Amit Paranjape’s Blog

Doolally – Cheers To Pune’s First Micro-Brewery

Posted in Hotels & Restaurants, Pune by Amit Paranjape on October 31, 2009
Doolally - Pune's first micro-brewery

Doolally - Pune's first micro-brewery

Over the past few years, Pune has seen the opening of an array of  fine new hotels, restaurants, casual dining options, bars and fast-food joints. These include iconic international chains like the Hard Rock Cafe. Fine dining restaurants like Stone Water Grill (which also has a fabulous lounge bar). A historic heritage hotel – Fort Jadhavgadh. There are the usual international fast food favorites in McDonalds, Subway, etc. And then there are my personal favorites in my local Deccan Gymkhana neighborhood like the Deccan Rendezvous.

But an important piece was missing…a micro-brewery. Why a micro-brewery in this list? And what is a micro-brewery…you might ask!

A micro-brewery is a place where beer is brewed the old fashioned way. The way it is supposed to be brewed. The way it’s supposed to taste – Fresh, free of synthetic additives, and flavorful. In a micro-brewery, beer is brewed onsite in small batch quantities, unlike large commercial breweries. Micro-breweries are quite popular in the U.S. and Europe. Successful pioneering micro-breweries like Gordon Biersch started in Palo Alto, California 20 years back and now have multiple locations all over the U.S. But this concept is virtually unheard of in India.

Four years back, two ex-IIM entrepreneurs Suketu and Prateek decided to change that. They are well on their way towards creating something special. Their first creation is ‘Doolally’ – Pune’s first micro-brewery (as well one of India’s pioneers in this area), which opened earlier this month. Along this long and interesting entrepreneurial journey, they were also joined by Oliver, a German ‘Brew-Meister’ (The Beer Specialist). Incidentally, Suketu is originally from Nashik (a city about 200 km north of Pune), which is also home to one of India’s premier wineries – Sula Wines. Maybe there’s something in the waters of Godavari there that creates and nurtures these entrepreneurs like Suketu and Rajiv Samant!

Weird name – ‘Doolally’, you might think… but I guess it’s very apt. Doolally is derived from the name ‘Deolali’ – a small army cantonment near Nashik that dates back to the British Raj.  It literally means ‘going insane’! British soldiers used to be stationed in Deolali (often for months) as a staging point before returning back to England. Here they didn’t have any active tasks and some used to go crazy of boredom and the summer heat. Well…coincidently, Doolally is located fairly close to the Pune Cantonment Area. From the point of view of those early 20th century British soldiers – I guess wrong cantonment and wrong century!

Doolally is located in the fabulous new Corinthian Boutique Hotel near NIBM Road, Kondhwa. They have done a great job on the decor. The lighting, the bar stools and the wood panels/floors set the perfect ambience. As you enter you see the huge stainless steel vats where the beer is made. You are greeted by the bar upfront with huge taps serving the different varieties of fresh brew. Presently they are brewing Premium Lager, Dark, Wheat, Rye and a Cider (not technically a beer (tastes more like aerated wine) – but on tap for the occasional rare non beer drinker amongst the patrons). They plan to add more varieties in future. My favorite is the Dark – which has a hint of bitter malt/chocolate like flavor. The Wheat is great as well.  But don’t take my word for it – you need to find out which one’s your favorite! You can try out the different samples before deciding on your order. Pints and Pitchers are available.

Doolally - Handcrafted Beer On Tap

Doolally - Handcrafted Beer On Tap

The food menu is a little limited and primarily consists of snacks such as wraps and sandwiches. We understand that plans are afoot to extend this menu and introduce more conventional bar snacks such as Chicken Wings, Nachos, Chips, etc. On a side note – the Greek & Mediterranean restaurant ‘Salsa’ located right besides Doolally serves an excellent multi-cuisine menu. The Greek food we had there was probably the best in Pune. The Corinthian Hotel & Club complex presents a great location on top of a small hillock. The outdoor sitting of Doolally is also nice and Pune’s perfect weather, especially at this time of the year, is an added bonus.

My only initial reluctance in going to Doolally was the distance. Yes, in the minds of many Punekars, Kondhwa/NIBM Road area is virtually a different city, tucked away in the remote South-East corner. I myself ventured there for the first time in over a decade. However, now I realize that it is not that bad. At a distance of about 14 km from Deccan Gymkhana and only 7 km from M.G. Road – it will take you anywhere between 30 min – 1 hour, depending on traffic. Aundh, Baner residents have a slightly longer drive, but I am sure it will be worth it.

Doolally also plans to have live music on certain weekends. Check with them regarding the exact dates and artists. While Doolally is a perfect place to hangout with friends, it can also be a nice place for entertaining corporate guests, and for team events. One important note – do check if there’s a ‘Dry Day’, before you head over there – else you might be disappointed.

Some closing comments – Drink responsibly and enjoy! Don’t drink and drive. Have a designated driver.

 ‘Cheers’!

General Information

Web:   http://www.doolally.in/home.html

Address: Doolally, Corinthians Boutique Hotel, NIBM Road, Kondhwa, Pune

Phone: 020-2695 2226

Map (courtesy Sadakmap.com): http://www.sadakmap.com/p/Doolally-Micro-Brewery/

Timings: 7:30pm onwards

Indian Electoral Process – An Anomaly In The Bureaucratic Quagmire

Posted in Current Affairs by Amit Paranjape on October 13, 2009

It is impressive to see the world’s biggest democracy participate in the complex electoral process. For all the inefficiencies,red-tape and corruption that the Indian Government Bureaucracy is riddled with, the Election Process seems (in comparison) to be refreshingly better and different. The statistics for the process themselves are mind-boggling. Millions of voters (even for a state election…), thousands of polling stations, thousands of candidates … and yet, the whole machinery seems to perform with near clock work precision. Yes, there are a few irregularities, but statistically, they are much smaller than any other process of a similar magnitude.

Just watching those part-time workers (many of them school teachers) systematically process voters at the polling booths make one wonder…if only you could see this efficiency at any other government office! Clearly, full-time government workers don’t even come close.

Maybe we should get the Election Commission to run some other Government Departments! At least for a few days. We might just be pleasantly surprised to see how quickly applications get processed, permits getting approved, refunds getting sorted out, licenses getting issued, etc.

Why does the Election Process run so much better? I wonder why. Maybe it’s because this is one process where the politicians stay away (Literally – they are supposed to be a few hundred feet away from the polling stations during the voting process)

Some years back, Election Commissioner Seshan showed how he could use the ‘real’ power of this office, provided to it by the constitution. That was probably an important event, and even today plays a role in shaping the role of the Election Commission.

Wonder what your thoughts are on this topic.

A Week In Netherlands

Posted in Travel by Amit Paranjape on October 8, 2009
 
Amsterdam Station
Amsterdam Station

Recently, I had a wonderful opportunity to visit the Netherlands. It’s interesting how you have an image in your mind about a place, a country – and then you see it for yourself for the first time. In my case, I can now say that I was fairly close.

Netherlands has its series of attractions and icons: some extremely famous, and others not so much. In this brief blog, I will make an attempt to highlight some that caught my attention during this brief stay. I really enjoyed my time and look forward to making another trip.

Food – Global Cuisine and Dutch Classics

Netherlands is not exactly known for food, but I had a great culinary experience. I guess Ham & Cheese Sandwich is to Holland, what Fish & Chips is to Britain. I loved the great variety of breads,sliced meats and cheeses. Dutch pancakes were also quite terrific –  different and a lot better than what you get in America.

Apart from the traditional Dutch food, what struck me was the wide variety of eclectic global cuisine that was available in Amsterdam and other smaller towns. I expected to see a lot of Indonesian restaurants in central Amsterdam, but was really surprised to see a huge number of Indian restaurants there as well! There were Chinese, Middle-Eastern, Turkish, Argentinean and many other cuisines represented.

In Europe, they serve great coffee. Even in a small town cafe, the Cappuccino was perfect. I guess this might be a problem for Starbucks to expand here.

Our hotel ‘The Golden Tulip – Lisse’  located in a small suburb Lisse, about 30 km from Amsterdam, also had a famous 100-year-old restaurant ‘De Nachtegaal’ that served a variety of different dishes, ranging from Dutch Pancakes, to Italian Pastas and Thai Sateys.

Bicycles

Bikes are one thing a first time visitor to Holland would expect; but the sheer numbers are astounding! Just look at the massive multi-storeyed bicycle-only parking lot next to the Amsterdam Central Train Station. Even in a small town like Lisse, you would see a swarm of bikes during the morning and evening rush hour. The riders include school kids from primary to high school, office goers, retirees, and from every other section of the society. 

Dedicated bike lanes definitely help and are clearly essential. Hotels (especially in suburbs) have bicycles available on rent. I was able to enjoy a nice 1 hour bike ride through Tulip country (No Tulips this time of the year!).

Given the amount of bike riding the Dutch do, I wouldn’t be surprised if their overall health ranks much better than most other countries in the world.

Windmills

Windmills are probably the first thing that would come to mind when one thinks of Holland. They are not as omnipresent as one would think, but still you would see quite a few, especially in small towns. Many are not in a working state anymore, and a few have been converted into restaurants, galleries, etc. We had a nice dinner at one such restaurant ‘ d’Oude Molen ‘ (translates as: ‘The Old Mill) in a small town of Nieuw-Vennep.

Wind Mill

On expressway A4 leading south from Amsterdam towards Rotterdam, you do see some interesting contrasts of old windmills standing shoulder to shoulder with their modern airplane propellor like counterparts.

The Hague

Few cities carry such weight and seriousness in their name, as ‘The Hague’ (translated from ‘Den Haag’). But then this is a fairly unique place. The capital of the Netherlands, and the seat of many important international organizations – such as the International Criminal Court.

I didn’t spend too much time there, but did drive around a bit. The palace (I only saw it from outside) is very impressive. The beach boulevard near the palace is a very popular place for tourists and locals. A large number of casual beach restaurants are a big attraction. I had a good lunch at Waterreus.

This beach had an interesting historical photograph, prominently framed there. It showed the same view (with a lighthouse in the background – it is still there…) from 1944, with all the German fortifications – in preparation for defence against an Allied Landing.

Given its capital and international diplomatic hub status, The Hague has a lot of dignitaries visiting and living there. While driving by some apartments, I noticed an interesting parking sign – ‘This Parking Spot Is Reserved For The Ambassador Of Guatamala’!  I am not sure if they have similar reserved parking for every country’s ambassador (guess they should!) – it’s just that I saw only one such sign!

Heineken

Another extremely popular Dutch export is Heineken. I noticed that in Netherlands – many restaurants just serve one kind of beer: Draft Heineken. They have a nice museum in Central Amsterdam called ‘Heineken Experience’. I have been to the Miller Brewery Museum in Milwaukee  (many years back) and found this to be a better experience.

Dikes

If there’s one type of structure all Dutch people need to be eternally thankful towards, it’s a ‘Dike’ (also referred to as ‘Dyke’ or ‘Levee’). These earthen structures protect the low-lying areas from raging sea waters. A large percentage of Holland is actually below sea-level (One data-point suggests that it is 27%). Schipol International Airport in Amsterdam is the lowest (11 feet below MSL (mean sea level) ) international airport in the world. For the past many centuries, the Dutch have been reclaiming land from the North Sea.

Canals

Given the geography of Netherlands, canals are a very popular means of transportation. Like any modern European country, a vast network of expressways crisscross the land, but Canals continue to maintain their unique identity. These canals lead to many ‘opening bridges’ on roads and local highways. Inside Amsterdam, the canals create a complex network of transportation routes. A common legend about these canals in Central Amsterdam goes like this – most canals were originally 3 meter deep, but presently, their usable depth is only 2 meters. Reason? The huge number of old bicycles that have been thrown in there over, the past century 😉

 

A Canal In Central Amsterdam 

  

  

Tulip Country

Tulips are another classic attraction in Holland. I think this is especially the case amongst Indians – thanks to Bollwood. If one song caught the imagination of the Bollywood audience in the 1980s and created an everlasting impression of Tulips country – its ‘Dekha Ek Khaab …’ from Silsila (imdb link), staring Amitabh Bacchan and Rekha.

Tulips (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

Tulips In Bloom (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

Our hotel in Lisse was right in the middle of Tulip country.  It was surrounded by vast Tulip fields and bike trails that run through them. Only problem was that we were at absolute right place, but not at the right time ;). Tulip season is in April-May. All we saw were mostly ploughed fields and small sections of some other flowers that grow during this time of the year.

Central Amsterdam  

Central Amsterdam is beautiful. Canals, small streets, bicycle paths and footpaths blend in and coexist together. Old buildings (some over 400 year old) line these canals and streets. The Grand Central Railway Station building is quite imposing. Many refer to Amsterdam as a ‘walking city’. It’s not difficult to see why. The sheer number of people we saw in Central Amsterdam was huge. Yes, it was a weekend and the weather was nice – but still we heard from locals that this kind of crowd is not abnormal. If  you think Manhattan is crowded, you should see this place! Clearly comparable with some of the crowded cities in India!

The central part of Amsterdam has many tourist attractions – Shopping, Museums, The Famous Red-Light District Area, Canal Rides,..to name a few. I got an opportunity to see the Van Gogh Museum. I am not much of an art lover so its best that I don’t attempt to describe any of his famous works! Rembrandt Museum is also close by in the Museum District.

 Leaning House

I can recommend 3 good ways to checkout Central Amsterdam – I tried all of them. A canal cruise is a must as it takes you around the complex network of waterways around the city and gives you a nice close-up view of some of the great historical buildings. It was interesting to learn how all those old buildings are built on a 40 (or 60) wooden pillars foundation. Due to some structural problems that have arisen over the years (I must say the construction is good – since many have been around for 3 or more centuries!), a few buildings are tilted. (See the above photo of the famous ‘Tilting House’).

If you have extra time on hand, and the weather is good – walking is probably the best way to see the city. The third way is less exciting, but the most efficient. Just buy a 7 Euros daypass (I bought it at the Central Station Tourist Office – but I am sure it must be available elsewhere) and you can roam around Amsterdam on any of the Trams and Busses.

And finally some quirks

We found the Dutch people to be warm and friendly.

However, didn’t have a great experience when asking for directions 😉 On atleast 2 occasions, we were confidently sent on a wrong detour (that resulted in us driving around for over 1 hour..) to reach our hotel, that was just a few km away. And English was not the problem!

I know its typical European to have shops close in the evening, and remain closed on Sundays. But this still takes getting used to, if you are coming from U.S. or India. I always wonder what the locals do if there’s any emergency shopping need.

Amsterdam Grand Central Station has a Tourist Information Office. I got there at 10:30am, only to find a huge line outside. Turns out that this place only opens at 11am. There were many irritated tourists from all over the world here.

And a few closing comments

Netherlands is a great place to visit. Being a small country neighbouring U.K. and Germany – it has influences from both. English is more prevalent here compared to many other continental European Countries. It is also home to some leading multi-national companies such as Phillips, Royal-Dutch Shell, Unilever, ABN Amro,ING, etc.

I spent most of time in and around Amsterdam. I am sure the other cities like Rotterdam, Eindhoven will have their own sets of nice attractions. Netherlands is a great confluence of history and nature. Nice, green modern cities. Beautiful, quaint small towns. The landscape changes significantly as one drives East from Amsterdam towards the German Border. I didn’t get a chance to visit the Northern Netherlands – home of the famous Dutch Cheese.  Well, something for my next trip!

One Year Of Blogging – Musings Of A Global Citizen

Posted in Uncategorized by Amit Paranjape on October 1, 2009

Today, I complete one year in blogosphere. It has been an interesting and fulfilling journey with over 50 Posts and over 400 Comments. Many thanks to everyone who provided feedback and support! I realize that my list of topics is extremely diverse; and it was great to get inputs for all of them. 

Over this past week, I spent some time thinking about the 10 articles I liked the most. It was a hard choice, but this is what I came up with.

As always, your overall thoughts and comments are most welcome – as I continue with the musings of a global citizen.

Driving In Europe – How It’s Different From U.S.

The Greatest Technological Achievement Of The 20th Century – The Apollo 11 Mission To Moon

Is the paranoia around H1N1 in Pune / India justified? – A look at some factoids & information resources

An Indian Road Trip in the 1980s – We sure have come a long way!

Can Pune Emulate The Silicon Valley Technology Startup Ecosystem?

Slumdog Millionaire – The Most Over Hyped, Most Average Movie Ever?

Did India Skip The 20th Century?

Is TV News Making Us Dumb?

US Financial Crisis – Who Is To Be Blamed?

50 ways in which Pune has changed over the past 15 years

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