At Toit, our customers have always been our primary focus. They’re the ones who bring life to the place, create memories and end up giving the place its familiar, friendly vibe. And there are so many different kinds of people who come through our doors daily, that we wanted to get to know their stories.
The Kudix Mug Holder of the Month is our little way of celebrating our customers, and their unique stories.
Kicking off the new year, our first mug holder of 2015 is the Englishman whose last name is France (something he’s tired of explaining), and whose love affair with beer has led him to publicly admonish beer barons and given him a penchant for calling bad brew out! Say hello to George!
How long have you been in Bangalore?
I’ve been here since 2003. That’s like the last 12 odd years, but I haven’t spent all 12 years here. Been here about 7-8 years, mainly on six month assignments for work. I used to work for an investment bank, and when I retired, they hired me back as a consultant to do exactly the same job. So I’m back here now as a consultant, doing exactly the same thing I have been doing for the last 19 years. I’ve worked all over the world, actually.
How did Bangalore end up being the place of choice?
The bank decided to move into Bangalore, like most banks in 2000-2003. It was a nice place to be, with an intelligent work-force. It was something that was going to be on the map. So my firm decided to move all their back offices here but they didn’t have any property so they had a developer build us an office. It wasn’t going too well initially, very slow to get moving. So they sent me out here, because I understood the culture and I knew how to motivate. That’s where I started. I spent almost two years here, while the first building came up. And then I kept coming back because our business in India expanded and we took on another building, and then another building, and so on. Now I think there are seven in total. And my fingerprints are all over every single one of them!
Where were you before India then?
I was in Saudi-Arabia, Dubai, Moscow, Paris, Madrid, Dublin, New York—all over the world. But I’m originally from London, I’m a Londoner.
I’ve been all over the world. But I’m originally from London, I’m a Londoner.
How did Toit become a part of your busy life?
I came here when it first opened. I’m a beer lover—beer is my love! And to be perfectly frank it was something new, but it was an improvement on drinking that popular local beer. Which is the staple diet of most people in Bangalore, or even India, for a fact. Which, by the way, is the worst beer in the world!
I came here and I could see high potential but they weren’t brewing at that point. Then I disappeared for about three years, working all over the world. And when I came back again I went to another popular brewpub and they had improved as well and their beer was decent. Then someone asked me if i’d been back to Toit and I said no. So I came back to Toit.
I sit in my seat by the corner most of the time and drink my two pints. That’s where I get my lovely complexion from!
Do you have a favourite beer?
My favourite here is the India Pale Ale, which is like the old beer we used to make in England and send out to the soldiers. We still make it in England, and Matt does a good pint with it here.
Coming from a country where the beer drinking tradition is centuries old, what do you think is the main difference between brewpubs here and there?
I’m not convinced by brewpubs completely in India because they don’t have an identity, a proper identity, yet. But Toit does. You come in here and it’s like a pub. And of course you see the vats at the entrance and you straight away know you’re in someplace professional. There’s also the beer and atmosphere in here. You don’t get that in the other brewpubs. I feel most of them are confused between being discotheques and restaurants, that just happen to serve brewed beer.
…brewpubs in India don’t have an identity, proper identity. But Toit does.
I like the atmosphere at Toit. But I’ve never been upstairs, never been past my little table. I’m an idle fellow. I like to indulge in people-watching from my spot, and I watch the chaos unfold.
Anything interesting you’ve managed to notice from your corner?
I’m surprised about the good looking girls that come here. Drinking beer too! They won’t be good looking girls for long though, they’ll all get fat like me!
But I have to tell you this. I had dinner with a very popular liquor baron a while ago, and I told him he makes the bloody worst beer in the whole world.
It was a posh charity dinner and the fellow was sitting next to me and introduced himself. I told him he had a good airline, which he did in them days, but I told him his beer was utter crap. I said my beer drinking experience goes back 50 odd years so trust me when I tell you, your beer is bad. He was shocked!
He changed the subject to wine, and asked me if he could buy me a crate. I told him not to bother, I just needed him to know his beer was bad. Dinner after that was silent-ish. But I don’t care, I had to tell this guy because you don’t understand how much I hate this beer, and how this beer has held back Indians. It’s everywhere you go! You see, I’m not just smoke and roses. I speak my mind! And this beer is rubbish!
So what beers do you like?
If I had to drink bottled beer in India, it would always be Peroni. It’s as near to the real stuff as you can get. And after that it would be Budweiser. And believe it or not, a beer called Haywards 5000. If I can’t get any of that, I would drink Old Monk rum, but they stopped making that now.
I live in Greenwich, and there’s a chain called Mean Time brewery, Greenwich Mean Time, it means. Matt knows it as well. And they make their own beers there. My top beer is from this place.
But not only the brewpubs, back there we have a beer culture, loads of big breweries that make proper beer like what you’re making here. It’s exactly the same process but on an industrial scale, with really good session beers being made. Which is perhaps one of my complaints with Indian brewpubs—they tend to make the beer a bit strong. I think they would make more money if they made it a little weaker because people would drink more! But I’m not going to complain. At the end of the day, I can handle it and I think they’ve got the model exactly right here.
I had dinner with a very popular liquor baron a while ago, and I told him he makes the bloody worst beer in the whole world.
Do you see the brewing culture catching on in India? is it a scalable model here?
Yes! This is the future. There’s no two ways about that. This model here is good. You’ve got to get the culture right—it’s got to be the right music, the right food and good beer, like they have here at this place. Also, good service—the staff here are brilliant. You go somewhere else, they’re clueless. This model can be rolled out. This could be replicated in every city, and it would be smart. I’ve been to one or two in Mumbai, but they weren’t nearly as good as this.
Apart from sampling brews and working, what else do you like doing?
I’ll be honest with you. I have quite a full-on job, with tough deadlines. Normally, I work seven days a week. On Saturday, I work till 3 in the afternoon, and after that I can be seen in here, propped up at the bar. On Sundays I just go to work in the morning. Maybe go out and eat in restaurants and things like that. I don’t do anything else.
I just wish there were more cultural things to do here. Things like where you could go listen to good music. Pubs are fine, but the live music culture is not so developed here. It’s improving, you see bands featured at pubs and stuff, they’re doing that, but you just can’t go to a rock concert. You do have them occasionally but you bring stars down who are over a 100 years old, and who were famous in the 60’s. I’m sure there’s enough bloody money to get some good bands to come and perform here!
The laws are a bit stringent for live music here.
To hell with the laws! Do what the people want, not what the police want! That parade ground in the centre of Bangalore can be turned into a fabulous venue once every six months for a good gig. Make the people pay the proper price to get good bands here. I mean, you can’t go watch the Rolling Stones in UK or Europe for under 300-400 pounds.
Beer aside, are there particular dishes you like here as well?
I love the Swedish meatballs! That’s nice here. Although if they are too spicy it’s like putting a red-hot poker in my mouth, burns my throat. But I ask them to go easy on the spice for me. And I like the Bruschetta here as well.
To hell with the laws! Do what the people want, not what the police want!
Any particular memory that stands out, in all the time you’ve been coming here?
The crowd! Especially the ones that walk straight in, and demand a table for like 12 people, at 9 pm on Saturday night. When all they’ve got to do is not be lazy and make a booking! And they know they might not get place so they’re all walking around, nicking chairs and things, and sort of like trying to squeeze their way in. It’s chaos when they try to do that. But that’s not a complaint on the girls at the front desk—the girls are amazing! The way they manage it and keep it cool. I’m very lucky I have my little spot here.
There’s just one more thing. There’s something about being in a pub before opening time—it sort of has this atmosphere to it, the smell, the emptiness, people getting ready—it’s a very unique atmosphere. I think most beer drinkers like to be in a pub before it opens, and as it opens, they get more and more into it.
Toit is amazing. It’s my favourite place in Bangalore. I’d go crazy if it wasn’t for this place, and one reason being I can’t stand the local beer. It all relates to that! Whatever Matt makes, I would drink. My contract may be extended, so i’ll be here for a while. I like it here, in Bangalore—the pollution is a bit of a drag but the people are charming and the chaos appeals to me.