Other Desi Beer Co.’s Dishoom! IPA takes its name from the Indian slang word for the sound of a punch in a Bollywood film. This is fitting, as the beer packs a flavor wallop. Light and thirst-quenching tropical flavors of mango, cantaloupe and, most of all, coconut combine against a backbone of hop bitterness, creating an immediately enjoyable and distinctive brew. I fell in love at first sip.
Bringing distinct flavors to beer is part of what inspired owner and brewer Ravi Patel to launch Other Desi Beer Co. in 2019. “I’m South Asian American and there aren’t that many of us out there that are brewing beer. I’ve only found about six,” he says. “The whole idea when I started was I wanted something that represented me and my culture. I try to integrate some kind of flavoring from my childhood or from now that I enjoy — a lot of sweets or fruits or spices.”
Patel’s beers are contract brewed at Thimble Island Brewing Company in Branford and distributed throughout the state. One specialty beer, 3 Ranis (“queens” in Hindi) is a sour made with hibiscus and guava. “I love guava. It’s been one of my favorite foods since I was a little kid, and I really wanted to create something unique with that,” he says. A specialty stout, High Chai, puts the chai flavor front and center. It’s also brewed with Parle-G biscuits, which Patel describes as a tea cookie, and is a practice that Patel believes is unique to his operation.
While craft beer is booming in India, even breweries in that country don’t incorporate traditional flavors to the extent that Patel does in his beers. “They’re getting into lots of classic lager and classic beers, and also the hazy IPAs,” he says.
Patel’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from India in the mid-1980s, shortly before Patel was born in 1988. His parents own Grog Shop of Meriden, and when Patel was old enough to work at the store, he became fascinated with the origin story of each type of beverage sold. He’d ask his parents how cognac and wine and beer were made, but they didn’t have the answers. Eventually, he’d find out — at least when it comes to beer’s origins.
While in college majoring in economics at Eastern Connecticut State University, he discovered the nearby Willimantic Brewing Co. “That’s when I first got, like, the aha moment,” he says. “I’m like, well, if these guys can do it, I’m sure I can do this.”
After extensive research into the brewing process and the business of brewing, Patel decided that it was too expensive to open his own physical brewery. Instead, he went the contract-brewing route, paying to produce his beer at an existing brewing facility. When he launched his brand two years ago, he became one of only a handful of none-white brewery owners in the state, but he believes more owners and brewers of color are on the way. “We’re slowly seeing more diversity happening,” he says. He adds that this is not just about creating opportunities in the industry for people of color but that getting more diverse representation will help expand craft beer’s customer base. “You get more people wanting to drink craft beer, instead of just like, a regular domestic beer that you might see,” he says.
As for his brewery, Patel donates 5 percent of all profits to charity. The practice was inspired by his parents. “If you come to my parents’ store, any customer will tell you, they’re there from opening to close,” he says. “They work very hard, and they like to give back as well.”
While Other Desi Beer Co. was still newly minted when the coronavirus hit and threw the brewing industry — like many others — into disarray, the company has weathered the storm. Its beers are distributed throughout the state. You can find a list of liquor stores currently carrying the brand on the brewery’s website. Patel hopes to open a taproom in the future to serve as a permanent home for his beer. In the meantime, you can always find it at the Grog Shop of Meriden.
When customers gravitate toward one of the Other Desi Beer Co.’s products, Patel’s parents try and play it cool. “If a random new customer picks it up, they say nothing to them about the beer,” Patel says. When that customer inevitably returns and raves about the drink, Patel’s parents respond, “Yeah, that’s our son’s beer.”