‘Dishoom’ Beer: How a Connecticut youth decided to brew hops with a Desi twist

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Ravi Patel, 32, of Branford, Connecticut, started his company Other Desi Beer, in 2018. Photo: courtesy Ravi Patel

Ravi Patel, 32 of Branford, Connecticut was studying at Eastern Connecticut State University when he took a stroll down the street and ended up at the Willimantic Brewing Company, the first craft brewery he had been to.

He was blown away watching them making beer right before  his eyes. Since then, his ambition was to brew his own beer. And the rest is history.

Patel started Other Desi Beer in 2018 at Thimble Island Brewery in Branford, he recounted in an interview with Desi Talk.

“What influenced me to open my own beer company had a lot to do with my parents owning a liquor store and I grew up working there. I was very interested in knowing how stuff was made,” said Patel.

The Indian names of the beers, the images of elephants on the cans and the company name, is Patel’s way of projecting his Indian-American-ness. He hopes to pay homage to his heritage with his unique company. But his reasons go deeper.

The company’s name originated from a racist incident that Patel faced.

As most people from the South Asian Subcontinent know, Desi is a person of Indian, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi birth or descent who lives abroad.

Some of the beers brought out by Ravi Patel’s Connecticut company, Other Desi Beer, have Desi names like Dishoom Jalebae, Hoppy Hathi. Photo: courtesy Ravi Patel

Other Desi really comes from an incident when me and my friends were going back from a Yankees game in the train and a guy asked me if I am South Asian or Native-American. He stuck three fingers behind his head and said ‘are you this type of Indian’, and then raised his middle finger to his forehead and said ‘or you are the other Indian’,” recalls Patel.

“And I always thought the insult was too racist and insensitive and it always stuck with me. So, I thought why not take that insult and see it in a positive way. Wearing that insult like yes I am that other Indian – the other desi.”

Patel started production in 2019. He is the sole owner and the only person in the company. “I use a larger brewery to brew my beer and it is a lot easier than a brick-and-mortar kind of place. I don’t need to employ anybody at this moment. But when I do it will be when I’ll have my own tap room somewhere down the line and I will include more people of colour in the business,” he said.

Naming the beers was a source of pleasure for Patel who says he wants to uplift his culture through those choices. His names for beer flavors would immediately be understood by most Indian-Americans and most others of South Asian origin. Their lies their cache.

His signature flavours are ‘Hoppy Hathi’, his flagship 6% New England Style India Pale Ale (IPA) with notes of cantaloupe and lychee; ‘Dishoom’ with sweet notes of tropical fruit and melon; and ‘Jalebae’ with notes of citrus, tangerine and pepper.

“Dishoom is like what you see in old Bollywood movies, while Jalebae is a play on jalebi which is sweet and bae is your significant other. These are my current flavours.”

One of his specialty beers is ‘3 Ranis’ which means Three Queens. It is pink, and a sour beer and proceeds from its sales go specifically to breast cancer research.

Ravi Patel, founder of Other Desi Beer of Connecticut, poses with one of his flavors named ‘Hoppy Hathi’. Photo: Instagram

Patel put the pictures of his mother and two aunts on the label from their wedding day.

Patel also produced a beer called ‘High Chai Stout’. Chai means Indian tea and the stout is made from Indian cookies, Parle-G. Reminds one of the American equivalent, the favorite Oreo cookie being dunked in milk.

All these names and flavors come from a place of joy that Patel feels and lends to his brand.

“I have never seen anyone use Parle-G biscuits inside beer and now we do,” he said.

Patel includes the meanings of the names with their pronunciations on the can. “So, someone who is not Indian, not from our culture can see the side of the can and pronounce it.”

Currently, Other Desi Beer is distributed in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Patel hopes to expand to New York where he was born.

In addition, the beer is available at restaurants like the House of Naan and Pataka, both in New Haven; The Dawg House Bar & Grill in Meriden; Side Street Grille in Hamden; and Tap & Vine in Wallingford.

Like everyone else, the coronavirus pandemic adversely affected Patel’s business.

“Here liquor stores had either only curb side pick-ups or you can get to the door and tell them exactly what you want. There is no chance of discovery because of this. It didn’t allow foot traffic for people to see my beer. I am hoping 2021 is completely different.”

Meanwhile, he uses his beer to give back to the community.

In 2019, he gave 5% of his proceeds to Kid U Not, a living organ donor fund based in Branford. In 2020, he gave 5% to Greenwich-based Breast Cancer Alliance.

This year, he is giving 5% to the Connecticut Hospitality Education Foundation (CHEF), the nonprofit philanthropic arm of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, which operates to attract, develop and retain career-oriented restaurant professionals, according to Hartford Courant.

Patel feels Indian-Americans are stereotyped in this country. “We don’t just own gas-stations and become doctors or lawyers. I hope to inspire people from my culture that we can do anything if we want.”

 

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