On International Beer Day, we take you inside Goa’s Latambarcem Brewers, the brewery behind Maka Di

On International Beer Day, we take you inside Goa’s Latambarcem Brewers, the makers of the popular Maka Di

Heena Khandelwal Published :  06th August 2021 04:26 PM   |   Published :   |  06th August 2021 04:26 PM
Belgian Blanche - Maka-di

Belgian Blanche

Far from the beaches, amidst the scenic foothills of the Western Ghats in North-East Goa, there is a cluster of beautiful villages, the largest of which is Latambarcem, where the Varshnei family has found a home for their brewery. Spread across an acre, it features a garden with a ping-pong table to indulge guests in drinking games, a small outdoor cafe for tasting sessions and a brewery where all the action happens. We were busy checking out the cafe that has artsy interiors boasting a tree trunk converted into a coffee table, hanging planters, and seats made out of scrap tyres when we meet Anish Varshnei, 26, an alumnus of The Culinary Institute of America, who co-founded Latambarcem Brewers with his elder brother, Aditya Ishan in 2018.

What gets our attention first, the moment we enter the brewery, is a filler machine kept inside a chamber made of glass and stainless steel. The moment the machine starts, the bottles start moving in unison and in rhythm making the entire process appear like a well-choreographed dance, as they are filled with beer and sealed. “We have a double evacuation system to ensure that beer doesn’t get oxidised, it helps in increasing its shelf life,” informs Anish. Once the filling is done, the glistening glass bottles are aligned on a conveyer belt and sent for a seven-step pasteurisation process before being labelled and stocked. The pasteurisation ensures the bottles become weather proof and don't require cold-storage transportation. The entire process is automated and runs smoothly, with little human intervention.
 

maka-di-brewery
Anish Varshnei (L) and Aditya Ishan Varshnei

Heading towards the temperature-controlled storage rooms where the malts, hops, yeast and other ingredients are kept, Anish shares that the malts are imported from Poland, Germany and the United Kingdom to diversify their portfolio and flavour. He then pulls out two jars of malts (grains that are specially prepared for brewing) asking me to try them. While one of these tastes like regular grain, the other is mildly sweet. “It has been extra roasted to get a caramel flavour,” he quips, adding that these are special malts that are used to get the flavouring right. 

Next, we move towards the heart of this place — the brewing floor. We notice a well-ventilated barnlike structure, mostly covered with tin sheets, housing massive pieces of equipment needed for malting — a process that includes steps like steeping, germinating, kilning, and sometimes roasting of the grain, and brewing. One of the tanks has the Shandy, their take on the classic beer cocktail, ready to be bottled and we help ourselves to a glass as we continued to tour.

An hour and a half later, Anish and I return to the outdoor cafe where his brother and parents are waiting for us with the samples of beer served alongside appetisers, including local options like Alsande Masala made by the women of Latambarcem village. A recipe integral to North Goa, it is a spicy curry made from rajma (kidney beans) and served with Goan bread. Due to its spices, it goes well with the traditional strong pale ale, Belgian Tripel.
 

latambarcem-brewery
A look inside the brewery

It is during the tasting session that the family shares the story of the brewery. “Five years ago, I chanced upon an abandoned distillery. It was an old dilapidated structure but I liked it and bought it,” shares their father Pradeep, a businessman from Baroda who moved to Goa with his wife Sarika in 2017. Their younger son, Anish, had plans to set up a restaurant in North Goa. But, once the land was bought and Ishan decided to return from San Diego where he was working at a hedge fund, the brothers decided to focus on the brewery. While Anish took care of the brewing process, Ishan looked after marketing, and the duo immersed themselves in studying the craft beer market, figuring out the existing gaps and procuring the machines and raw material amongst other things.

“By early 2020, the machines had arrived and we were all set to launch but the pandemic hit and we were left hanging, more so because the machines were imported from China,” adds Pradeep. But, instead of giving up, they invested their time in perfecting the recipes while remotely (over a series of video calls) setting up the machines and by October 2020, they hit the market with four variants of Maka Di.
 

Honey Ale
For Honey Ale, the honey has been sourced from Jim Corbett National Park

Their mildly sweet Honey Ale for which the honey has been sourced from Jim Corbett National Park and Belgian Blanche, a light beer with notes of citrus and spices like cumin and coriander, belong to the collection that was launched last year. Both the variants pair well with fried treats like kanda bhaji (fried onion fitters) and samosa. Next, I try Bavarian Keller, a lager. “This pure lager follows ‘Reinheitsgebot’, the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516 which permits only water, hops, malts and yeast to be used. The adherence to the law gives you the Bavarian Keller. It goes well with Mexican food, tandoori chicken and even masala papad,” adds Anish. 

Having invested the last few years in the world of craft beers, the Varshneis don’t want to be another run-of-the-mill manufacturer. They want to take people beyond drinking a craft beer to making them understand its process and see its making. That is how the tour and tasting came into the picture. “We want to create conversations around craft beer. We want you to stay back for a tasting session and understand what food to pair your beer with… we want you to demand more from your beer,” shares Sarika, signing off.

 

maka di craft beer logo

The brewery tour starts at Rs 5,000 for two 

heena@newindianexpress.com
Twitter/Instagram: @heenakhandlwal

The writer visited the brewery on invitation from Maka Di.

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