The unique flavors and beer names at CT's Other Desi Brewing honor its founder's South Asian roots

Photo of Leeanne Griffin
Ravi Patel, who created two beers for his Other Desi Beer Co., Dishoom!, a single IPA made and cashmere hops with the taste of melon, mango, and coconut and Jalebae double IPA made with New Zealand hops with the flavor of tangerine, citrus rind with a slight peppery nose, both made for him at Thimble Island Brewing Co. of Branford.

Ravi Patel, who created two beers for his Other Desi Beer Co., Dishoom!, a single IPA made and cashmere hops with the taste of melon, mango, and coconut and Jalebae double IPA made with New Zealand hops with the flavor of tangerine, citrus rind with a slight peppery nose, both made for him at Thimble Island Brewing Co. of Branford.

Peter Hvizdak / Hearst Connecticut Media

Ravi Patel discovered his eventual career path as a student at Eastern Connecticut State University, but it wasn’t in a classroom or laboratory.

Visits to nearby Willimantic Brewing Company left him in awe of the beer-brewing process, and eager to learn as much as possible.

“It was really the first interaction with Connecticut craft beer I’d really had,” said Patel, who grew up relatively familiar with the industry, as his parents own The Grog Shop of Meriden. “We got tons of beer from all over the place [at the] liquor store but actually seeing it being brewed, right behind the bar, was really cool, really exciting.”

After home brewing for several years, Patel branched out and launched Other Desi Brewing Company in 2018, officially starting production of the beer in April 2019. His beers, available in more than 100 retail stores in Connecticut and Pennsylvania and at a few select Connecticut restaurants, are contract-brewed through Thimble Island Brewing in Branford.

Patel is a first-generation Indian-American, and the name he chose for the brewery, Other Desi, was partly inspired by an unpleasant interaction with an acquaintance, he said. They were traveling home to Connecticut on the train after attending a Yankees game, and the acquaintance, inebriated, asked him — in a crude and offensive manner — if he was Indian-American or Native American.

He was insulted by the remark, but opted to “turn a negative into a positive.” The term “Desi” refers to the people and culture of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, he said.

Patel now represents his heritage through his beers, with names, flavors and references to his culture. Dishoom!, an IPA, is named for the punch sound effect in Bollywood movies, and Jalebae, a New England-style double IPA, melds “jalebi,” an Indian dessert, and “bae,” a nickname for significant other.

A specialty stout, High Chai, is brewed with chai and Parle-G biscuits, which Patel describes as a tea cookie. The beer has notes of vanilla, chocolate, mint and spices like cinnamon, cardamom, black peppercorn and ginger, according to Other Desi’s website.

“That was definitely a favorite of mine, and fan favorite for other people,” he said. “I’ve never heard of anyone actually using that cookie inside beer, which I’ve always wanted to do. I thought it was unique.”

Another specialty beer, 3 Ranis (which translates to “queens”) is a love letter to his female relatives, and features an image of his aunt on her wedding day. The beer is a pink guava hibiscus sour, and Patel hopes to bring it back occasionally, with the intent of donating a portion of proceeds to breast cancer research. In 2020, Other Desi donated funds to the Breast Cancer Alliance.

Philanthropy is a key part of his business model, and he will allot five percent of his overall profits to a different organization each year. In 2019, Patel donated to Kid-U-Not, a Branford-based living organ donor fund, and this year he’s contributing to the Connecticut Restaurant Association’s CT Hospitality Employee Relief Fund.

Michael Torelli of Wallingford, who has known Patel since they both went to Mark T. Sheehan High School in Wallingford, is a fan of Dishoom!

“It’s pretty good, not really heavy and a lot of unique flavors,” Torelli said.

Patel hopes to open his own taproom at some point, but he said he’s “a little cautious” to proceed with that while COVID-19 continues to impact Connecticut. Meanwhile, his beers are available for sale at Thimble Island, with Jalebae currently on tap in the tasting room.

“I really want to grow the business a little bit more, and I really want to grow my brand,” he said. “Justin [Gargano, Thimble Island’s founder and CEO] has been nothing but great to me. They’ve been fantastic in supporting me. I can’t thank them enough.”

Luther Turmelle contributed to this story.

Find out more about Other Desi Brewing Co. at otherdesibeer.com.