Beer Gardens

A lot of “local” pubs in London advertise that they have a “beer garden”, which is usually a grassy backyard that has a few outdoor tables. Having been to Munich, though, I would claim that these guys (in London) don’t know what they are doing, or at least that they can’t do it at scale.

On Friday evening we met a friend from IIT who has recently moved to Munich. Considering that there would be “a lot of kids” (three of his, along with Berry), he suggested that we meet at this particular “beer garden“, which was on the outskirts of town, a small distance away from the Isar river.

We got there following a ride in the metro followed by a tram ride and then a ten minute walk. And what a place it was. It was a massive ground in what appeared to be the middle of a forest, with one massive screen set up in one corner to show the Football World Cup. The entire ground was filled with long tables (eight of us (four adults and four kids) could easily fit in on one of the smaller tables), and on the edges there were play area for the kids.

The highlight of the place for us was that on a rare occasion of dining out, we didn’t need to worry that much about the kids. There were no high chairs for them to sit on, but we didn’t need to bother keeping them in one place, given the play areas and the gravel-lined ground that made it conducive for them to run around.

There was no table service for food and drink – there were a number of stalls at one end of the garden, where you could buy food and drink and get them to your table. After eating, it was your responsibility to clear your table and deposit used dishes at a central area (this was similar to other “self-service” restaurants in Munich). Food was mostly typical Bavarian fare, and it was pretty good. Once again, I overate.

In one sense, the upside of the lack of table service is that it eliminates the problem of how to split bills. Each person/ family can go get what they want, and eat and drink comfortably without the fear or under or over-ordering, and what others would think of them. And freed from both keeping kids in check and wondering about dynamics, and fueled by beer, you can focus on the conversation!

After dinner, we went down to the Isar river. It was already getting dark on our way down the wooded path to the river, but when we reached the river, it was suddenly bright again! Unfortunately it was getting dark, so we couldn’t spend too much time there, but it was a fantastic experience being there. It was already dark by the time we were walking back to the beer garden, and our path was lit up by fireflies!

We were wondering why this concept hasn’t travelled, not even till Britain. I mean, we have beer gardens here, but none at this scale. And most restaurants here rely on keeping kids tied in to their high chairs, colouring into the restaurant’s advertising material, rather than giving them a run about (which can potentially make them more hungry and make them eat more!).

One reason why beer gardens don’t travel is that they work well at scale, and that kind of real estate is hard to come by in most cities. Another is cultural – in India, for example, a lot of people don’t like drinking with their families, so places that combine drinking with kids’ play areas may be taboo. I can’t think of any more! Can you?

That said, when you visit Munich, don’t forget to go to one of the beer gardens (there are two massive ones in the middle of the city itself, in the middle of the English Gardens). It’s quite an experience!

Where you get coffee and tea

An old cranky professor once joked that “cafeteria” should be pronounced as “coffee tea area”, since it was the area where you got coffee and tea. We had laughed back then, both at the poor joke, and at the poor professor who attempted the poor joke. He was out of his wits as usual, we had assumed.

After my recent trip to Spain, though, I realise that he was not actually joking. “-eria”/”-aria” is a Spanish suffix that indicates a place where the prefix is sold. So a place where they sell Cerveza (beer) is a Cerveceria. A place where they sell Bombon (chocolate) is a Bomboneria. I even saw a “Churreria”, where they sold Churros.

So what is a cafeteria? The Spanish word for coffee is “cafe”. The Spanish word for tea is “te” (pronounced thay or something of that sort). So what would you call a place where you get cafe and te?

Cafeteria, of course! The old cranky professor wasn’t so cranky, after all.

Why Holland rocks


This is the beer menu at a small bar in the smallish Dutch town of Utrecht. And my friend who took me there assures me they have all of those in stock all the time!

What’s not to like and Holland? Oh and the bar is called “belgie” which means “Belgium” which is where most of the beer there comes from. Except the one I drank – which is brewed in Utrecht itself!

Alcohol and Shit

I started drinking when I was 21, after I had graduated from IIT. To most, that might sound surprising, but it’s a fact. It wasn’t supposed to be that way – I had initially planned to make my alcohol debut in my last week at IIT, just before the final exams. However, I ended up falling sick and missed the occasion. It would be another two months and entry into another institute of national importance before I finally broke my duck.

There are several reasons that could possibly explain my delay in experimentation with alcohol (you read that right – despite ample opportunity I never even considered experimenting with alcohol at IIT). But thinking back at those days the most compelling one is shit. Yeah, you read that right. I delayed my experimentation with alcohol because I was afraid of what shit it would lead to. Literally.

In the middle of my first night at IIT, I ended up in hospital. Yes, you read that right. The first day had gone alright. My father had accompanied me and helped me set up my third of the room. I had opened a bank account, registered myself at the mess, and after my father left in the evening, went about exploring campus and venturing into other hostels to meet people I know (a cardinal mistake by an IIT “freshie” but somehow I escaped getting caught).

And then in the middle of the night it started. A few trips to the loo later I figured it was time to seek help (it’s not that I wasn’t prepared – my belongings included a sheet of Andial – reputed to put an instant stop to the toughest of shit. But I ended up puking it out that day). I woke up Paddy the Pradeep, who was the only person in my hostel I knew well. He called the institute hospital, which sent an ambulance, and I spent the rest of the night in the hospital, with some shots and on drips. The next morning I was fit enough to be attending the orientation ceremony.

As if this wasn’t enough, shit problems struck again a month down the line, this time during the first round of exams. To make matters worse, the hostel had water problems (always an issue in Chennai). And the institute hospital’s medications wouldn’t seem to help. It was a nightmare.

It was around then that my classmates had settled down in the institute and started experimenting in life. As they began their experimentation I began to notice, and be told stories of, some side effects. If you drank too much you would puke. If you drank too much, the next morning you would have a hangover. And it was only after you shat that the hangover would pass, i was told. It all sounded like so much of a nightmare to me, who was already scarred about any potential stomach problems. There was no way I was going to try something that would give me more shit.

It was after I moved to an institute with reasonably assured water supply that I started my experimentation. Experiments were mostly successful (except for occasional infringements like this and this and this ). Shit wasn’t so much of a problem at all, I realized. The experimentation, though delayed, had ultimately been successful.

It’s of late – perhaps in the last one year – that I’ve noticed a peculiar problem. Whenever I have a few rounds (few can be as few as one) of Vodka or Beer, it results in terrible shit the following day. You get the normal dump right in the morning. But the real bad shit comes out in two installments, usually one after breakfast and one after lunch. It’s really foul-smelling (normally you shouldn’t mind the smell of your own shit or fart, but this is exceptionally bad). It causes great pressure (which means you better stay not far from a toilet). And when it comes out it results in insane pleasure.

One interesting thing is that this happens only when i consume beer or vodka. It never happens with whisky (the kind of alcohol I most often imbibe) – not even with cheap IMFL whisky. With whisky I can drink copious amounts, get drunk, and carry on the next morning like I had fruit juice the previous night. But not with beer or vodka – does anyone have an explanation for this?

You might have guessed that the gritter for this post was certain events last night and this morning. That’s right. At a party last night I didn’t realize that they were serving whisky, too, and went for beer (UB Export Strong – also known as “Yaake Cool Drink”). Having started I had more rounds of it. And after breakfast this morning it’s started acting! If only I’d gone for the whisky!

Beer numbers

I’ve always wondered why the craft beer at Arbor, a popular microbrewery in Bangalore, is so potent. While I was losing it on one such last night, I made a small calculation (rather simple) which gave me the answer.

The standard serving size at Arbor is 500 ml. The strength of the beers varies from 5.5% alcohol content to 8% alcohol content. While making this calculation last night, I was sipping the one with 8%. 8% of 500 ml is 40 ml, which means that I had 40ml of unadulterated ethanol (combined with 460 ml of other stuff).

Most standard whiskies and hard liquor have 40% alcohol content. So if I were drinking whisky rather than beer (i usually drink whisky and not beer), that one glass of beer was “worth” 100 ml of whisky!

And what about the “regular” beer that I have, which is a 330ml bottle of Kingfisher Premium? That has 6% alcohol content, or 20 ml of alcohol in a beer, which equates to 50 ml of whisky, which is less than one large peg of whisky! To put it another way, one standard unit of beer at Arbor contains about twice the amount of ethanol as one standard unit of bottled beer!

And then it is manufactured right there – because it is a “microbrewery” it is unlikely for each batch to have the precise amount of alcohol. There will be a margin of error. And I’ve been told (verbally, through the grapevine, so this is not official information) that they err on the side of more alcohol – so when the stated alcohol content in something is 8%, they prepare their setup so that the chances of alcohol content being lower than 8% is extremely low. Put that together with the above calculation and you’ll understand why you get so drunk at Arbor!


Indian Pale Ale is the “beer of beers”. Beer itself is famously an “acquired taste” – I remember being so disgusted when I had my first beer back in 2004 that I didn’t have another beer for another year. Now I’m quite used to the taste of Kingfisher.

But then the taste of IPA is even more “acquired” than that of bottled beer. I had some trouble finishing the IPA I ordered yesterday – what helped me finish it was perhaps the alcohol content which was already working! On a previous occasion I’ve ordered an IPA and only half-finished it. But then fans of IPA swear by it and go all the way to Arbor specifically for its IPA! So it is the “beer of beer”, or perhaps “beerendra beer” (Bikram Shah Dev).

Tailpiece 2

I was there as a part of a really large gathering (some 25 people), with people entering and exiting at random times, so they instituted a good measure to ensure we paid fairly. Every time someone ordered something, the drink would come along with the bill, which the orderer would clear right there.

This way there was no scope for messy calculations on who owed whom how much and all that, and no need for any bill-splitting algorithms!