Sunday, July 31, 2011

The IPA Quest Completed

For the past 18+ months, I've been on a quest to find an actual India Pale Ale (IPA) in India. For the past 18+ months, I have failed, including a disappointing stop at The Come Drink Beer Cafe which had only Corona and IMFL selections. The first time I drank an IPA in India it had been imported in the sock of a visiting friend. Since that time I had only seen it on a menu once (at a place called The Beer Cafe at Ambience Mall in Vasant Kunj) but, not surprisingly, it wasn't in stock. Last night our friend Kristin wanted to try a new place out at that same mall (and no, we don't make a habit off going out in malls frequently, but the mall subculture emerging in India is a little fascinating). Before hitting Skybar, which is unsurprisingly a rooftop lounge, we decided to try The Beer Cafe.

The first thing the waitress said when she approached our table was that there was an issue with the supplier and that they only had 14 beers in stock. Not a good first sign. There was some sort of licensing issue that limited what was in stock, and there was an actual sign that explained the problem. The first time we had actually received any sort of explanation why something wasn't on the menu (at most places you get something like "I'm sorry, sir, but that is not in stock" but you have no idea why 75% of the menu doesn't seem to be available. Of course, if you call yourself The Beer Cafe, it probably makes sense to explain why there's so little choice.

She then started on the beers they did have. First, the beers on tap, which are set up as self serve at the table. Self serve taps are a cool idea, though to control the amount you drink, you purchase a card and put money on it and place the card on a reader before pouring. They didn't do a great job of describing how that process worked and we felt like they were trying to get us to prepay and lock us into a certain amount. At the end of the day, it turns out this was just a way to create a small line of credit with the restaurant and wasn't a big deal, but it seemed unnecessarily confusing.
Shouldn't it be cheaper if you do it yourself?

Once the tap and card process was described in painstaking and ineffective length, she started going through the bottles. Much to my surprise and delight, she mentioned a few Belgium wheats that were in-stock and then, almost in passing, said that they had the IPA. I immediately started repeating, "IPA IPA IPA". My order was set.

A few minutes later they set the beer in front of me. The elusive IPA was captured. It was a Brooklyn Brewery IPA that, based on the markings on the label had been imported via some Middle Eastern country. It's not a beer I'm familiar with, but I wasn't in a position to get too picky. Overall, it was decent and less hoppy than I prefer my IPA's to be. Not a beer I'd necessarily go back to if I were in the states, but given the situation it tasted pretty good.

As we were leaving the bar, one of the waiters who had seen my jubilant reaction when learning it was available assured me that it would always be in stock, whenever I returned. While I appreciated that, something tells me that his guarantee had something to do with a lack of demand rather than a consistently restocked fresh supply.

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