So You Want To Make Your Own Booze

Studying the science of brewing and distilling at Heriot Watt University in Scotland
Beakers containing extract samples to test the modification levels of barley

Beakers containing extract samples to test the modification levels of barley

All photos by Karan Nagpal. 

“Do you just drink all day?”

“No, I learn the nuances of the art and science of brewing beer and distilling spirits.”

“Can you make whiskey?”

“And gin, vodka, rum, and liqueurs too! Along with an innate knowledge of the raw materials and processes and history that goes along with them!”

“Can you make beer like Budweiser?”

“Well that and thousands of other styles!”

“Do you get to drink a lot of what you make?”

“We sample, taste and conduct sensory analysis of all the products we make.”

“So you get to drink. A lot.”

*Sigh*

“Yes, I get to drink a lot!”

petri dish containing chitted grains of barley that have been treated with tetrazolium and stained red to show their viability

petri dish containing chitted grains of barley that have been treated with tetrazolium and stained red to show their viability

This is the conversation I’ve had with almost anyone when I say I’m pursuing an MSC in Brewing and Distilling. But I can’t complain. It’s kickass that I learn about alcohol as a part of my degree. But notice, I said part! There is so much more to it than drinking (read tasting) and making the spirit or beer itself. We have many options here at Heriot Watt University, here in the outskirts of beautiful Edinburgh. Depending on the depth you want to study and the point you’re at in life, you can jump in to a master’s programme (or diploma) for a duration of 9 months to a year or even do an extensive undergraduate degree for 4 years. The subjects range from process technology (engineering) to biochemistry (study of yeast and bacteria) to brewing in the labs and learning separately about each and every single aspect from growing the raw material to processing and packaging the finished product! There are even aspects of management and rules and regulations of production of alcohol in the UK and abroad.

I began my journey when I was introduced to craft beer while conducting a workshop on beer, its history and its prospects in the Indian market while pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality management at Bangalore’s Christ University. That led to an obsession with the elixir which slowly shifted onto Uisce beatha a.k.a., Whisky (Gaelic for Water of Life) when we conducted more workshops and tastings involving some amazing Indian and global brands that produce some of best whisky and beer in the world! We had ambassadors from Amrut, Paul John, UB Group and the likes constantly interacting with us and inspiring us to consider allied industries along with possibilities in hospitality. This created a fiery passion in me to learn more about the history of the spirits, the brands and

cultured growth of bacteria under a microscope

cultured growth of bacteria under a microscope

everything they stood for during the evolution of mankind! It all culminated when I got an opportunity (after much convincing) to work at Bangalore’s, and arguably India’s best Brewpub, Arbor Brewing Company for a summer internship in my 3rd year! One of my biggest inspirations came that summer in the form of the Brew master at ABC, Logan Schaedig. Instinctive, unapologetic, and brilliant with his innovations, he inspired me to brew and to trust my instinct!

This was exactly two years after I had travelled across Europe and tried Guinness for the first time on tap which absolutely blew my socks off! That trip was just the start too! I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Norway, Australia, Italy, France and even all around my own beautiful country to learn about life and culture and food and of course, the alcohol! It has only gotten more interesting since then, through my associations with the Bangalore Brew Crew: An association of Brew masters, Home brewers, beer enthusiasts and owners of establishments who look to educate people and build an appreciation for good beer! The Indian Brewers Guild conduct workshops with better beer in mind and were kind enough to allow me the opportunity to be a part of the team as well. Also, I’ve been lucky to work with a consultant/ blogger John Eapen, at Tales of Froth, who taught me invaluable lessons and got me in touch

team project that combines wheat beer with flavors of basil, galangal, lemongrass, birds eye chillies and kaffir lime leaves

team project that combines wheat beer with flavors of basil, galangal, lemongrass, birds eye chillies and kaffir lime leaves

with the industry. We spent many a long day (and night) discussing beer, meeting people and ensuring that everyone understood that the industry needed to stand together.

Just like with any other industry and job opportunity, it’s a lot of hard work and takes time and patience and a deep love for what you do, so I implore everyone reading this to avoid making a hasty decision. But having said that, it is truly a lot of fun!

Cheers to all of you that decide to follow your dreams!

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