When Khukuri Beer
was launched in Nepal last week at the British Embassy, the event went completely unnoticed. What few in Nepal know is that Khukuri is the largest selling Nepali-owned British beer in the UK. And the green bottle has been delighting beer connoisseurs from Canada to Finland and Portugal to Japan for the last decade.
The man behind the beer and the brand is restaurant owner and businessman Mahanta ‘Monty’ Shrestha who moved to London in the 70s. When the owners of the restaurant he was looking after decided to shut it down, Shrestha took over. Monty’s was born in 1980 and is now a household name in the London tandoori scene. But Shrestha didn’t stop there. The growing Nepali diaspora with an affinity for its own cuisines and palatial peculiarities, encouraged him to introduce a drop of the motherland on the lunch menu.
In 2003 Shrestha partnered with JW Lees, the famous 180-year-old English brewery, four years later he became the sole owner of the company. Now the beer ships to both sides of the Atlantic, selling 250,000 litres in 2012. It has already surpassed that volume within June this year.
As a British brewed Nepali beer, Khukuri is a good example of bilateral trade between the two countries. In 2012, the beer won the gold medal at Monde Selection – an international non-competitive award given to food and drink products. Although Khukuri isn’t available in the Nepali market yet, that is something the management is looking to put right.
“Beer lovers all around the world are appreciating the Nepali flavour, so why should Nepalis not get to enjoy it?” says Prashant Kunwar, Business Development Director at Khukuri Beer. “The feedback so far has been amazing and there is definitely a demand, but we are still studying the market to see whether this will be feasible in the long-term.”
Locally brewed alcoholic drinks like tongba, tho, chhyang, and raksi are firm favourites among Nepalis. Despite this pervasive drinking culture, beer is still seen as an expensive means of socialising. But the wide availability of international brands shows that a little bit of coaxing is all it takes to convince Nepalis to experiment with their drinks.
“People in the UK know their beer and don’t go to pubs to drink commercial brands,” says Kunwar. “So in countries where we ship our beer, we try to project our Nepaliness.” Gurkhas and their khukuris are well-known symbols in the UK and Khukuri Beer builds its image on their reputation.
With plans of storming into Swiss and Australian markets, Khukuri Beer is certainly making business sense. “It makes me happy that I am able to introduce Nepal to the world through our beer,” says Mahanta Shrestha.
So next time you’re in the global mofussil, be sure to savour the flowery hops and malt bitterness of this crisp, light beer with spicy Southasian food at a Nepali restaurant.