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Spirit of Arishtam: Home Brew India

IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor) and Blended Scotch are two biggest oxymorons in the Indian market. Nobody is sure what is Indian and what is foreign in IMFL. Likewise,Blended scotch can have any amount of imported liquor, domestic liquor, and cheap molasses. In Feb 2017, India’s leading weekly Outlook magazine ran a cover story: “The 41,000 crore trick called IMFL”. This was to reform some of the questionable, yet permissible industry practices. But they met with little success.

Spirit of Arishtam India
Spirit of Arishtam India

Molasses, a black tar-like residue, is an industrial waste and a byproduct of sugar processing. It is the main culprit for the hangover one gets after consuming cheap liquors. Inspite of that there is no mass movement to regulate it.
Goût de terroirs, is a French word. It talks about the natural harmony of climate, soil, water, and the people from a region. But it is completely missing in the Indian food and beverage industry.

Even today, most of the microbrewery hire foreign staff. Moreover, they import their entire requirements of hops, malt, and yeast. We kill the possibility of innovation & freedom of expression in our products. This is due to the constant judgement of the same on western standards.

Twenty years ago, when I first made my batch, there was very little information and awareness about fermentation at home. Fancy words like home-brewing were not even coined. Also the customer preferences were shifting from heirloom traditions to packaged food and beverages. This website is a small attempt to reverse this trend.

कर्म कर्ता क्रिया ||

This website is an effort to answer the reader: What, How, and When of home-brewing. This step by step practical guide is a mash-up of history, science, logic, and simple common sense. Firstly, a bit of history, background, and culture to create inquisitiveness. Secondly, tons of simple recipes to reassure the reader that the process is easy, simple, and fun. Finally, a lifelong quest to master the art of balancing the delicate sensory tastes and aromas. The science of, creating an impact on the final product by small tweaks in process or ingredients.

Unlike a typical recipe website, designed for instant-noodle-chefs where readers measure-mix-brew, this is more like a guided journey to self-discovery. The readers should scientifically understand what they are doing and why. The aim is to enable the readers to devise new ways to perfect the craft and innovate. Furthermore, to revive the food tradition is the motivation behind Arishtam.

Arista and Asava Preperation

The name Arishtam (freedom from injury/ disease) is borrowed from Vedas. Our Vedas and ancient literature describe fermentation at great lengths. They detail out ways to extract the essence from the herbs, ensuring that the nectar reaches every cell & rooh (the spirit) of the recipient without being denatured in the process. Western medicine typically boils the herbs in order to extract its essence and then use sugar syrup to mask its harsh tastes.

सन्धीयते यद् इति सन्धानम् ॥

Sabdakalpadruma

सन्धीयते – joined or connected, यद् – that, which, इति – thus, सन्धानम् – union, combination. All self-generating alcohol including Arista and Asava comes under this category.

Kalpana in Ayurveda means formula and procedure for preparation. All fermented preparation comes under Sandhana Kalpana.

द्रवेषु चिरकालस्थं द्रव्यं यत्सन्धितं भवेत् ।

आसवारिष्टभेदैस्तु प्रोच्यते भेषजोचितम् ॥

Sa Ma Kha 10/1

Sandhana prakriya or fermentation process is the act of manufacturing of these medicines. Dravadravya refers to Kwatha, swarasa or liquid preperations. Madhura Dravya refers to sweetened preparation. It refers to Jaggery, Honey, or sugar being infused to make it easier to consume and increases alcohol (a solvent used to extract medicine from herbs). Sandhana drava is referring to the catalyst. These are flowers like dhataki and madhuka which innoculate the intent mud pot with the required strains of yeast. Asava and arishta are the two major medicines that result from this process.

आसवारिष्टभेदैरिति बहुवचनत्वेन सीधुसुरादिकमपि गृह्यते ॥

सूयते तोयकार्या यस्मिन् स आसवः । अरिष्टमिति द्रव्यप्रधानः ।

सीधुशब्देनमद्यभेदमाहुः, तच्चोभयप्रधानम् ।

सुरासवयोः प्रत्येकनिष्पादितयोरेकीकृत्यपुनःसन्धानो मैरेय इति संक्षेपेणोक्त्त मद्यभेदाः ॥

Dipika Tika

If the pot has already been used for fermentation, it has yeast sticking to its surface. Then one would need only the medicine (dravya) and spontaneous fermentation will happen

केवलं द्रवद्रव्यं वा भेषजान्नादिसंयुतम् ।

चिरकालस्थितं वैद्यैः सन्धानं परिकीर्तितम् ॥

Paribhasa Prabhandha

Advantages of Fermented Medicines

  1. Self-generated alcohol acts as a preservative. This improves the shelf life of the medicine. In fact, these medicines become more potent and better over time.
  2. Tiksnadi Gunas: quick absorption and assimilation improves for these medicines.
  3. Bio-availability and therapeutic efficacy improves. Presently, homeopathy and many western medicines are altering their recipes to incorporate the tinctures. Like the Vedic Arishtam, they have discovered that alcohol is a good solvent capable of extracting the medicinal properties most efficiently from the herbs.
  4. These medicines are in liquid form. This means that the exact dosage is easy to measure and administer. This is advantageous for pediatric and geriatric patients. Also, Arishta has an uncanny ability to make the taste more palatable. So the bitter taste of herbs is masked.
  5. Being made from jaggery, sugar, grapes, and honey: This is nutritious to the body and taste is easier to mask.

Arishtam.com is a small initiative to enable fellow hobbyists to perfect their quest for this ultimate expression of one’s individuality. This website is especially for those food craft enthusiasts who understand the harmful effects of dyes, molasses, chemicals, and additives. Today the industry is laden with so many buzzwords and confusing marketing jargon that people get lost and end up over-complicating their consumption patterns. We will try to bust some of the myths, beliefs, and use a scientific process to help in making a more informed and balanced choice.

About the Author

My first association with fermentation started twenty years ago. I made my first batch as part of a high-school project in 1999 and has stuck with me ever since. Under graduation from IIT Kharagpur allowed me to work cross-disciplinary. I spend a lot of my time fermenting & trying to recreate Vedic brews. Masters at IIM Lucknow and an overseas semester in France gave me an opportunity. I interacted with various artisans, winemakers, pastis (fermented meat spreads), and other artists.

Subsequently, I traveled to over 20 countries to gain exposure to various cultures, traditions, and choices made by locals there. All this helped me with a unique blended approach to food-craft. How to be contemporary and yet in harmony with the culture and heritage.

My lifelong quest is the revival of our long-forgotten Indian heritage, traditions and restoring them to its rightful place. Here, at Arishtam, we do not bombard the readers with jargons to make them snobs. Unlike food labels, there are no confusing terms or esoteric ingredients.

The website tries to crystalize the ancient knowledge into the simple crux. We scientifically analyze the impact of each of the actions, processes, and ingredients. The goal is to enable the readers and to aid their food experiment. Utilizing the available and affordable equipment and resources.

shot glasses bench testing

The understanding From France, I understood the value of tradition and presentation. Italy taught me the concept of the wine of natural harmony that occurs in a geographical biome. Germany taught me the subtle differences between the various spices and hops. Americans inspired me to be bold enough to take brewing not as a hobby but as a profession.

South Korea with its kimchi, miso, and kombucha taught me the value of fermentation beyond recreation. China & Japan have perfected the art of honoring the traditions. They have mastered blending them into something that the modern generation will revere. Enumerating further, Rwanda & Uganda taught me that using traditional rudimentary processes. Equipment should not be a matter of shame but a badge of honor worth flaunting.

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