Beer. The love of my life, the bain of my waist-line. A refreshment to be enjoyed at the end of the day after a hard day’s sail, a hard day’s work or a hard day’s drinking. Whatever the occassion, beer is there to help you celebrate.
Here in Catholic Kerala, however, beer isn’t so understood. The booze shop is a shuttered, over-the-counter, slip-the-beverage-into-a-plain-paper-bag-before-my-wife-spots-me affair. The pubs are dirty, dark cockroach-infested holes. Perhaps the government has ordered them to be decorated this way in order to strike guilt into that God-fearing conscience. It doesn’t work of course because most beer drinkers actually like drinking in these kind of establishments. Still, the imbibement of this fine libation is not encouraged like it is elsewhere in India and the mantra “alcohol consumption is injurious to health” is seen on both the labels of bottles and across the tinted windows of aforementioned grimey bars. Is ‘injurious’ actually a word?
This situation is changing. Kerala has recently proposed a 10% tax cut
on beer and wine for the 2010-11 budget. Hoorah! If this is a move to address the growing tourism here then that works for me. Hell, I’ll even make the effort to blog this fact! It is expected that breweries will rush to Kerala to launch new labels. Appreciated.
The beers in Kerala, and by beers I really mean fizzy lager that might occassionally have a strong, malty taste, are all served in grown-up 650ml bottles. They come with manly, aspirational names like “Golden Eagle”, “Fire Hawk” and “Braveheart”. My fave, however, has to be “Zingaro”.
The masculine gold and red Zingaro label has an Indian, of the Native American persuasion, taming a wild horse with ‘Super Strong Premium Lager’ emblazoned across the bottom. Like most beers the label on the back states that the “alcohol content is less that 6%” and comes with a recommended retail price of 45/- (about $0.97). It is the sales pitch, however, that really won me over. This is, verbatim, what the label on the back states:
For thousands of years, we have seen brave men ride horses. We have heard their stories of courage, pride and hard fought victories. Zingaro strong beer is a celebration of these victories. It has the strength of a hundred horses. And the spirit of brave men. Men like you.
Wow. Men like me. If that’s not a reason to prop up the bar and get beligerent with strangers I don’t know what is. Sold to the portly gentleman in the corner!