‘Non-Conformist’, Artisanal Beers Find A Home In Goa

‘Non-Conformist’, Artisanal Beers Find A Home In Goa

In my late teens, beer was a gateway to irresponsible fun every alternate day. Now, in my early 20s, beer is a smooth blend of unwinding after a long day and having weekend fun— if I have no work due the following week. I have never felt an emotional attachment to beer because it was incidental to fond memories, not the focus. But, listening to Suraj Shenai explain his undying love for beer made me feel foolish like I had knowingly missed out on connecting with something that was so special and unique.

Suraj Shenai, a Goan resident, is the founder of Goa Brewing Company, a craft beer brewery housed in Sangolda. “Growing up in Goa, in the ‘80s and ‘90s, was completely different than it is today… The place was pristine and quiet,” he told me, painting a picturesque sleepy coastal life. But, as an adolescent Suraj read the heart-thumping fiction written by Jeffrey Archer, he grew agitated with Goan languidness. Enrolling in Indian Hotel Management Goa lead him to work in the beverage industry where he last worked as Brand Manager with Pernod Ricard.

But, Suraj and Dr. Asthavinayak Paradh or fondly called “Dr. Ash,” Head Brewer of Goa Brewing Company, had other plans. The two of them began brewing their own beers after Ash returned from Scotland with a PhD in Brewing. “We started home brewing two or three years ago because alcohol is so individualistic— it’s like fashion. What you drink is a reflection of your mood and state of mind at that time,” he said perceptively. Their deep desire to craft “non-conformist, modern” beers that would challenge the hegemony of German or Belgian flavours took them all over India in search of brewing locations. This country-wide hunt resulted in a maxed out credit card and only an icebox full of their brews that eventually won the hearts of two financiers.

Suraj Shenai, founder of Goa Brewing Co.

Suraj believes that large corporations have a deep disconnect from their products and consumers are conditioned to prefer manicured and polished items. “But, I want to make a beer that is organic, artisanal… homegrown, pun intended,” he laughed.

Suraj’s unflinching love for the environment crept up in almost every sentence he uttered. When describing the heritage bungalow his brewery operates out of, he spoke at length about the native flora, his water conservation efforts, permaculture, and sustainability. “The closer you are to your environment, the better the product is,” he said. The most romantic part of this green ode was the adoration with which he described the ingredients he incorporates into his brews.

The bungalow housing Goa Brewing Co.

He talked about the rainbow-range of flavours and hops he uses like Bengal’s gondoraaj, Japan’s sansho, and Goa’s pineapples as if each was an ancient stolen crown jewel returning to its rightful home in India. Explaining a dire need to bring pride back to non-western spaces, Suraj said that Indians need to undo their conditioning that puts western products on pedestals. “The reverence towards everything white and foreign is unbelievable,” he said. Listening to Suraj’s strong interest in Indian artisans, architecture, food and drinks, and crafts made me think about how simplistic and myopic our conversations on patriotism are.

That Goa Brewing Company is Suraj’s baby is blatantly obvious; so much so that he talks about the bungalow as a “home” for his beers. Describing the process of brewing, he told me that it was a “journey,” “an ecosystem” that focuses on the strengthening the “lifespan” of the beer. Suraj’s belief in individualism ensures that each of his beers has quirky personalities and complex traits like they’re real people you might befriend at bars, should you be so lucky.

The Goa Brewing Company finally launches tomorrow and will be exclusively available at a bunch of outlets like Joseph’s Bar, Black Sheep Bistro, Saligao Stories, and Village Studio in Goa, and select supermarkets like Delfinos, Magsons, and Newton’s.

Feature courtesy of Goa brewing Company.

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