The Best Indian Beers & Breweries in 2023
Best Beers of India
In ancient times a rice beer called sura was produced by the native tribes in India. Following the British colonization, European beer imports to India from England began in 1716. In fact, one of the most popular beer styles of today, India Pale Ale, takes its name from the 18th century practice of making beer with increased hops and alcohol to protect it from spoiling during the long voyage to supply beer to British troops stationed in India.
However, since the 20th century, beers made in India were primarily easy-drinking lagers with some residual sweetness. And while that still is often the case in the current century, in recent years the emergence and growth in popularity of craft breweries are bringing new life to the Indian beer scene. One limitation is the fact that since there is no defined tax for beer above 8% ABV, beer in India cannot be brewed above that threshold, but breweries on the sub-continent are utilizing creativity to craft beers full of flavor. Thankfully, several of their beers are now making their way to U.S. markets, including some stellar examples in this rundown.
> The selections are presented in alphabetical order.
1. ARKA Indian Style Premium Lager
Although ARKA Indian Style Premium Lager is contract brewed by Abita Brewing Company in Louisiana, it’s made from a recipe by Druid Brands.
Origin: Abita Springs, LA, USA
Price: $10 for six-pack 12 oz
Brewed by: ARKA
This beer is designed to create a sweet taste and subtle sweet-sour-bitter aftertaste similar to that of a toddy, a palm wine commonly consumed in India that complements flavorful, spicy Indian cuisine. The familiar flavors of the caramelized malt character of rice from the addition of rice flakes are balanced with a grapefruit aroma and a crisp finish. The use of rice harkens back to early times, as well as its name, which comes from the language of ancient India, as Arka means sun, energy or flash of lightning.
2. Latambarcem Brewers MAKA
Beers made here include both lagers and ales and beer styles you’d expect to find in Europe, such as Belgian Tripel and Belgian Blanche.
Origin: Goa, India
Price: $15-$20 for 330 ml six-pack
Brewed by: Latambarcem Brewers
Latambarcem Brewers sources quality ingredients from all corners of the world as well as India. The brewery is very environmentally friendly: Its organic waste is turned into compost and the spent grain (the byproduct of the brewing process) is donated to local cattle farmers for dairy feed. The name maka is derived from maka di, which translates to “give me” in Kogani, Goa’s native language.
• MAKA Bavarian Keller is a 4.2% crisp, clean and refreshing lager crafted under the German purity law (only barley, hops, water and yeast can be used).
• MAKA Shandy is described as when lager meets lemonade. At only 2.8% ABV, it nearly qualifies as a non-alcoholic brew. The lemonade in this beer is made in collaboration with Borecha kombucha using 100% lemon juice, giving it a sweet and sour combination.
• MAKA Honey Ale is a 7.2% ABV amber ale with biscuity aromas and a hint of sweetness from organic wild honey sustainably sourced from the hives of Giant Honey Bees in the Jim Corbett National Park located in the Himalayas.
• MAKA Belgian Blanche is a 4.7% Belgian wit (wheat) beer made with 100% malted wheat with citrusy notes from additions of lemon and orange rinds, banana and clove aroma from a German yeast, and zesty flavors thanks to being infused with coriander and cumin.
• MAKA Belgian Tripel at 7.6% ABV, is at a lower ABV than traditional tripels, but is a finely balanced ale with triple the malts and hops of its other beers. It’s made from a recipe inspired by the Belgian Trappist monks in the 19th century.
3. United Breweries Limited
The brewers honor the brewing heritage handed down by expert brewers during the period of direct British rule from 1858 to 1947.
Origin: Bangalore, India
Price: $4-$7 for 22 oz
Brewed by: United Breweries Limited
Beers from this brewery group in western India are brewed at state-of-the-art breweries created and crafted specifically for the U.S. market and are purported to enhance the palate when paired with the wide range of Indian cuisine.
• Taj Mahal Premium Lager is the #1 selling Indian beer in the U.S. and is available at more than 5,000 Indian restaurants across the U.S. Using choice malts and imported Saaz hops, this 4.5% ABV lager imparts a pleasant bitterness balanced with subtle tones of sweetness and a dry finish.
• Flying Horse Royal Lager Beer is known as the Champagne of Indian beers due to its superior malt, aromatic hops and crystal clear water sourced from the glaciers of the Himalayas and its extensive and complex maturation process. It’s also easy drinking at 4.7% ABV.
• Maharaja Premium Indian Pilsner is an homage to India’s rich regal culture. This 5% ABV pilsner brings a hint of malt and corn and a subtle tinge of light caramel sweetness and finishes with a lingering semi-sweet flavor.
4. Yuksom Breweries
Yuksom Breweries is owned by Bollywood actor Danny Denzongpa, who named the company after his hometown in the western district of Sikkim.
Origin: Sikkim, India
Price: $14 for 11.16 oz six-pack
Brewed by: Yuksom Breweries
The beers sent to the U.S. are brewed in northeast India, which sits at the base of the Himalayas. Consequently, the water that is used in the brewing process is the spring mountain water that has a high pH content, resulting in crisp and refreshing beers. The hops are imported from Germany and the malts from barley and grain are grown in the farmlands of north and NE India.
• Himalayan Blue Premium Lager Beer is a 5% ABV light, crisp lager.
• Himalayan Snowman Super Premium Lager, named for the legendary yeti, is a 7% ABV refreshing lager that pairs with spicy Indian food.
• Dansberg 16000 Premium Beer is a 7% ABV Maibock style lager brewed with sweetened malts, which the brewery suggests will pair well with smoked, tandoor or fried food such as pakoras.
• HIT Strong Beer, an 8% ABV lager, is brewed at the highest alcohol strength allowed in India, and is a smooth, rich malty lager.