Country-brewed liquor from one region of India may soon be available across the country. The Ahmadabad-based National Innovation Foundation (NIF), chaired by former Director-General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) R A Mashalkar and vice-chaired by IIM-A Professor Anil K Gupta, has begun collecting information and samples of locally brewed liquor from the farthest corners of India.
Dr Vipin Kumar, NIF’s National Coordinator (Value Addition, Research and Development), said about 40 types of country-brewed liquor from the North-East, the Leh region in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have been identified by the NIF. The liquor samples will be sent to laboratories to test the nutrients they contain and how natural chemicals used to make them react with each other. From the test results, five types of liquor will be taken up for quality control to make sure they are safely mass-produced and sold through interested companies or distributors.
The NIF has had two experiences with traditional formulations - a cactus fruit drink from Jesdan in Rajkot; and a method of organically ripening bananas by a tribal man in Angul in Orissa. The cactus fruit drink was analyzed by the Central Food Technological and Research Institute (CFTRI) in Mysore and the results showed high contents of calcium, iron and vitamin C. The NIF has now filed a patent for the drink in the collective name of the village. The herbal banana ripener developed by Budhadeba Sahu of Angul was also validated by CFTRI. In terms of total and reducing sugars, the test found Sahu's formulation superior to commercial methods of ripening using chemicals and various other organic methods.
Prof S M Naik from IIT-Delhi's Centre for Rural Development and Technology is now further working on Sahu's formulation. Kumar said he came up with the idea for the current project after tasting a local brew near the Assam-Nagaland border. "I was sceptical at first, but it was the best drink I've ever had," Kumar said.
As of now, the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur, will establish the scientific validation about the nutrient contents of the brews. Later, other laboratories will also be contacted to make the tests full-fledged and comprehensive.
All the country-brewed liquor so far identified is organically brewed (meaning they have least likelihood of being poisonous) and some do not even contain yeast as local herbs are used for fermentation. Details of the formulations and the brewing methods are still confidential, as patents are yet to be filed, but they range from local fruits, tree barks to certain leaves. NIF will follow the same process of developing and marketing liquor as it has for other innovations. Patents will be filed for the individuals or communities who came up with the brews.