The city’s first Belgian beer café offers refreshing whites to Trappist beers of the monks, and an insight into brewing traditions

Beer is a part of the psyche of most European nations where hardly a day goes by without a pint or two. Topping the list in recent years is Czech Republic. Beer is the national drink of the Czechs and annual consumption (per capita) is around 132 litres. Belgium, Amsterdam, Germany and Netherlands have their distinctive beer-brewing traditions. Breweries in Europe, dating back to 18th and 16th centuries, follow a rigorous and methodical brewing process.

Like most travellers, friends Chalapathi Raja, Vikas Passary and Vijay Patwari were enamoured by Belgian beers. They visited heritage breweries and savoured everything from the fruity La pecheresse (2.5% alcohol) to the dark Westmalle Dubbel (a Trappist beer with 7% alcohol). Vikas, being a restaurateur (Little Italy and So), wondered if opening a Belgian beer café would be feasible in Hyderabad and Chalapathi Raja was game. “We made three trips and short listed 16 beers — four tap beers and 12 bottled ones. We choose different varieties — Belgian-French and Belgian-German beers. Each of these has a history that dates back to the World War,” says Chalapathi.

MOB opened a few weeks ago. “At first, a few people walked in thinking this is a pub. But within a few days, the more mature, beer-understanding clientele began to drop in,” says Vikas. Welcoming is one way to describe the ambience of the café. The interiors are in muted browns and the décor is simple with wooden furniture. The café has indoor and al fresco seating.

On a single platter, you can get four tap beer variants, each 170ml, to taste and order. These beers are served from specially-installed taps brought in from Italy. The frosted taps ensure the temperature of the beer remains the same, from the base to the nozzle of the tap. Witte, Abbey Blond, Dubble Blond and Divine are the four tap beers, priced between Rs. 360 and 415 for 330ml.

The menu has brief notes on the brewing traditions of Belgium and the styles of beer (white, abbey, special, fruit, blond, special blond, tripel, strong dark and the Trappist varieties brewed by monks). The food menu is a mix of international and Indian cuisine styles, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. These are Tapas-style platters and Vikas informs that the team plans to offer sumptuous main-courses soon.

Without aristocratic airs, the management assists guests on the right food-beer pairings. There are all-time favourites like the Lebanese Pita Platter, Well-aged Cheese Platter, Lamb Chipotle, Beer Batter Fry from the sea (Red Snapper, Calamari, Prawns), Grilled Baby Corn with butter, Ra Crostini served with cherry mozzarella ratatouille and sun-dried tomatoes and indigenous offerings like the Khandvis from Kutch, Masala Fried Idlis with peanut chutney, Spicy Beer Glazed Malai Paneer, Chicken Wings Glazed with Bengal Kasundi Mustard, Tapas of chicken and fish, Open Grilled Sandwiches and more. “This kind of variety, from subtle international to spicy Indian flavours, helps in different food-beer pairings,” says Vikas. Even the ubiquitous Mirchi Bhajji is on the menu. You can also order coffees and teas and cocktails and non-alcoholic mocktails are on the cards.

Like the beer cafés abroad, MOB is open through the day from 12 noon to midnight. “Europeans are acclimatised to enjoying a mild beer during the day. We noticed a number of expatriates dropping in late afternoon or early evening much before the Indian clientele steps in,” observes Passary.

The milder wheat beer Blanche Lanche de Namur (4.5% alcohol) or the fruity La pecheresse (2.5% alcohol) maybe the choices for the day as against the dark Trappist beer Westmalle Dubbel (8%) after a hard day at work.

As Chalapathi puts it, “It’s not about having one pint too many and being sloshed. Conversations over beer and great food is a culture.”

The loyal clientele has been referring to MOB as Mad Over Beer and Ministry of Beers. “We simply called it MOB and our guests arrived at these names,” smiles Vikas. Cheers to that.

(MOB is below Little Italy, Road no. 92, Jubilee Hills).