Not too long ago, someone told me that Bangalore/Bengaluru, however you prefer to call it, is a ‘vibe”. And while I nearly ended up asking him if he was referring to the absolute pride we have in our incessant traffic jams, I knew what he meant. Bangalore is a vibe indeed. You could walk into a perfectly intellectual gathering wearing Prada and no one would care, or to a posh art opening in your jeans and Kolhapuris (then again, that is artsy apparently) and no one would care. No one cares what car you drive, how big your flat is or what perks your job bring. However, and this is a big however, we do care where you hang out and what you drink. “You don’t drink beer? Seriously? But why?” is a question many may have encountered. You see, before the craft breweries mushroomed, and even before the first can of craft beer sold at ludicrous prices were made available at liquor stores, Bangalore loved its beer.
The city has evolved since then. We love our craft brews, and we love our cocktails, and while we might not see the same kind of creativity that is going on behind the bars in cities such as Delhi and Mumbai, we know our alcohol. And we will find some of the smallest of pubs that still serve the good ol’ Screwdriver and make it our haunt as launch as the snacks are good and also dress up to go splurge Rs 1,500 on a top-of-the-line craft cocktail when we’re in the mood. But it helps to like beer in this city, there’s a lot of it.
Zee Zest has compiled a list a some of the best spots in Bengaluru that serve everything from cheap rum to infused gins, for people of kinds and temperaments, and wallets of course.
1. Geist Brewing Factory
Geist is not just a microbrewery and pub. It is what essentially Bengaluru was earlier referred to as – a vibe. Tucked away from the city, over this lavish open area that breathes peace, this beer garden is a must-visit, especially if you hadn’t ever had their canned beers back in the day when it was imported and not easily affordable. But now, they brew it right here in Bengaluru, and they’re delicious beers too. The Belgian-style Witty Wit is their signature and a must-try. SO is the Kamacitra, an American-style India pale ale. IF you want something darker, try the Uncle Dunkel, a Bavarian-style dark wheat beer. They also make some beer cocktails and yes, you’ll get a delightful Shandy here. For non-drinkers, there are a few mocktails too. The Geist Tea with black tea, pineapple, orange, chai masala and a hint of vanilla is lovely. As dedicated as they are to their brews, Geist made sure the food lived up to expectations. A lot of the food is local or inspired by local flavours; you’ll get the ‘nammakhara bun congress’ with congress peanuts, bun and tamarind chutney, Madras idli chaat where idlis are fried and served with a chana-aloo mix and related chaat condiments. This one’s delicious. They served platters of different kinds so you can taste a bit of different things. Their appetiser section is where you need to keep your focus. Geist It can get really busy on Sundays and they allow pets then too, keep that in mind before heading out. They also have a tiny menu for pets as well.
Where: Bidarahalli, Hobli
How much: 1,400 (for two)
2. Toit, Indiranagar
There are Toit lovers and addicts and Toit haters. And all of them go to Toit, sometimes at the same time because it’s hard as hell to find a table there. They must be doing something right. Toit brews its own beers, expanded to other cities – it’s in Mumbai and Pune as well – and if you cannot find a table there, find a bar that sells their beer. But while at Toit, you can indulge in some of their lovely crafts such as the Benga-lager-u, Toit Tint-in-Wit, Toit Hefeweizen, etc. There’s ample to eat here as well – from salads to cut your guilt and fried food to add to it. The Deconstructed Scotch Eggs that come with soft boiled eggs served on mashed potatoes with a choice of caponata or lamb mince is popular. As are their chicken wings and beer-battered prawns, beefy loaded potatoes, pork ribs and the Toit Liver special. And if you miss The Permit Room, you can get their okra podi chips, chilli cheese bhajjis and kuzhi paniyaram here too. Toit also serves breakfast and has an expansive menu, probably for the morning after a ton of beer.
Where: 100 Feet Road, Indiranagar
How much: Rs 2,000 (for two)
3. Record Room
Like vinyl? Like craft beer? Then Record Room is your place to be. It brings cocktails, craft beer, specialty coffee and lots of good music under one roof. They serve brews made by Toit and Geist and Bira, and delicious coffee by Blue Tokai, Coffee Mechanics, among others. The cocktails too are delish. Get the Whiskey La-vender Highball (whiskey, lavender essence, and Bianco topped with a splash of soda. Even the Fig-Ure Me Out, with Bourbon, sweet Vermouth, fig sauce and aromatic bitters is delicious. And if you’re a Negroni fan, go for the Twisted Negroni – it’s got Cachacha, Campari, Martini Rosso and Jägermeister. The food is a bit global here, so expect a lot of croquettes, beer-battered fish, roasted pork sliders, bruschetta, pork dumplings, bacon wrapped prawns. All this decadence is tied together by their enviable collection of music – all on vinyl.
Where: Ashok Nagar
How much: Rs 2,500 (for two)
4. Byg Brewski
Byg Brewski is BIG. At about 65,000 square-feet, it can apparently accommodate up to 2,000 people at the same time. It's also probably the largest pub in Asia. And given that it’s not too far from the airport, this is where you might want to go if your flights are cancelled. Or have your wedding reception. Going to this pub is a picnic. But it’s worth the trouble. Their beers are well priced, and good. The crafts include the Byg Wit – a medium-bodied beer that’s not so bitter and good for those who don’t really like beer, the Byg Hefeweizen that’s a Bavarian-style wheat beer and is stronger than the Wit. Then there’s the Byg Raunch – full of malty flavours and smoky aromas – and the Byg IPA. The Byg Ella Pale Ale too is a good choice. To eat, get everything – from the nachos to the onion rings (beer needs onion rings) and peanut masala and their monster chicken wings. Also, go in a “byg” group.
How much: Rs 2,000 (for two)
There’s something so casual and welcoming about Watson’s that it takes ages to shake off the place. They don’t brew their own beer and serve the predictable brands when it comes to alcohol, but somehow (probably the music) you end up going there anyway. Their cocktails aren’t the gourmet kind, but their snacks are pretty decent. The Mogo – steamed and stir-fried cassava that is then tossed in spices is a must-try. SO is their peanut masala even though it’s the same as anywhere else. And if you like popped makhana, try their version of the bhel. To drink, they serve Kingfisher and Budweiser on the tap and in bottles and standard cocktails. But it’s affordable and just like home.
Where: Vasant Nagar; Ulsoor; Indiranagar
When: 12pm-1am (on all days)
How much: Rs 1,400 (for two)
6. Arbor Brewing Company
Present in Bengaluru and Goa, Arbor Brewing Company or ABC or plain Arbor has its own set of fans in the city. They brew their own beer and make some pretty good ones. The place tends to get rather crowded on weekends and it’s recommended to go early. The craft beer menu includes Bangalore Bliss - a Hefeweizen that is quite smooth on the palate, Sumac Whit – gentler in flavour, the Raging Elephant IPA – its 6.8 per cent ABV says it all, among others. You can also buy their cans from the pub itself. The Beach Shack IPA, which is a India Pale Ale is delightful. From the food menu, get the bacon chilli fries, chimichurri prawns, and who can turn down the old school chilli chicken.
Where: Magrath Road, Ashok Nagar
When: 12pm-12.30am (Mondays closed)
How much: Rs 2,200 (for two)
7. Bob's Bar
Bob’s Bar is a dedication to what Bangalore used to be. To be specific, it raises a toast to the old bars of the city where snacks and “touchings” were uncomplicated and cheap. For instance, the simple egg roast here is a pretty big deal. As is the Anna’s Sundal which is basically just chana tossed with onion, coconut and fresh masala. The entire menu comprises dishes from various parts of Karnataka, be it the ghee roast, fried chicken, chicken sukka, keema dosa, beef roast – we can go on. The bar menu focuses on beer quite a bit, serving the usual suspects such as Kingfisher and Budweiser to Indian craft beer and imported brands. Their range of other spirits too is not unimpressive. The whole idea of sipping on a 16-year-old Lagavulin with stir-fried chicken liver or tawa fried anjal can be simply esoteric. This place is also often crowded. In fact, it’s almost always full. So be prepared to wait.
Where: Indiranagar, Koramangala
How much: Rs 1,200 (for two)
8. Suzy Q
There’s something about Suzy Q. It could be the décor or the fact that there’s always this lovely cheerful mood that you walk into, but it’s one of those places you may not go every weekend but would want to go every now and then to soak in the ambience. Ditch the regular spirit and try the cocktails here. They have some signatures that might not always be perfect, but the effort is unmissable. If you like rum, try Dark Desire – it comes with dark rum, fig syrup (made inhouse), mint, lime, ice, and is topped off with ginger ale. The Wanderer is all about the whiskey, plum, thyme, and sweet and sour mix. They also have a range of India-inspired cocktails, such as the Sharaabi. Inspired by the ‘panakam’, this one has dark rum, jaggery and pepper syrup and sweet and sour mix. Or the Bombay To Goa, which is of course flavoured with kokum. But it also has gin, curry leaves, tender coconut water, cumin powder and lime cordial. Yes, all their desi cocktails are a lot about Bollywood. The food menu is meant to keep everyone happy, so not much gourmet happening there. But the Chakna Cone with peanuts and black gram tossed with onion and tomatoes and spices goes really well with the desi concoctions. This is also one the few upmarket places that still serves the cheese-cherry-pineapple trio. But for something more, there’s nachos, spicy chicken wings, quesadillas, etc. And a full dinner menu too.
Where: Cunningham Road
How much: Rs 2,000 (for two)
Pecos is where the original beer drinkers would hang out, drink beer and talk about rock music. Not much has changed since then. In the day and age of craft beer and signature cocktails, Pecos stuck to its identity – your local watering hole. It’s also the only place in town that serves beer in what they call a ‘giant mug’, which is basically just 330ml of beer. That’s all you get there – beer. The food however starts with peanuts and moves to nachos and then saunters through the chilli mushrooms and chilli baby corn, many things Manchurian and settles on what they’ve always been famous for – dosas and Pecos Original Chicken Curry. It’s the only thing you need to eat there. And in case you’re feeling fancy, try the pork tacos. You’ll get a lot of pork fry, beef fry, fish fry here too – basically almost everything that goes with beer.
Where: Brigade Road, Indiranagar (Pecos Stones), Koramangala (Pecos Hideout)
How much: Rs 1,200 (for two)
10. Plan B
There was a time when Plan B and chicken wings went hand in hand. But it was also about the ambience, the music and the loud chatter around. It would either make you want to know everyone or never come back. But most did come back, even when they occasionally were served flat beer that had to be replaced. Plan B now has seven outlets in the city, so they’re on the right path. You can order beer on the tap, craft beers, and other spirts as well, including a whole range of classic cocktails and get them by the pitcher for a planned drunken evening. There are separate sections for gin and vodka cocktails with interesting names and combinations. From the food menu, get their wings (duh!) and onion rings with your choice of seasoning or get a pizza to keep it simple. They also have pretty decent burgers.
Where: Brigade Road, Koramangala, Domlur, Banashankari, Hosur, New BEL Road
How much: Rs 1,500 (for two)