Anyone who has eaten in an Indian restaurant will be familiar with Kingfisher lager.
Contract brewed by Independent Breweries in Auckland, it is an inoffensive, malt-driven lager indistinguishable from so many other green bottles. It is also far from the premium lager it claims to be given that it has almost no hop crispness and is brewed (at least in India) with adjuncts such as rice and corn. These are used to make production cheaper. Brewers yeast still works on these untraditional grains producing alcohol but the cost of malted barley is reduced.
I was hoping that the genuine product would be superior but sadly, it was possibly worse. My sampling took me from Delhi and Agra to Jaipur. Nowhere did I strike the bright, pleasing bitterness familiar in other Asian lagers such as Singha from Thailand. These characteristics are vital in a country where the food can be as hot as the climate.
The Kingfishers I drank were poured cold from a 650ml bottle costing about 120 rupees ($2.80) and despite quenching a thirst, they lacked body, head, lacing and impact. There was pleasant fruitiness about the body. I also heard that glycerine was used as a preservative and body booster but I saw no evidence of this on the bottle labels.
In other Asian countries beer is everywhere. It is cheap, cold and pleasant.
In many countries there is no minimum drinking age and little evidence of societal drinking problems. During my time in India, I saw only two liquor stores. I stopped in at one of them and, from the minimal range on offer, purchased a Kingfisher Blue (indistinguishable from its brother apart from a higher alcohol content) and Kingfisher Red. Clearly, alcohol consumption conflicts with the Hindu faith which teaches that an understanding of dharma is harder to gain than to simply follow a few religious injunctions or prohibitions.
Red was a strong ale at 6.8 per cent abv. Unspectacular, it at least offered some interest. I noted a sherry taste and fruitiness that wasn't unpleasant but this beer was finished off by the high alcohol content, which it just wasn't strong enough to carry. Beer is a gift in a country where a day's sightseeing can be exhilarating but also dusty and hot.
A beer that matched the extraordinary life and colour of India would have been a better fit. Warwick Foy
- © Fairfax NZ News
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