Bar Review: Independence Brewing Company, Andheri (West)
We’re not among those who can talk about craft beer the way some connoisseurs talk about wine. We could not detect the “intense nose of plum and pear like fruitiness” in the Four Grain Saison at Independence Brewing Company but we found it light and refreshing enough to order multiple rounds. The brew is one of seven craft beers currently offered by Pune microbrewery’s three-week-old, two-level taproom in Andheri. We – this includes our co-diner who drinks (cheap) beer for a living – also concluded that IBC does the bitter beers better. Their Method For Madness IPA, specially created for their Mumbai launch, is perhaps the most palate pleasing India Pale Ale we’ve tried so far among other local microbreweries, its initial fruitiness more than enough to offset the bitter aftertaste.
Their Bourbon Oak Aged Brown Ale was so creamy and rich that it seemed to us to be their de facto stout. On the other hand, their actual stout, Ixcacao, brewed with cocoa nibs and bourbon vanilla tasted, in our co-diner’s words, like “cold coffee water”. Their Hoppy Blonde Ale provided the perfect mid-point between the accessibility of the Belgian Wit and the intensity of the IPA. Other notes at the end of our visit: Gateway Brewing Co.’s White Zen remains our favourite Hefeweizen, and for sheer variety, Doolally will stay our go-to spot for a craft brew fix in the city. Though that may only be until IBC rolls out their cider and rauchbier here. Their pricing is around the same sweet spot, at Rs225 before tax as opposed to Doolally’s Rs250 including tax per 330 ml glass.
Like its counterparts, IBC focuses on the flavours of the beers. As a result, the drinks are more of a draw than the multi-cuisine food. They do however make some of the finest fries (Rs220) we’ve had. The gold-hued thick-cut chips looked more like wedges but were as crisp and moist as French fries. The juicy South Indian prawns (Rs650) served slathered in a red sauce and tossed with curry leaves and onions, were impressively prepared but not for those with a low tolerance for spice. The ten-inch pepperoni pizza (Rs620) had the biscuit-like base and hominess of pies purveyed by Indian vegetarian fast food joints. In other words, it’s not gourmet by any stretch but it’s not a bad accompaniment for a brew, especially when topped with pork salami.
The chicken fajitas (Rs480), our pick from their shared plates section, were let down by the underwhelming tacos so we ended up eating the pungent shredded meat with the sour cream without the shell. The chocolate mousse (Rs250) with salted caramel popcorn, the only of the three desserts we tried, was an abomination. The measly topping of three popcorns was stale and the chocolate mousse had the flavour of cocoa powder, no trace of spiced rum as promised on the menu, and the consistency of an undercooked soufflé.
Decor wise, IBC sits somewhere between stark brightness of Doolally and the thoughtfully stylised design of Brewbot. Retro-looking chairs and couches in warm tones of red and black, wood tables and benches, light blue walls and black and white photographs of the proprietors make up the understated interiors. At least at the upper level, we spotted no books or board games, which have become de rigueur in bars and restaurants. This however did not stop a large group, which occupied three tables, from conducting rounds of 20 questions. The music meanwhile was classic 1980s and 1990s pop and rock on shuffle, going from Ace of Base to Wham! to even Nirvana in between.
Maybe because it’s located in a relatively quiet lane off Andheri’s busy Link Road, IBC isn’t yet as crowded or noisy as its neighbours, which is a relief when you’re fed up of struggling for a seat on a Saturday night. It might not be the best microbrewery/taproom in the city but it’s a welcome addition to the small but growing list of craft beer bars in Mumbai.
Independence Brewing Co. Boolani Estate Co-Operative Society, off New Link Road, in the lane opposite Citi Mall, Andheri (West). Tel: 022 6105 4689/98202 98662. Open daily, from 1pm to 1.15am. Get directions here.
Prices exclude taxes. This review was conducted anonymously. It is our policy to wait at least a week after an establishment has opened before we review it.