As craft drinks increase in India, I’ve been noticing what number of fascinating ones hail from the South. Goa has change into a sizzling spot for our alcobev business. There’s been a resurrection in feni, with new-age manufacturers like Cazulo and Rhea; a ‘gin-naissance’ with manufacturers like Larger Than, Hapusa, and Stranger & Sons; a few of India’s best single malts, like Paul John (and blended malts, like Woodburns); and, of late, craft beer through Sussegad Brewing, Goa Brewing Co and Arbor. There are over 3,000 registered micro distilleries within the state. And, most just lately, once I curated the primary version of 30 Finest Bars India, it additionally threw up over 10 bars within the coastal State as contenders, together with Mahe, Calamari Bathe and Binge. So, the time appeared proper to go down there and expertise this first-hand.
My first cease was Cazulo Fazenda in Cuncolim, the world’s solely feni cellar, the place you possibly can discover the normal distillery, attempt a tasting session, and luxuriate in an al-fresco meal in a spice plantation. However I joined a bunch of fellow crawlers on a tour of historic tavernas — as a part of the latest (and first) World Feni Week. Whereas downing garrafaos (glass jugs) of feni, I learnt that, moreover the well-known cashew, there are 18 sorts of coconut feni. The varieties are much like gin — with particular person flavourings added to the spirit — and, curiously, every is linked to completely different illnesses: jeera feni for an upset abdomen, allem (ginger) for a sore throat, kodu (bitter) for diabetes, and even a lausun (garlic) for coronary heart ailment.
Because the tavernas historically cater to completely different sections of the working class, from farmers to toddy tappers, their timings and places are aligned to them. Locals (or the oldsters at Cazulo) can advise you on the place, and when, to go for the perfect expertise.
Gin, as you prefer it
Coconut feni and its botanicals received me interested by Goa’s gin tradition. So, the following day, I set out on a highway journey — with a transparent head that was a tribute to the standard of the feni I’d drunk the earlier night time. I chosen as my confederate Charnelle Martins, head of distillery operations for Stranger & Sons, and a latest migrant from Bengaluru.
It took us half an hour to get to São José de Areal village, the house of two gin manufacturers from Nao Spirits, Larger Than and Hapusa. Co-founded by entrepreneurs Anand Virmani and Vaibhav Singh (who used to run Perch, a well-liked bar in Delhi), Larger Than owes its title to the mathematical precision of a cocktail recipe. Hapusa takes it a few notches up, and is the world’s first Himalayan Dry Gin (hapusa is Sanskrit for juniper). With the foraged Himalayan berries and locally-sourced botanicals like turmeric and mango, it’s a savoury gin and is nice to sip over ice or in a dry martini.
Distiller Jay Dhawan confirmed us across the small distillery, with Agotha, their glowing Hungarian copper nonetheless, at its coronary heart. A bartender in Mumbai in his previous life, he was co-opted into the Nao scheme of issues by Virmani. As Martins and Dhawan swaped notes, I used to be amazed by the collaborative spirit that pervades the following gen, with maybe the Goan air taking part in a task.
From there it was an hour’s drive to Candepar, and the Stranger & Sons distillery, with a thickly forested hill as its backdrop. The model is the brainchild of Rahul Mehra (co-founder of Mumbai’s Gateway Brewing Co), spouse Sakshi Saigal and brother-in-law, Vidur Gupta. The gin has a vivid mixture of Indian botanicals, from the Gondhoraj lemon to liquorice, nutmeg, cassia bark and mace, with a lot of it sourced from an area spice farm. Additionally they have their very own backyard behind the distillery, the place they’ve planted lemon and coriander, and hope to develop pepper quickly.
Their facility is prone to endure a sea change shortly, with a small guests’ centre developing in addition to Spirits U, the place aspiring drinks fanatics can come for a distilling boot camp.
Hoppy, fruity and chilled
All that driving had received us thirsty, so a craft brewery got here subsequent. Suraj Shenai, I discovered, had his first style of an IPA (India Pale Ale) on a flight to the US, after which spent the following few weeks touring breweries up and down the American coasts. Resolved to create his personal in India, he received Ashtavinayak Paradh on board, a PhD in brewing sciences from Scotland’s prestigious Heriot-Watt college, as co-founder. A yr later, he raised the capital to arrange Goa Brewing Co in 2018, in a renovated villa in Sangolda.
Ash, aka Paradh, took us on a tour. It was Saturday, the open home, so guests have been free to stroll in. We began with a pint of Eight Finger Eddie, a really sessionable IPA (extra fruit ahead than hoppy). I additionally tasted a few experimental brews, one a scrumptious stout and the opposite an ale. A Pineapple Saison is their second industrial launch, with extra to comply with.
Our subsequent cease was a brief distance away, in Saligao. Residents of Bengaluru have lengthy been accustomed to Arbor Brewing Firm and, some time in the past, they expanded to Goa to arrange a brewery with a canning line. They at the moment provide beer in kegs throughout bars in Goa, and in addition can three of their varieties. I couldn’t resist their Seaside Shack IPA, and my resolve to solely have a half pint shortly dissolved. And because it was out there in cans, I picked up a six-pack to take again to Delhi.
Know your malts
My journey ended the place it started, in Cuncolim, with a go to to Paul John. Just a few months in the past, they’d opened a guests’ centre — designed by native architect Dean D’Cruz, incorporating conventional Goan structure — to assist improve the expertise of their single malt. “Spacious and airy, the centre was designed such that visitors could experience not just the whiskies and their making, but the culture of Goa as well,” says John, the founder.
Pankaj Poovanna, the guests centre-in-charge, guided us via the whiskey-making course of and the warehouses the place 1000’s of barrels of their award-winning single malt have been maturing. On the tasting, we tried the newly-launched Nirvana after which moved on to the flagships, the Brilliance, Edited and Daring, and two different whiskies which might be solely out there in Goa — as a consequence of their excessive ABV (alcohol by quantity) — the Choose Cask – Traditional and the Peated (each at above 55% ABV).
Goa has given me so many causes to re-visit. My suitcases have been bulging with bottles once I left, however I used to be by no means happier paying for extra baggage.
The author is co-founder and CEO of Tulleeho, a drinks coaching and consulting agency.