Arbor Brewing Company to Open Second Location in India

News by | Nov 2017 | Issue #130

Matt and Rene Greff are the husband-and-wife team who founded Michigan’s Arbor Brewing Company in 1995, with locations in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. Together with Gaurav Sikka, these Michigan craft brewing pioneers have taken on the Indian beer world.

The Greffs met Sikka when he was a graduate student at the University of Michigan and a regular at their Ann Arbor brewery. Originally from Bangalore, Sikka saw an opportunity in India’s burgeoning beer scene and asked if the Greffs would like to work together.

They agreed, and in 2012 ABC India opened in Bangalore with Sikka as the brewery’s managing director. At the time, it was one of the city’s first brewpubs, but today there are over 30, and that number is growing rapidly. The 12,000-square-foot restaurant and brewery now produces over 2,000 barrels a year.

To meet demand, the team has added a production brewery in Goa, a coastal state in western India, opening in November. This 20,000-square-foot facility will package cans and kegs for distribution with an initial capacity of 6,000 barrels and the possibility of expanding to 50,000 barrels. ABC is also working to set up taprooms in several locations.

“[The Indian beer market] is very nascent but it’s on an extremely accelerated pace,” Matt Greff says. “What we did in the US over 30 years, they’ll probably do in 10, in terms of getting a lot of breweries and market saturation.”

ABC also decided to rename “Sacred Cow,” its flagship IPA, the more culturally sensitive “Raging Elephant” for the Indian market, referencing a local newspaper headline about an elephant that drank fermented rice paddy water, became intoxicated, and stampeded through a village.

Since expanding abroad, the brewing company has learned that hoppy beers and IPAs aren’t nearly as sought after in India as they are in the US. Wheat beers are hugely popular in Bangalore, along with strong and sweet styles. Drinkers enjoy beers made with garam masala, Basmati rice, saffron, and a local sugar called jaggery, as well as fruits like watermelon, pineapple, mango, kiwi, and pomegranate. Sour beers are also a big hit.

“We’re the first brewery in India to start doing sour beers and we cannot keep those in stock,” Greff says. “They’re wildly popular and that surprised us.”

Appealing to a new market and incorporating local flavors are all part of the excitement for Greff. “It’s such an incredibly crazy, fantastic adventure to transplant ourselves from the American craft beer world into the Indian craft beer world,” he says.