The Beer Star program has been quietly pushing up the knowledge levels of professionals and lay beer-lovers in India.

Author: Ganesh Vancheeswaran

The spurt in demand for craft beer in certain cities of India has led to a mushrooming of breweries and taprooms. Investors and businesspeople seem to be tripping over one another, trying to set up breweries. The growth in the number of these outlets has given beer-lovers a much wider choice of brews.

At the same time though, it has thrown up a few disturbing realities – one, much of the beer being brewed by most Indian breweries is far short of being excellent. There are just a few breweries across India that consistenyly make superb beer. Second, most of the serving staff in Indian pubs do not know much about beer. In fact, in some pubs, the staff aren’t even conversant with basics such as the percentage of alcohol and the IBU level of the brews! This leads to awkward silences and much fidgeting on the part of the staff, when customers ask them about styles of beer, ingredients, flavour profiles, etc. And then, there are issues regarding the proper handling & storage of beer by the back-end staff at these outlets. 

Noticing all this, Vikram Achanta, Founder – Tulleeho!, launched a program specifically meant to bridge these gaps. Tulleeho! is a company focussed on beverage education, training and experiences. Named Beer Star, the high-level intent of this program is to improve the knowledge levels vis-à-vis beer, of people intimately connected with the brew. It is mainly aimed at the serving staff of pubs/taprooms/breweries, junior brewers, brewer-aspirants, food and drink bloggers, and assorted professionals associated with the brewing industry. 

Vikram says, “We found a huge knowledge gap. Servers working in bars & brewpubs lack basic beer knowledge, including how to serve the drink properly. Anyone can call themselves an expert on beer. But when consumers want great beer, they need help from a server who really knows beer flavours, styles and service. They also want to buy beer from a place that understands proper storage and serving, so the beer they drink tastes the way it should. Too often, great beer is harmed by improper handling and service practices.”

Since its launch in early 2018, the Beer Star program has trained more than 150 people over 7 batches conducted in Mumbai, Delhi-NCR and Bangalore. The venue for the program is usually a brewpub. The program spans an entire day, and covers the following modules:

  • Storing, handling and serving beer
  • Various styles of craft beer 
  • Beer ingredients and the brewing process
  • Beer flavour and evaluation
  • Beer-food pairing
  • World beer culture

Conducted in an interactive and immersive manner, the day-long program engages participants in a multi-sensorial manner and is peppered with interesting discussions. Spending half a day in the innards of a brewery, participants watch beers being made. They learn about the different kinds of yeast, malt and hops, the effect of the water quality on the brew and a host of other technical details. 

Watching the process close-up is fascinating for many participants, and opens up a whole new world for them. A behind-the-scenes look at how beer is actually stored vis-à-vis how it should be stored, a live demo of the entire draught beer system and the correct tapping procedure, and the use of a beer flavour kit and handouts are key aspects of the program. 

Aditya Koul, Assistant Marketing Manager – Grover Zampa Vineyards (Mumbai), recalls the excitement he felt the day before he participated in Beer Star in November 2018. “I have been interested in wines and beer. At that time, I had already obtained the WSET certification (advanced level). When I heard about this program, I thought it would educate me more on beer. And it did!” Incidentally, training for Aditya’s batch was led by the Late John John Eapen, an ardent champion of craft beer. Arijit Ghosh, another participant of Beer Star who works with White Rhino in Delhi, recalls, “It was an interactive program, with knowledge being imparted in an easy way.”

Today, Beer Star stands as a unique beer-focussed knowledge program in the country. Rohit Arora, Manager at Tulleeho!, who oversees the execution of this program, says, “It helps industry professionals prepare for the Beer Server Exam, which is the first level of certification offered by Cicerone, Chicago. The Cicerone Certification Program is considered to be one of the best global programs in beer knowledge & certification.” 

Aditya is testimony to this. He says that Beer Star had a big role to play in helping him clear the Cecerone Level 1 certification, an important professional milestone for him.  He thinks that, at its heart, Beer Star is very useful for all those F&B professionals who want to grow as brewers or serving staff. 

A lot of thought and effort has gone into nurturing Beer Star. The program team wants to encourage more people across India to take the Beer Server exam, so that the levels of knowledge and professionalism in the industry go up further. Rohit Arora thinks that the program has grown in stature in its short lifetime. “It is now recognised by industry experts, brewpubs, ingredient suppliers and beer brands, and is set to get better in the coming months.”

Let’s drink to that! 

Pictures: Ganesh Vancheeswaran