Several Indian brands have made inroads into the British market, so much so that beer industry reports say "beers from the Indian subcontinent are now firm favourites with British drinkers.”
The success of pioneer brands such as Kingfisher is persuading other brewers to try their luck. Kingfisher was the first on the scene and, since then Cobra, Lal Toofan, Shere Khan, AdiAdi and Bangla have emerged. Others are in the pipeline and although the focus has inevitably been on Indian restaurants, brand owners are now exploring off-trade opportunities.
In a deliciously ironic twist, one of the brewers that intend to exploit India's growing love affair with beer is Cobra. Cobra, it is not an Indian beer but a British brand brewed in Bedford. It has been the undisputed success story of Indian-style lager in the past few years. Led by entrepreneur Karan Bilimoria, Cobra is made under licence by Charles Wells and, along with some smart marketing, has achieved success with a formulation that is deliberately less gassy than its competitors and so, it argues, a better match for Indian food.
AdiAdi is the new kid on the block, fresh out of Bangalore. It is being imported by Essential Garden, a company specialising in bringing food items into the UK from India. Founded by Pradeep Kumar and John Eipe and based in London's Canary Wharf, the business is concentrating its launch activity in the Indian restaurants but says the off-trade is in its sights.
Like Shere Khan, the lager launched in the Manchester that accom-panies Indian foods of the same brand name, AdiAdi claims to be a "smooth" but "zesty" beer that is made with Eastern cuisine in mind. The Far East Brewing Company, part of the Refresh UK group, has two Indian-style lagers in its portfolio: Lal Toofan and Bangla.
Meanwhile, the new Bombay Pilsner of London has also launched a "smooth" beer that is promoted as a good accompaniment to Indian food.