Malika Bowling's picture

The White Owl: The Best Brewpub in India

Located in the middle of bustling metropolitan Mumbai, the White Owl is the best brewpub in India, featuring interesting beers, gourmet cuisine and chic furnishings.
The White Owl Sign

“We’re getting Netflix next year!” That’s what my new friend in Mumbai said to me as we were headed out to dinner. “That’s fantastic!” I uttered, secretly thinking how sad I was for them that they were only just now getting this vault of TV shows and movies that we’ve been privy to in the U.S. for years. For a place that is only just getting Netflix, how good could their craft beer scene be?

First of all, you must understand the state of craft beer in India. In its infancy, India’s middle class is just at the point to afford and appreciate items like a craft beer. Naturally, breweries are few and far between. They also don’t promote themselves much, so any enthusiast must diligently research to find what’s out there. That’s how I discovered The White Owl.


Photo credit: lemonchutney.com
Indian craft breweries don't promote themselves much, so any enthusiast must diligently research to find what’s out there. Photo credit: lemonchutney.com


Two American-educated Indian nationals created The White Owl: Javed Murad and Kunjan Chikhilkar. No doubt their time in the states turned them on to the fact that breweries are seeing a surge in popularity and these two entrepreneurs will be on the forefront of that wave in India.

The White Owl is unusual in many ways. For starters, it is located in a giant office building. Visitors must know it is there, because from the outside there is no indication or evidence of a brewery. Upon entering the building, there is a small sign on the main level pointing you in the direction of the brewery. It all feels a little James Bond-esque.

They were clever to open here. The many young office workers that inhabit the building are looking for a place to unwind after a hard day’s work. Plus, given the fact that traffic in Mumbai can take hours to traverse less than ten miles, it is a huge plus to have a bar in your office building.



The White Owl is unusual in many ways. For starters, it is located in a giant office building. Photo credit: superfuture.com


Once inside you almost immediately forget you are in an office building at all, and feel like you have stumbled upon some sort of hipster bar in the middle of Mumbai. The quirky 2500-square-foot bar could easily be something you could find in glitzy Las Vegas. The brick walls and shiny tables paired with metal chairs betray the fact that typical office cubicles are just down the hall. There are several birdcages hanging about, paying homage to the aviary theme.

Catching them near the tail end of the workday, we were some of the first customers. A group of women came in shortly after, but they chose wine over beer. Hey, we told you the concept of a brewery was new in India. The White Owl serves not only their signature craft beers, but offers a full bar and even serves U.S. macros like Miller High Life and Corona. 

Beers
Part of the excitement of visiting a brewery is tasting unique brews not in the regular rotation and one-off creations. However, The White Owl doesn’t have any of these specialty brews. There are four craft beers that are mainstays on the menu. Beers are offered in choice of 90, 330 or 550 ML sizes. No matter which beer you choose, the attractive and inviting wide-mouthed jars are perfect to take in the aroma of each unique brew.



No matter which beer you choose, the attractive and inviting wide-mouthed jars are perfect to take in the aroma of each unique brew. Photo credit: buzzintown.com


Diablo – Irish Red Ale
Very pleasing on the palate, there was a mild caramel flavor with a slight bitterness. This light beer is perfect for day drinking.

Halcyon – German Hefeweizen
Light in body, as you would expect from a wheat beer, the fruit aroma and taste of banana and clove were present, but not overpowering.

Shadow – English Porter
Very strong, this had a mild taste of chocolate. This wasn’t as bitter as I was expecting it to be – not necessarily a bad thing.

Torpedo – American Pale Ale
The bitterest of all the beers sampled, it did have a pleasant citrus flavor that leveled out the bitterness. All in all, this was the most complex of the four, and it was also the most palatable with each dish we sampled. It was unclear if this beer was on draft from kegs brewed at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in California or if it was a borrowed name.     



The food is as important as the beer at The White Owl. Take the Chef’s Specials section of the menu, for example, which offers beer pairing suggestions for each plate. Photo credit: luxpresso.com


The food is as important as the beer at The White Owl. Take the Chef’s Specials section of the menu, for example, which offers beer pairing suggestions for each plate. The beef and chorizo spits (kabobs) were a delectable match for the Diablo. Another small plate, the Orange-Chili Duck Baskets served in phyllo pastry went well with the Torpedo. Given the colorful presentation of the food, you can see that the use of color is deeply embedded in India’s culture in more than just bright clothing.

They also offer sandwiches, salads and are also open for Sunday brunch. By far, this was the most inventive and creative cuisine we experienced in two-plus weeks in India. So it is as much bistro as it is brewery.

There’s another difference in this brewery versus American breweries. While patrons can easily see the steel barrels containing the brews at The White Owl, tours aren’t offered as they would be at an American brewery. In fact, nothing on their literature mentions touring the brewery. 

Unlike many of the breweries in America, emphasis here is less about the process and more about sipping an enjoyable craft beer. In the end, isn't that what it's all about?