India has a long history of beer production, although not confirmed but it goes as far as Vedas. Beer was not unknown in India before the arrival of Europeans. The Veda mention a beer-like drink called suralt; It was the favourite of the god Indra. Sura is also mentioned in the Ramayana lt; Megasthenes has recorded usage of rice beer in India.
Kautilya has also metioned two intoxicating beverages made from rice called Medakaand Prasannalt. Rice beer or handiahas been traditionally prepared by indigenous tribes of India, in which Ruellia suffruticosais sometimes added for flavor. Rice beer also has ceremonial use among the Asur people; Millet beer is also prepared by some tribes.
According biologist J. B. S. Haldane local beer helped in keeping diseases like beri beri checked in these tribes. Recently, government and social workers have been trying to curb alcohol usage among these tribes.Elephant herds have been known to attack villages to drink this rice beer for which they have acquired a taste.
In mordern days, Beer began to be exported to India in the early days of the British Empire, including porter and India Pale Ale, also known as IPA.
The first brewery in India was set up in Kasauli, in the Himalaya mountains, near Shimla, in the late 1820s by the Englishman Edward Dyer. Dyer’s brewery produced Asia’s first beer, called Lion. The brewery was soon shifted to nearby Solan (close to the British summer capital Shimla), as there was an abundant supply of fresh spring water there.
Through series of these posts, we will try to capture the history of beer brewing in India, first in our series is Lungzubel-a rice beer container used in Meghalaya. Primarily used by The Biate people; one of the oldest tribes of Mizoram, Assam and Meghalaya.