I started out by developing a love for whisky and I always had spirited debates with a close friend who introduced me to craft beer. These debates intrigued me enough to deep dive into the world of craft beer. This was the start of my journey and I have never looked back. My passion turned into a thirst for knowledge that got me to Brewlab in UK where I did my diploma to earn my brewing credentials. Work met passion when I came back to India and launched Effingut in 2014. From the initial brewery and brewpub to having 4 brewpubs and 4 retail stores, the Effingut journey has grown from being a loved city brand to creating a statewide presence and soon to be a national brand. Our goal has always been to create a safe, fun and unpretentious space for people to enjoy themselves while learning about craft beers along the way.
You were one of the first entrant in the craft brewery segment in Maharashtra. How have you seen the journey of craft beer in the region?
Since 2014, the craft beer industry has been on an upward growth trajectory not only in Maharashtra but around the country. When we first launched, I clearly remember patrons stepping into our brewpubs primarily for the easy drinking Apple Cider and the fruity German Hefeweizen. While these are the two best sellers for us even today, the growth of the industry has gone hand in hand with the evolution of our patrons’ palates. This has allowed us to expand our offerings on tap to a very diverse range of 12-16 beers at any time that also include more complex beers which are widely appreciated by everyone.
Effingut is known for its finest brews and handcrafted menu. What has kept you going in all these years?
Even if it may sound like a cliché, it is genuinely the love that we have received from our customers that keeps us going. We started out with the mission of being the best craft beer brand of the country and this is our main driving force. We have seen some dark times (including the current pandemic), during which it is the love and support that we have received from our patrons that has kept us afloat. We thrive on constructive feedback and are thankful to each and every person who helps us with this. After all, craft beer is everything that commercial beer is not - it is inclusive, community led and relationship driven. You do not need to be a connoisseur to appreciate a well-made beer and this is why constructive feedback helps us understand our customers better and work on continuously improving ourselves.
Covid-19 has changed the complete ingredient of the restaurant sector. What impact has your business witnessed? How are you overcoming the same?
Our industry has faced a series of challenges since the lockdown that initially restricted us from doing what we do best - make people feel Effingut. The demand for our craft beer, however, outfought the quarantine. The pressure to re-invent was high, and the industry was bleeding. We had to rethink a business model that would be asset-light yet high on a consumer’s satisfaction index, whilst keeping their safety as our priority.
Moving forward, Effingut’s offerings will distinctly be placed in two categories - the larger full-service brewpubs with a more diverse offering & the retail-oriented Effingut 2 Go experience for when patrons just want to have a good pint and a quick meal at home.
You recently launched Effingut 2Go, marking your presence into the retail segment. What’s the whole idea behind it?
The establishment of the Effingut 2 Go vertical earmarks our foray into the retail segment. It brings a complete experience to our patrons’ homes with the goal being that Effingut is wherever they want us to be.
Hence, keeping in mind every aspect of a customer’s journey, the entire Effingut 2 Go concept revolves around distilling the Effingut experience into a 15-minute time frame, ensuring extended, dynamic safety protocols for social distancing. Within 4 months, we custom-designed proprietary growler fillers using the ‘counter-pressure filling technique’ to ensure full automation once the bottle is placed into a machine. The machine infuses each bottle with beer gas to remove all oxygen, whilst filling each pour in a closed, pressurized, and highly sanitized environment. Our high-caliber proprietary infrastructure thus allows for a minimum of 14 taps that can fill growlers both quickly and hygienically, in a matter of minutes, increasing its shelf life to a minimum of 7 days if kept unopened. This means that your Effingut beer stays fresh for longer, remains carbonated for longer & you assuringly get every flavour you want and remember from our beers.
What’s your plan expanding the same?
We have plans to further invest INR 100 million to aggressively expand Effingut 2 Go in Maharashtra. This move will reinforce our status as India’s first retail craft beer chain, with plans to immediately open 12 outlets across Mumbai and Pune in the next 6 months.As phase 2, key markets will include Nashik, Kolhapur, and Ahmednagar followed by other geographies, targeting a total of 40 stores by 2022.
Tell us something about your microbreweries. Any plan on expanding them?
We currently have our central craft brewery based out of Koregaon Park in Pune and 4 brewpubs - at Koregaon Park, Baner and Kharadi in Pune and at Colaba in Mumbai. Just before the pandemic hit, we were all set to launch Effingut Kolkata, a brewpub and craft brewery in the heart of Park Street. That plan is back in action now and we are very excited to announce our expansion at a national stage. Our latest Kolkata brewpub should be ready to open doors by January 2021.
Now that restaurants and bars are already back in business in the state. How has the response been?
The response has been good and we have seen a steady flow of customers to our pubs. However, I believe that people will take some more time before they start stepping out without a worry. It will take some time before we see the kind of footfall that we are used to.
What changes have you introduced at your bars?
We are taking all necessary precautions as mandated by government directives and have reduced our occupancy to 50% across all brewpubs.
What according to you will be the major trend that the food and nightlife industry would witness post covid?
One of the interesting developments to come out of what we all have experienced in 2020 will be the further integration of technology into the larger F&B experience. With advancements in in-house dining such as digital menus and contactless payments, there is a possibility that these will replace the age-old traditions of physical menus and bill folders. Restaurateurs would also have reconnected with utilizing the front of house space available to them in the best possible way along with seamless crowd control. Lastly, a valuable lesson we all have learned during these times is how less will be more going forward - expect a resurgence in smaller, satellite formats to large flagship restaurants and pubs.