The British empire may have forced us to pay for our own oppression but it had its compensations. So as the sun flares over another Indian summer, let’s raise our chilled glasses to the imperialists who begat Indian beer. The pioneer, apparently, was one Henry Bohle who set up businesses in Meerut and Mussourie in 1825. The latter thrived for some years in the hands of the Mackinnon family, seeding a ferment of hill station breweries that stretched from Murree to Shimla, Kasauli and Ranikhet and on to Darjeeling. Edward Dyer, in particular, bought up or established a chain of breweries in the Himalayas and is credited with launching Asia’s first beer brand, ‘Lion’, which was produced in both Murree and Kasauli. Dyer would sire (and later disown) the notorious Reginald Dyer of Jallianwala Bagh—but that’s another story. By the 1880s, another experienced brewer, H.G. Meakin, had set up an extensive empire, buying some of Dyer’s factories as well as establishing new ones as far afield as Dalhousie, Kirkee and Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka. The two firms would ultimately merge as Dyer and Meakin in the 1930s. By 1889, the 25-odd breweries in British India were producing some 5,165,138 gallons a year, (roughly a thousand times less than passes through our national gullets today). And judging by some of the vintage beer labels (yes, it’s a thing) treasured by collectors today, there was a lot more variety back then. The Dyer Meakin breweries, for example, offered a range of light and dark ales, a stout, and several ‘sparkling beers’. Today, the concern known as Mohan Meakin is sustained by the popularity of its house rum, while johnny-come-lately United Breweries (estd. 1857) dominates India’s beer market with bland lagers and knuckleheaded strong beers. Did the British take all the tasty beer with them when they left? Well, the glass may be half empty but look at it this way: they gave us beer, we gave them Vijay Mallya.