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How Russia-Ukraine war led two Kerala natives to brew ‘Malayali’ beer in Poland

Chandramohan Nallur and Sargheve Sukumaran brewed the new beer by combining Indian rice flakes with Polish hops, creating an 'Indo-Polish connection'.

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New Delhi: When the Russia-Ukraine war broke out last year, little did Kerala native Chandramohan Nallur know that it would lead to the creation of a ‘Malayali’ beer in Poland.

The conflict had just begun when 38-year-old Nallur found himself saddled with five containers of Indian rice flakes that were imported from Uttar Pradesh to make cereals. His African friend bought these containers before the Russian invasion of Ukraine but decided not to pick them up as the exchange rate had fluctuated.

The question in front of Nallur then was what in the world could be done with 20,000 kg (44,092 lb) of rice flakes.

Nallur, who is the first Malayali director of the Chamber of Commerce in Poland, told ThePrint that he, along with his designer friend Sargheve Sukumaran in Poland, came up with the idea of brewing beer from the stock of rice flakes.

The name of the beer, added Nallur, is a reflection of their love for fellow ‘Malayalis’ and to bridge the gap between Palakkad – Nallur’s native place – and Poland.

The design of the newly-crafted beer was also influenced by their cultural identity. Sukumaran designed the label around the headgear worn by artists who perform Kathakali — a traditional dance form from Kerala. He then combined this with the state’s love for films by using aviator sunglasses and the moustache of acting legend Mohanlal.

“With lack of storage facilities, we first thought of converting the rice flakes into pet food, but later we discarded the plan. We read about Komban beer, which was produced outside India. It clicked on an idea of finding use for the flakes,” Nallur said.

“We even thought of health bars but it falls under a very niche business line. Then I came across Japanese beers which are also brewed from rice. I turned to another Malayali for advice – Lijo Phillip – who had launched his own beer brand Kalikut 1498 in Poland before the pandemic,” Nallu elaborated.

Kalikut is another way of spelling Calicut (now called Kozhikode) — a district in Kerala.

“I personally don’t drink beer but I enjoy the production business. We combined the Indian rice flakes with Polish hops, thus creating an Indo-Polish connection altogether,” he added.

‘Beer’s name connected us to where we belong’

Both Nallur and Sukumaran are from Kerala. They decided to name the beer ‘Malayali’ after their mother tongue, Malayalam.

The duo went through a long process, including multiple failures, while creating the beverage. Nallur also explained how inventing a new brand of brew was never an easy task.

“It was on the third try that all the ingredients fell in place,” he said.

While tussling with their struggles, a Polish restaurant contacted them to produce craft beer.

“The smoothness of our drink had people talking. The next question before us was a name for the beer. We started looking for unique names that could connect us to where we belong. Without much ado, the name Malayali stuck and we applied for a trademark,” Nallur said.

Gradually, their hard work paid off. The Little India Group – eastern Europe’s largest South Asian products distributor – offered to put the Malayali beer in five EU countries on 1 January, 2023.

Now, Malayali Spirits has developed a contract with the distributor for Indian and Asian grocery stores to supply 2,400 litres (5,074 pints) of beer every two months.

Nallur said that the company has sold over 50,000 bottles of beer since June last year and are in process to boost production in the coming months.

“Currently, we are analysing the market. We are waiting for the summer season as that’s the perfect time to have chilled beer. It’s just an initial stage at the moment, let’s see how the product goes in a couple of months,” he added.

Also read: Dipti Kumari was a soaring national archer. Now she has a tea stall, broken bow in Jharkhand

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