Bengaluru-based Windmills Craftworks recently opened a branch in Dallas, Texas, becoming the first Indian microbrewery to take its brand to the United States
Nothing comes close to encountering the familiar where it is least expected. With Bengaluru-based microbrewery Windmills Craftworks opening a branch in Dallas, visitors to that South Central US state can now kick back with a pint and a smorgasbord of Indian and Texan food, whilst taking in world-class music.
Conceptualised by Kamal Sagar, founder of Total Environment, an architect-led real estate company in Bengaluru, and Ajay Nagarajan, CEO of Total Environment Hospitality, Windmills The Colony in Texas is the realisation of a dream that had been put on hold.
“We had been working on this project for the last three years and were supposed to launch in April 2020,” says Ajay Nagarajan, adding, “Despite the setbacks, we kept working towards our goal, so that whenever the COVID-19 vaccines were available and people could move out freely, we’d be ready to open our doors to them.”
Though the Dallas, Fort Worth area is home to many Indians and people of Indian origin, Ajay says, the reasoning behind setting up a restaurant there was not to cater to just one community. “At The Colony we wanted to ensure there was something for everybody. To that end, our menu is 50% authentic Indian and 50% Texan. You can get a tandoori chicken or a burger, a rib-eye or a fish moilee. Along with our on-site brewery and specially curated music selection, there’s something for everybody here,” he says.
The science of food
As oblivious as we may be to it, there is a science to what appears on our plates. “A perfect tandoori chicken has to be 800 grams or less. It was a challenge finding birds of that size in Texas as they were invariably always larger. We had to work with certain gourmet farms to procure them,” says Ajay.
“On the flip side, the best Indian spices are actually exported, so we had access to high quality Indian spices in the US that we sometimes don’t get access to in India.”
Halal meat, specific butchers, spices and a lot of research went into deciding the dishes and finalising the menu. “Around 18 months,” says Ajay, “There’s a slight difference in flavours of food ingredients in the US, so a lot of stuff that works in India without much thought, needed to be re-visited out there. Our chefs from India lived in Texas for over a year and developed a menu in a test kitchen where they fine-tuned all the ingredients.”
Ironically, paneer proved to be more than a challenge for the team. “In India, the best paneer comes from Delhi and we use that for our restaurant in Bengaluru. However, in the US, we couldn’t source good quality paneer. So instead of compromising on quality, we just don’t have paneer on our menu at The Colony,” he says matter-of-factly.
The team used Oota in Bengaluru’s hyperlocal, regional philosophy for the Texan half of their menu. “We divided Texas into geographical regions, cultural areas and the ingredients available in each area. Then we put together a menu that represented the state of Texas.
“Cities like San Antonio and El Paso are close to the Mexican border where you get a lot of Tex Mex and Mexican food. Pozole, a shredded pork and hominy soup from this region, is on our menu. Towards the eastern coast abutting Louisiana is Cajun cuisine and a lot of sea food. At the centre, near Austin and Fredericksburg, there are German and Eastern European influences where settlers moved in over a 100 years ago. So a there are a lot of sausages, barbecues and a different style of cooking. Game meat is popular there, so we’ve included wild boar and venison entrees from there. And at the heartland of Texas, is where you get the steaks. Grapefruit, prickly pear and agave nectar are tropical to Texas and we use them in our salads and salsas.”
Apart from juggling spices, ingredients, raw material and chalking out a menu with the best of two worlds, the team at Windmills also had to come to terms with diametrically different work ethics.
Easy access to fresher and newer ingredients in the US, meant the team were able to experiment with different hops, malts and processes to come up with new variants of ales, some of which had never been tried in India.
“Our brew master is in the US and and if anything we brewed there works really well, then it is brewed in India too. We were able to keep right on top of the brewing technology with all the ingredients available there,” says Ajay, “In India we are restricted to 8% alcohol by volume by the Excise Department. In the US, there’s no such thing. So we have an imperial IPA, which is at 10%, we have a Russian Imperial Stout that’s at 12.5%. So, we have the entire range from a Pilsner at 4% to a Russian Imperial Stout that’s 12.5%.”
With fresh fruit and purees in the US, such as apricot, peach, passion fruit, pineapple and more, the team was able to craft a wider range of beers. “We have a kettle-soured blackberry ale called Blackberry Tart, and our Tropical Saison which has passion fruit, mango and pineapple puree. A lot of people who don’t drink beer, but prefer wine or cocktails, are intrigued by these selections,” adds Ajay.
“Customers loved a French-Belgian style of beer called Saison, made from a really fantastic strain of yeast that we hit upon there. So now we are brewing it in India: it’s on tap right now in Bengaluru. The give and take actually helps both sides, it helps us brew better beers in India. In Bengaluru, we have six beers on tap; in Texas we have 14 — including the six from India.”
In the pre-pandemic era, Windmills Craftworks in Bengaluru often hosted artistes of international repute such as Zee Avi, the Helge Lien Trio, Blessing Bled Chimanga and others.
In the US, since opening for business in January 2021, artistes such as the Carlos Guedes Trio and the Russell Malone Quartet have enlivened the dining experience at ‘The Colony’. Gaby Moreno, Stephan Wrembel and the Hubert Laws Quartet are expected in the following weeks. Halfway across the world, Windmills stays true to its musical inclinations.