Pankaj Aswani will have a real cool story to tell his kids and grandkids if his current obsession turns into a rip-roaring success. After acing his Chartered Accountancy course in 2011, Aswani started off as a banker with Citibank. In his own words, that was his ‘first and last job’. Come 2016, he got married and flew off to New Zealand for his honeymoon. There he discovered beer, the kind without alcohol, and got hooked. Soon after his return, he decided to chuck his cushy job to start his own beer company as India had very little in the name of non-alcoholic beer or ‘0.0’ as the nomenclature goes. This was March 2016. Over the next 10 months, Aswani invested Rs.5 million and learnt how to brew, bottle and sell his brand of 0.0. Inspired by Carlsberg’s ‘Probably The Best Beer In The World’, Aswani christened his own creation ‘Coolberg’. He must have got something right because biggies such as United Breweries and AB InBev soon followed with Heineken 0.0, Radler and Budweiser 0.0, respectively.
Ever soaked grains for too long? They get all frothy and smelly. Well, you are halfway there to making beer. Yeast feeds on the grains, produces alcohol and burps out CO2. Do this well enough, throw some hops in the mix, and you have about the same stuff that the Heinekens and Hoegaardens of the world come from. You can distil the alcohol out, flavour the remains and serve it to a teetotaler. That’s how the pricey Heineken 0.0 and Budweiser 0.0 are made. Or, you can stop brewing before the yeast produces alcohol, add flavours and trick the taste buds into thinking you have the real deal. That’s how you get Kingfisher’s Radler and Coolberg’s seven variants — cranberry, ginger, strawberry, peach, mint, malt and java malt. Aswani has also brought clever positioning into the picture. “Those who like beer will have beer no matter what. The idea is to cater to the category that does not have access to alcohol and to also introduce beer to the teetotaler,