Meet Lynette Pires, one of India’s first female brewers
Lynette Pires, Master Brewer at Seven Rivers Brewing Co., looks up to entrepreneur Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw for inspiration.
Decades ago, the brewing industry was primarily male-dominated, but not anymore, says Lynette Pires, one of India’s first female brewer, in a conversation with YS Life.
While the number of female brewers in India today is still fewer, Pires has made a name for herself in the nine years that she has spent in the beer industry. Pires, who was the former Head Brewer at Byg Brewski Brewing Company in Bengaluru, is now brewing beer inspired from local flavours at Seven Rivers Brewing Co.–a chain of microbreweries by AB InBev, in collaboration with the Indian Hotels Company Ltd. (IHCL).
Not just that, Pires is also making sure that more women get the confidence to build a career for themselves in the beer and brewing industry.
“When I first started brewing, there weren’t too many female brewers to connect with. I always aspired to bring all female brewers together under a single collective platform,” she adds.
In 2021, Pires took the initiative to bring an all-women brew crew together for International Women’s Day (IWD), and collaboratively brewed at the Seven Rivers Brewing Co. The brew, named ‘West Coast Lady’, went on to become India’s first official Pink Boots Society (an international non-profit organisation supporting women professionals in the brewing and beer industries) collaboration brew.
They continued the tradition in 2022 when they launched the ‘Stratosphere lager’, brewed with Geist. And this year, the All-Women Collab Brew made a fun Hopfenweisse beer, named ‘Herding Cats,’ in collaboration with Alchemy, a microbrewery in Bengaluru.
In an attempt to encourage more women who aspire to become brewers themselves, Pires and her team formed the Women Brewers Collective early this year. “It is great when we see how our collective has slowly grown over the years!”
“Over the years, several industries have emerged to be more diversified and inclusive, and I am extremely proud to see more women pursuing careers in industries that used to be considered predominantly male,” she adds.
Recently, YS Life caught up with Pires to know more about her journey and brews.
YS Life [YSL]: Could you share the highlights of your childhood that played a pivotal role in shaping your career as a brewer?
Lynette Pires [LP]: The earliest that I can possibly recall is being about seven or eight years old, and watching my aunt make wine in her kitchen.
She’d start around February or March. It would take her the whole day, and by the end, she would keep the large container of must (freshly pressed grape juice) under her kitchen table to ferment. By the end of the year, she would then send out a bottle or two of the wine she’d prepared to family and friends, along with a plate of Christmas sweets.
She would do this every year, and this piqued my curiosity in my early years. It made me fascinated and eager to learn more about the process of fermentation.
Since then, every time I heard about a new type of spirit, I would try to learn more about how it was made. I broadened my knowledge from wine, local-made feni, to beer and Scottish whisky. As I got older, it was beer, craft beer in particular that stuck with me, and I finally decided to pursue brewing professionally.
YSL: How did you figure that beer was your calling?
LP: I honestly wish I did have that one lovely eureka moment to share. However, when I did decide to pursue my passion and become a brewer, there was a lot of confusion, initial nervousness, and mulling over whether it made sense to pursue a career in a segment that was still relatively new to India. But once I took that leap, I think what truly kept me going was just my overly inquisitive and annoyingly curious nature to just know everything and learn more about the beer I loved!
YSL: What is the most fascinating thing about beer?
LP: Beer has such a wide variety of styles and flavours for consumers to choose from. And when it comes to craft brewing, I love experimenting with local and unique ingredients. India has a diverse and vast array of flavours and ingredients to choose from; it truly is the perfect playground for brewers to evoke a sense of curiosity and fun!
YSL: With the rise and increased sophistication of India’s cocktail culture, do you feel beer has taken a backseat?
LP: Not at all. Cocktails do seem to be trendier and come with a fair share of flair and pzazz. A beer enthusiast may tune into a Negroni Sbagliato occasionally, but it’s hard to part with your favourite beer.
I don’t want to sound too poetic, but in my opinion, beer is eternal.
YSL: What has been the most off-beat beer recipe that you have experimented with?
LP: In honour of our first October fest at the Seven Rivers Brewpub in Bengaluru, I brewed a ‘Pretz-ale’–a Vienna lager-inspired beer but with a twist—a generous load of pretzels (made in-house) that I threw into the mash! That was quite a fun brew. The beer turned out great, and customers loved it so much that we brought it back again the following year!
If I think back to another ingredient that I was really excited about brewing with, it was rhododendron flowers. I stumbled across these beautiful red flowers during a trip to Uttarakhand, and I was absolutely blown away when I first tried the extract. The locals would use this Buransh extract in curries, juices, and even medicine. I was eager to take it back with me and infuse it in a brew. After a couple of small trials, I brewed a Saison with the extract.
YSL: Could you share your thought process while working on brewing a poi and kokum inspired beer for the Goa market?
LY: I love Poi, a local bread and a staple in every Goan meal. When I was conceptualising the beer styles for our second brewpub in Goa, I wanted to try and capture the relatable bready and toasty notes in a light lager brew. The bready, toasty notes from our Poi Lager would pair well with a Caesar salad or buffalo wings since it is a light, malty, and crisp brew.
It was a similar sentiment with Kokum (or Sola), another common ingredient in Goan cooking. Its distinct tartness and vibrant hue made it the perfect ingredient to infuse in a Gose-style beer. My goals with the use of these ingredients in beer is to bring about a sense of familiarity within consumers. I find that the distinct tartness and saltiness of the Kokum Gose complement well with some good old fish and chips, or a delightful cheese platter.
YSL: What does it take to become a brewer in India?
LY: It starts with a true passion for beer, which is essentially your final product. Quite simply, if you love what you make, you tend to put more thought into how you make it. Brewing is just that, dedication and commitment to put a quality brew together, one that your customers will love and appreciate just as much as you do!
YSL: What does the future look like for the Indian beer market? Do you think homegrown brands have it in them to make it big in the global map?
LY: I'd like to believe that the proliferation of the Indian craft beer sector is just beginning. Over the years, there has been a significant increase in the appreciation of craft beers in India. As a consequence, the demand for diverse and high-quality brews has risen. It would be great to see brewers innovate and use more local ingredients, particularly indigenous malts, wheat, and grains. I hope to see a few new styles emerge from within India. As craft beer continues to gain traction, there is nothing stopping homegrown brands from expanding beyond borders.
Rapid fire with Lynette Pires:
YSL: Who do you look up to in the beer brewing industry?
LP: In India, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw. While she is not a particularly recognised face in the beer and brewing industry, she initially set out to be a master brewer; her entire journey is nothing short of inspiring.
YSL: Your favourite beer from the Seven Rivers?
LY: American Pale Ale
YSL: Your favourite bottled beer?
LY: You can never go wrong with a Stella! But if I’m looking for a nice pale ale, I prefer the Sierra Nevada Tropical Torpedo or the Little Creatures Pale Ale.
YSL: Besides beer, what is your usual order in a cocktail bar?
LY: I always enjoy a good negroni.
YSL: What is that one thing that you love about your job?
LY: The smells! On a brew day, I can never get enough of the smell of all those wonderful malts coming together in a mash or the burst of aromas when you open a new bag of hops.
YSL: What is the one thing that you hate about your job?
LY: Trying to resist drinking all this great beer around me (laughs)!
YSL: If not a brewer, then what?
LY: A cheesemaker.
(Disclaimer: Story was updated to fix a typo)
Edited by Megha Reddy