It's that time of the year again when beer drinkers unite to make merry and chug down beer like the world and their lives depended on it. Oktoberfest—the German beer festival—is one of the most popular festivals in the world, thanks to its connection to beer, the drink that most men love.
And it goes just as well for Indians, too. Over the past few years, celebrating beer and beer drinkers during this time has become a tradition in most metropolitan cities of the country. Cafés, bars and pubs across the country come up with new and innovative ideas to attract beer lovers to chug to glory. “The fact that Oktoberfest comes at a time in India where people are wrapped up in festive vibes and celebrations are at large. Good food, beer and happiness are what the fest is all about; especially in metropolitan cities where we see an amalgamation of different cultures. It serves as a very good time for restaurants to roll out promotional activities, special deals and offers to attract the crowd with interactive concepts,” says Priyank Sukhija, Owner, CEO and MD of First Fiddle Restaurants Pvt. Ltd.
We decided to talk to a few of these bar and pub owners about the importance of Oktoberfest in India and listed out some of the best places to enjoy your beer, this Oktoberfest. Prost!
© Express UK
“As Indians, we just need a reason to celebrate. So, with the love for beer as a beverage accompanied with scrumptious food in a country like ours, we could celebrate it every day. Oktoberfest just gives us a good enough reason to legitimize our obsession with beer,” says Arjun Raj Kher, Business Head, Hitchki, Powai. “India's tropical weather is actually what also makes it a perfect destination for beer lovers. And for us, October marks the start of festive season which gives us all the more reason to drink,” quips Dhairya Sethi, Owner of Branch.
“The young Indian is a global citizen, and youngsters need no prodding to celebrate another occasion to have a good time! Oktoberfest is as good a reason as any to pull out the stops, have a premium dining experience, and join in on global conversations,” Ashish Thadani, CEO, TI Absolute Concepts (Ciclo Café) seconds. “When it comes to drinking beer, the growth rates in India are very healthy thanks to young and increasingly affluent consumers, as well as changing cultural attitudes,” Thadani further explains. Jaspreet Maadaan, Owner, The Classroom, in Gurgaon agrees and informs that the venue sees a distinctive increase of customers by a good 20 to 30 percent.
“Oktoberfest is now pretty much a worldwide celebration of everything brewed, the heart of which of course, lies in the German tradition and love for beer. It's mostly a great time for pubs and bars in Delhi, the weather demands a fantastic cold brew, the festive season is hanging around and everyone wants a piece of the world's most popular beer festival closer to home,” quips Rachit Goel, owner of the newly opened Bar Cat, in South Extension-II, New Delhi. “Indian bars and pubs mostly though make it a discount-based drinking session of beer, rather than a community drinking experience and I think that's what is essentially missing in the F&B industry in the country. Discount driven events don't have a heart and soul, and you can call it Oktoberfest or what you like, but the fun of it is not in the name but the concept,” he further opines.
© Beer-y Sausages & Crusty Pretzel at The Irish House
Mr. Sanju Arora, General Manager, The Irish House tells us that the venue sees an increase of approximately 10-15% in their footfall during Oktoberfest. “There's a great amount of planning and effort that we put into curating a great ‘German' experience for our guests at all our outposts across India. We take care of all aspects to recreate the same vibe – right from themed décor, photo booths, special food menu, drinking games, live band performances, and of course, lots of beer with great deals on a range of domestic as well as international brands (both, bottled and craft varieties). We also do our bit to promote safe drinking through partnerships with popular cab service brands. We go all out to bring the best of the biggest worldwide beer drinking fest and try to keep it quite authentic – the décor (similar to the traditional white and blue draped tents with lights); hanging gingerbread hearts; our servers wearing suspenders & caps; German dishes like pretzels, kartoffelpuffer, apple strudel, sausages, etc; maximum variety of draught beer (both local craft brews and international brands); fun drinking games; and even live band performances paying tribute to popular German rock bands,” Arora elaborates.
© Kaitlyn's Beer Garden, Mumbai
Another prominent venue that goes all out during this time of year is The Beer Café which is the country's largest alco-beverage chain. TBC comes up with they like to call the ‘Okotbrewfest'—an innovative spin-off for the German beer festival. Under this annual initiative, The Beer Café makes the largest collection of authentic German beers and cuisines available to its patrons in India—Delhi, Gurugram, Mumbai, and Pune—between September 16 and October 31. Premium brews such as Eichbaum, Erdinger Weissbier, Erdinger Dunkel, Schneider Weisse, and Hofbräu Weisse are made available across cities, as are authentic German cuisine such as bratwurst, krakauer, and bockwurst sausage platters. Rahul Singh, Founder & CEO, The Beer Café, says, “When it comes to beer, nobody does it quite like the Germans do. Why, they've even got an entire festival dedicated to it! It is to recreate the spirit of Oktoberfest for Indian beerophiles that we have decided to celebrate our own Oktobrewfest. We will be serving premium German brews and authentic Deutsche cuisine across all outlets in select locations. Moreover, through in-store collaterals, we are giving our patrons a chance to really immerse themselves in the beery festive fervour without having to go all the way to Germany!”
© The Classroom
“India being a new beer drinking country with people ready to explore new tastes and flavors in both Food and Beverage, Oktoberfest brings in great opportunity for many to enjoy and experience Global cuisine with varieties of Wheat, Lager, Klosch, Ale and delicacies from Bavarian, Thuringian and Lower Saxon Cuisines of Germany,” reasons Hukum Shekhawat, Mixologist, Radisson Blu Atria Bengaluru. “In, general, the consumption of beer is high during Oktoberfest from September, 16th to October, 4th for the Radisson Bengaluru property. “We have tried creating an ambience by getting some really authentic Bavarian delicious like cheese hedgehog, Sauerkraut and potato, chorizo and mushroom tapas and so on, paired with wheat/lager beers. We gear up in suspenders and Alpine hats along with melodious German music,” Shekhawat says.
At Kaitlyn's Beer Garden, in Bandra, Mumbai, the Oktoberfest enjoys an almost legendary status worldwide and more and more in India. Several pubs and microbreweries are trying to recreate the magic of the fest, by offering special menus, music, a Bavarian setup and thousands of liters of beer. The traffic especially on weekends are a full house. In India, it also depends on how the restobars promote their offers on beer and food for the weekdays as well as the weekends. Navin Mittal, Founder & Partner, Gateway Brewing Co. tells us, “Last year, we brewed two additional German-style beers apart from our flagship German style White Zen (hefeweizen) and German style Doppelganger (dunkelweizen). Both these, along with the Vienna Style Lager and Oktoberfest Lager, sold out very quickly at our client bars and restaurants across Mumbai and Pune. So much so that we hoped we had brewed a lot more. If last year is an indicator of the interest in Oktoberfest, we anticipate immense excitement this year as well. We are not only brewing the Vienna Style Lager and Oktoberfest Lager again this year but are also supplying to the IGCC Octoberfest event that is being held early this year in October. In addition to this, we are celebrating Oktoberfest at the Gateway Taproom, in BKC, Mumbai and while not an Indian festival, it is loved by one and all.”
“India does not have its own drink fests, apart from some annual wine festivals which are now becoming a ritual. Oktoberfest therefore, is a drink pilgrimage for us. With Indians travelling more, exposure from all media channels and easy availability of beers have together contributed to making Oktoberfest global as much as it is German,” explains Ajit Balgi founder of The Happy High is a wine, beverage & food consulting and experiences firm which curates wine dinners, whiskey degustation, and more bespoke events.
© The Oktoberfest Trip
Even a city like Chennai, being laced with numerous German companies like Daimler, Bosh, B-Braun Medical and Durr India, their strong presence allows for the German expats and employees to join in and commemorate the festival; their place of choice being majorly Leather Bar, at The Park Chennai. Keeping in mind the festive spirit of the festival, the décor of the bar is themed around Oktoberfest. The Leather Bar also has a Dirndll dress photo booth where guests can pose with beer that's served only in the beer mugs during this festival. The festival sees chefs curating authentic Bavarian Fare like Spiedine, Lockig Currywurest, Hühnchen Bratwurst and Apple Strudel.
© Loaded Kartoffelpuffer at The Irish House
Oktoberfest is easily as popular as the Navratras, Pujo and Diwali celebrations in the country with people even combining the festivals. It does make for a very cosmopolitan feel in the country, no doubt. And the hype around the beer festival is only increasing with time, as more homegrown beer labels sprout; not to mention the many restobars and pubs opening up and giving ready consumers something new to try almost instantly. What's not to love, I guess? Just fetch yourself a beer of your choice and celebrate the German spirit!
© Tomatina at Hitchki, Powai