Microbreweries are an upcoming concept in India, appealing to consumers who want Beer made of fresh ingredients with diverse flavours addressing their unique taste palate.

Swati Shinde, our next pathbreaker, Head Brewer at the Gateway Brewing company, makes Craft Beers based on innovative recipes for a discerning customer base.

Swati talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about kickstarting her career in winemaking and deciding to switch to brewing after visiting craft breweries & getting exposed to craft beers.

For students, never miss an opportunity to experience different processes in the industry. You never know what you might end up liking !

Swati, tell us about your background?

I grew up in the wine capital of India -Nasik. My interest in the wine field came through my family. All are Grape farmers. Initially my dad wanted me to pursue a career in agriculture, but then he got to know about a brewing course through a friend. We used to visit a lot of wineries. The experience of tasting wine and those visits made me keen to know more. I did my PG Diploma in wine making and have worked with most of the wineries. After that I did my masters again in Wine, Brewing and alcohol technology. When I started to visit craft breweries & got exposed to craft beers, i decided to change directions and brew beer instead. 

What did you do for graduation/post graduation? 

I did my post graduation twice, Post graduate Diploma in Wine Technology and then Masters in Wine, Brewing & alcohol technology from VSI Pune (Vasantdada Sugar Institute). 

What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career? 

Nothing much. As my parents gave me all the freedom to make my decisions regarding my career, It was all on me to make the right decision based on my interest. 

Initially my father and uncle introduced me to the field and also helped me out in taking a different decision later. I have a very big family, with many cousins doing Engineering and Medical. I was the only one to show interest in vineyards. I used to ask lots of questions about vineyard management as well as other farm work. So I must say my family is the key driver who set me on this path. 

Tell us about your career path 

During my diploma, I started in-plant training at ND wines, which was near my farmhouse. I used to visit the winery regularly, work with Mr. Niphade and learn winemaking. He allowed me to get involved in all the cellar operations and conduct lab analysis. Later i started visiting other wineries (Renaissance winery, Seven Peaks, Mercury, Sula) and working for a few days during college just to have practical knowledge. I can say I had the best experience at Fattoria Zerbina, Italy and Zampa Grover Nasik. 

I got the opportunity to go to Italy through my institute. It was a different and superb experience.  Wine grape varieties and the winemaking process is a bit different in Italy. Due to climatic conditions they really get good quality grapes. I used to work in the cellar and laboratory over there. Later on i did some vineyard work too.

Zampa Grover was another great experience. At Zampa Grover, i was exposed to all kinds of laboratory work doing analysis. I did not do much analysis at Fattoria Zerbina. 

Thereafter I was interested in Masters, so I left the winery. During my masters I did my internship at Irish village, Pune. During my last semester I went for an interview at Barleyz Brew pub and got hired for the post of Assistant Brewer. I worked for Barleyz in Pune And Bangalore. 

My first best experience in the Craft Beer industry was at The Biere club, Banglore.

At Biere club, when I joined, I used to do all the cellar operations like milling, mashing, lautering, analysis , CIP, transfer yeast handling etc. Our head brewer used to visit twice a week. We used to discuss and formulate recipes together. We also had tasting sessions where he used to taste all the beers. I used to update the excise register and raw material inventory too.

As I began to explore the beer world seriously, I finally shifted to Mumbai in 2015 and joined Gateway Brewing company and am still working with Gateway as Head Brewer. 

How did you get your first break? 

My first break in the Wine and Beer industry was through my own efforts. I got selected through interviews. 

What were the challenges? How did you address them? 

In any production industry, the challenge is to make a consistent quality product. So we need to take care of all the parameters for that. 

Careful supervision under controlled conditions, temperature parameters , troubleshooting etc are other challenges. 

To make a great beer consistently is a big challenge in the craft beer industry. 

Where do you work now? 

I’m working as Head Brewer in the Gateway Brewing company, Dombivali. My work starts from selection of raw material, processing, cleaning, selection of beer style, recipe formulation, lab analysis, tasting, kegging, and excise related work. Gateway is a fully manual plant, so there is no chance of getting free time. And I learn a lot from my owners Mr.Krishna Naik and Mr.Navin Mittal, who are great brewers . 

Everyday is a different day, as we always try something new, like different recipes, new ingredients according to season or occasional recipe formulation. I love this job, as for me, it’s an art to make beer . I learn something new everyday. When people appreciate my beers I feel satisfied. For me work satisfaction comes first. 

Its very creative and innovative field and I love working here. 

How does your work benefit society? 

For society, some experiences can highlight that craft beer has a community unlike any other. We are a small and tight-knit group, but we span the entire globe and welcome newcomers who share our passion and values. We revive the tradition of brewing that historically existed. Since craft brewery work is mostly manual, we are also creating employment opportunities. 

Craft brewing industry has been growing very fast for the last few years, and we all have something of our own identity in every beer style. We can serve different beers with new styles. The craft brewing industry defines beer exactly. Craft brewing is a revolution in the Beer industry and the Beer world. I always have experiences where my consumers feel that they can have beers of their kind. Some people in festivals used to call brewers to tell that ‘’ Great , you made my kind of beer’.’ 

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you! 

More than a memorable experience, I can say that for the last 6 years I have been living with beer, have formed numerous friendships, and built a career, which I will never regret. Everyday is a different day and memorable for me. 

Your advice to students based on your experience? 

I would like to say that just get into the field if you have only 10% of interest, rest will come through experience once you start. Start visiting Breweries. You have a lot to learn & a lot to do. You can make your career in this field because nothing is boring. There is always something new to know everyday. You can also go for a PhD in the same field. We have very few people who did a PhD, like Dr. Asthavinayak Paradh, Head Brewer and Owner of Goa Brewing company. He is always ready to guide students. He was the person who used to guide me. Shape your career in the wonderful world of beer. 

Future Plans? 

I’m just going with the flow. I can’t say what will happen in the future, but I will do my work passionately and if possible, go for further studies as there is no age limit to do so. I Just want to give my 100% and carve my own identity in the beer world .