and dark chocolate. The mouthfeel is supremely creamy, and lingers for a long time. Sampling over, my wife orders a pint of the mead, while I have to have more of the Stout. Every once in a while, I find her hand creeping towards the Stout, and have to tap it away. We follow these up with the Belgian Wit and the IPA. I love the citrusy aroma of the IPA.
Amit recommends a few signature dishes from the kitchen. The Samosette is a great start. Small, flat versions of the pan-Indian favourite, the samosa, these are filled with spiced corn, cheddar, mozzarella and cilantro. They are accompanied by the classic and chilli-garlic versions of a yoghurt dip. The spicy cum creamy taste is blissful, and the fact that the samosas do not ooze oil helps a lot. Hell, we could eat this forever! But there are other gems crying out for attention from the menu, and we must pay heed to them.
Amit recommends the mini kulcha, flatbreads that will be stuffed with filling of our choice. We choose aloo (potato) and smoky chipotle & cheese. Slathered with butter and reminiscent of the kulchas of Delhi and Punjab, these are addictive, too. And their small size ensures that you have enough space in your stomach to try out a few more offerings from the kitchen. In due course, the Far East Corn (crisp nuggets of corn tossed in Sriracha mayo and dusted with the 7- spice Japanese togarashi) and a pizza (a big one!) topped with wine-braised mushrooms and brie appear on our table.
The team of chefs, headed by Chef Vikas Seth, clearly live up to their reputation. The menu offers a good blend of Indian, Oriental and Continental cuisines. Thankfully, the dishes we taste are true to their roots. The twists in the recipes are thoughtful, and appeal to our taste buds (no outlandish “reimagining” of the dishes or fancy “fusion” stuff here). Fries Roulette, Loco Fiesta Nachos, Samosette, Wasabi Prawns, Tijuana Chicken Tikka and the steaks are some of the other special dishes at Hopshaus.
I love the food served up by Vikas & his teams at Sriracha and Sanchez, other restaurants owned by Embassy Leisure. Clearly, he brings the same passion and attention to detail to Hopshaus also.
As the afternoon passes, George drops in to our table now and then for a brief chat. He tells us that he has tailored the beers to suit the profile of the crowd in this part of town (mostly affluent people who love to spend a few hours with family and friends in a relaxed setting). At the same time, the beers are his way of tipping the hat to the venerable ale houses of Europe. The tables fill up, and the sounds of chatter fill the air. I notice that the group at each of the tables lingers for a few hours, laughing, drinking beer and digging into the food. Clearly, as the city is opening up again after the nightmare of Covid, people are soaking up the chance to be at a lovely restaurant again.
We come away, mildly high from the beer and sated from the food. I like the Hopshaus vibe and want to return to it. Perhaps, the next time, I will visit their taproom in Indiranagar, which is much closer to my home.