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Street scene in India (Photo: Andrea Leopardi on Unsplash)
22 October 2020

AB-InBev and Indian Hotels Company open first brewpub

India | Despite a six-month delay due to the covid-19 induced lockdown, the Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL) and AB-InBev are on course to open the planned 15 such microbreweries in the next five years. Their first brewpub, 7Rivers, threw open its doors at the hotel Taj-MG Road in Bengaluru (formerly known as Bangalore) – a year after the two announced their joint venture.

IHCL is a subsidiary of the Tata Group, a large conglomerate whose investments range from metal, telecommunications, to automobile and software industries. It manages hotels and resorts, the chain of Taj luxury hotels among them. The next brewpub will open at a Taj hotel in Goa, followed by one in Mumbai.

Bengaluru – India’s capital of beer

The southern Indian city of Bengaluru is the third largest city in the country, with 11 million inhabitants and a center of the high-tech industry. It is also considered the Indian capital of beer with over 60 small breweries. Nationwide, there are an estimated 170. In Bangaluru you pay about INR 300 (USD 4.11) for a craft beer (500 ml), which doesn’t seem expensive at first. However, a 650 ml bottle of Budweiser costs only INR 170 (USD 2.33) and a bottle of Tuborg Strong INR 150 (USD 2.06) in the off-premise.

In India, where whisky and rum are still the tipple of choice, consumers tend to go for a „strong beer“ (6 percent to 8 percent ABV). This category represents 85 percent of beer sales. But in recent years, consumers have become more experimental and now chose beer styles hitherto unfamiliar.

The wheat beer style seems to be particularly promising. In 2019, AB-InBev’s unit 7Rivers Brewing Company launched two wheat beers in cans – Veere and Machaa – in select cities. Not tardy, the country’s major brewer United Breweries, introduced its Kingfisher Ultra Witbeer with an alcohol content of just below 5 percent ABV.

United Breweries, in which Heineken has a 46 percent stake, has a market share of about 50 percent, followed by AB-InBev (23 percent) and Carlsberg (14 percent). Together they control nearly 90 percent of India’s 29 million hl beer market (2019).