Indian Beer

The marketing men at Bangla Beer certainly know how to push a few buttons. “It’s colour . . . reminiscent of the golden hue of the sun setting over the Bay of Bengal” runs one of the lines on its promotional website. The sales pitch goes on to extol the characteristics of the blond beer which is said to be robust enough to handle the spicing of Indian and Bangladeshi dishes but subtle enough not to overpower its more delicate aspects.

Of course, the boys at Bangla are in for a real fight when it comes to muscling in on the UK market, where a recent survey identified chicken tikka masala – a culinary invention geared towards the palate of the former Empire’s mother country – as the nation’s favourite dish. And what is the modern-day British gentleman and his lady likely to drink, whatever their ethnic background, when they indulge in a takeaway curry or head off down to the local tandoori? Why, Indian beer of course. No wonder the big hitters at Kingfisher and Cobra, bask in the reflected glory of menus listing madras, korma and bhuna.

The United Breweries Group, headquartered in Bangalore, is the power behind the Kingfisher label, boasting 19 brewing operations at home as well as satellite operations in the UK and New York State, to help quench the thirsts of customers from the Far East to the Caribbean.

String Of Accolades

UB Group of India’s brewers have gained a string of accolades for their 4.8% ABV premium product. The latest was a grand gold at the Monde Selection 2008 awards in Brussels. The UK’s other major player in the Indian lager market is Cobra. The company started out in London at the end of the 1980s, and has expanded its range from the original 5% ABV lager to include light, fruit-flavoured and super premium 8% products, as well as a non-alcoholic brew.

In addition to fighting it out to be the beer of choice in the heat of the restaurant kitchen, both Kingfisher and Cobra are doing battle in bars across the UK as well as the aisles of the major supermarkets. After all, with Asian food figuring high on the list of TV dinners popular with time-poor commuters, it makes perfect sense to ensure they don’t forget to put an Indian beer or two in their trolley before they head for the checkout.

Brands Hoping To Muscle In

There is no room for complacency for the big two, with Bengal Tiger, Lal Toofan, and the aforementioned Bangla among the brands hoping to muscle in on the action. Not to mention the fact that a growing number of Britons are discovering that old stalwart of the Empire, India pale ale, can more than hold its own with a good curry.

But at the moment it is a fair bet that it will be a Kingfisher or a Cobra that you’ll be pairing with your pilau. Cold, robust and palate cleansing, either of these fine Asian brews are more than capable of ensuring tandoori nights continue to be one of the UK’s favourite pastimes.

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