India is one of the countries that’s on every traveller’s bucket list. The culture, landscapes, and sites are absolutely incredible, and you’ll probably be left breathless (and highly satisfied) after long days of exploration.
Luckily, India is famous for having some of the funkiest bars for tourists to hang out in, especially in Goa, where the party never stops. There, you’ll find a good number of different beers to tantalise even the most sophisticated of taste buds.
Is an Indian adventure brewing? Thirsty for new experiences? Learn more in this connoisseur’s guide to Indian beer.
A Brief History of Indian Beer
Indians have been producing traditional beers made with rice or millet since the Vedic Era (1500-1200 BCE). Sura is the first known beer like grain drink in India and is mentioned in the Vedic texts as a favourite drink of the god Indra. It was described later, in 400 BCE, as an anaesthetic by an Indian surgeon named Suśruta (those Indian deities sure knew how to party!).
The rice and millet beer produced by ancient Indian tribes was also used in a ceremonial context by the Asur people and played a significant role in the health of these tribes by keeping diseases like beriberi in check (a fact discovered by J.B.S. Haldane). There are numerous reports of elephants attacking these villages to pillage their beer, which they had developed a taste for over the years.
European style beer was being imported to India from England by 1716 and the first brewery in India, the Kasauli Brewery, was set up in 1830. They produced the first Indian beer brand, Lion, which is still available today.
What Are The Major Beer Brands in India?
The local Indian beer brands are by far the most popular, owing to the fact that imported beers are much more expensive than local ones (darn import duties!).
The major beer brands of India include Kingfisher (United Breweries), Haywards and Foster’s (SABMiller), Carlsberg, Lion, (Mohan Meakin), Budweiser, and Cobra, to name a few. You will also find Amstel, Corona, Miller, Singha, Heineken and Beck’s.
What Are The Most Popular Beers in India?
These are a few of the top local beers to look out for as a beer-loving traveller in India. This list avoids imported brands, as travellers are most likely looking to experience something new.
Kingfisher is the number one most popular beer in India and has been since the 1960s. The flavour of Kingfisher is crisp and clean with pleasant bitterness and citrus undertones. An easygoing beer that always promises a good time, as their tagline “King of good times” suggests. Kingfisher Premium is the most popular, with an ABV of 4.8%, but they also make Kingfisher Strong, which has an alcohol content of 8%.
Haywards 5000 Stong Lager
SABMiller India’s flagship beer, Haywards 5000, is a strong lager with an alcohol content of about 7%. It’s not the best option for lovers of beer who want to have a couple of drinks. The aroma is of honey-topped white bread, malt, and rice pudding, and the flavour is of those notes with a rounded hops bitterness.
Bad Monkey Beer
Bad Monkey is a very popular Indian brand who are aiming to become an icon of the young party scene. It’s a super-strong beer, produced by Sinq Beverages Pvt Ltd. Bad Monkey has an alcohol content of 8%.
Goa Kings is the most popular beer in Goa, which is the only place you can get it. The brand has been awarded for being one of the most iconic brands in India. The taste is perfectly matched to the beaches of Goa, and they offer 3 different varieties for varied tastes.
What are the Best Microbrew or Craft Beers in India?
India caught onto the craft beer trend a little late but have since stepped up to the table with some delicious options for beerheads to enjoy. Here are a few of the best craft beers in India:
Based in Delhi, Simba has been gaining popularity since its launch in 2016. They are available in Delhi NCR, Goa, Mumbai, and Bengaluru. They offer 4 different beers, Wit (wheat beer), Light, Strong, and, most importantly, Stout. As a craft brewery, their stout makes them stand out from the crowd.
Bira 91 was one of the first bottled craft beer brands in India, playing an important role in bringing craft beer into the mainstream. Bira 91 boasts 5 different variants, including Bira 91 White, a Belgian style wheat beer, Bira 91 Blonde, a lager, as well as Light, Strong, and IPAGoa Brewing Co.
This brewing company takes pride in doing things differently, breaking the rules of traditional brewing wherever possible to create a new and exciting drinking experience. They consider their brews “non-conformist, modern beers”.
The company has two variants: Eight Finger Freddie IPA, a non-traditional IPA made with oat cream, and Pineapple Saison, a fruit flavoured beer for the sunny, tropical beaches of Goa.
What are the Best Indian Beers to Pair with Indian Food?
IPA’s and strong lagers are a good choice for those who like their food spicy. For those dishes, something like Kingfisher Strong or Haywards 5000 is recommended.
For seafood meals, you might want to go for a wheat beer, such as Bira 91 white or Simba’s Wit. When it comes to the lighter side of Indian cuisine, like salads, vegetable curries, butter chicken or cashew-based curries, you want to find a lighter lager, such as Kingfisher Light or Bira 91 Blonde.
Best Indian Beer to Pair with Indian Curry
Kingfisher is an ideal beer for pairing with Indian Curries. It’s readily available and affordable and offers a superior crisp flavour that pairs well with flavoursome and spicy curries. This beer will, without a doubt, quench your thirst and cleanse your palate between mouthfuls of mouthwatering curry.
Best Indian Beer to Pair with Tandoori Chicken
The Goa Brewing Co.’s Pineapple Saison is an adventurous, but excellent choice for pairing with a tandoori chicken dish. The out-there flavours will stand out through the heavy, spicy flavour of the curry, perking up the taste buds and exciting your senses. A perfect combination for sundowners on a Goa beach.
How to Order Beer in India
Now that you know all about the different beers available to you in India, all you need to do is order it.
Here are a few phrases you might use to order a beer in Hindi:
- I’d like to order something to drink to start with. – Maiṃ pīne ke lie kucha ārḍara karanā cahatā hūn.
- I’ll have a beer. – Maim biyara lūṃgā.
- I would like a beer. – Mujhe biyara cāhie
And with that, you should be just about ready for a fantastic beer-filled escapade through India!
Jake has been a craft beer and homebrew enthusiast since his college days. He loves scouring Europe for unique and unusual hops to add to his beers.
Founder of Jake’s Brew Haven – he currently hosts beer-tasting sessions at select local pubs in Baltimore.
Jump To a Section Below
- A Brief History of Indian Beer
- What Are The Major Beer Brands in India?
- What Are The Most Popular Beers in India?
- What are the Best Microbrew or Craft Beers in India?
- What are the Best Indian Beers to Pair with Indian Food?
- Best Indian Beer to Pair with Indian Curry
- Best Indian Beer to Pair with Tandoori Chicken
- How to Order Beer in India