Grin and beer it
Time was when Bangalore was known as the pub capital of India. Then came the strict nightlife laws - dancing was prohibited in places that serve alcohol, and all restaurants and pubs were forced to draw shutters by 11.30pm - that dulled the shine of the glory days a fair bit. But with deadlines now pushed to 1am and the finest collection of craft breweries in the country, it's still one of the best places to go pub crawling. While there are a number of venerable institutions, let's start with the ones closest to the Chinnaswamy Stadium and then walk along MG Road onto Brigade.
The Biere Club, 20/2 Vittal Mallya Road
Bangalore's first-ever brewpub is only a short amble away from the stadium - perhaps a bit longer after a few beers - and it's the place to sink a few pre-game pints. On their six taps they have four classics - ales, lagers, stouts and wheats - but what you want to drink here are their rotating club specials and seasonal favourites that range from apple and mango ciders to a superb Irish red. And what better to accompany a crisp ale than a wood-fired plank pizza?
Bootlegger, 36 Vittal Mallya Road Across from the Biere Club is this pocket-friendly, well-stocked bar. They have a great selection of bottled beers from all over the world and also an enviable collection of spirits, from single malts to even absinthe and sake. If those don't catch your fancy, go here for the cocktails that range from the classics to tikis, all priced between Rs 300 and Rs 400. And if that still doesn't convince the greedyguts in you, beer is Rs 75 during happy hours, and cocktails Rs 100. If you find you can't make your way to the match after this, they also screen them here.
Hard Rock Café, 40 St Mark's Road
The energy of this place is incredible. With possibly the best music system of any Bangalore restaurant or pub, clichés like "the music really hits you" can be thrown around truthfully. Rock bands play live some nights. It gets crowded over the weekend, so plan accordingly. Wash down great American burgers, Tex-Mex food or pasta with local light lagers, superlative Belgian Trappist beers, pomegranate martinis, or any of the variants of the reliable Long Island Ice Tea.
Koshy's, 39 St Mark's Road
Down the road from HRC is Koshy's - completely frills-free but infinitely more "atmospheric". This is where Bangalore's arty set hangs out, amidst checkered tablecloths and lazy waiters (there's a secret room they all disappear to when you need them). The between-meals fare includes excellent minced meat or liver on toast, cutlets, sandwiches, and eggs done various ways. Koshy's offers standard bottled beer (no draught) and what is known as Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL). You might need to wait for a table, but once ensconced you can linger for hours without breaking the bank.
13th Floor, 84, MG Road
Since Bangalore doesn't have too many tall buildings, this bar on the 13th floor of a building on the city's arterial road is a big draw. Besides the great views, the good cocktails and super food are definite attractions. I've never had a dish here that I didn't like, but the kebabs and spare ribs are outstanding. Saturday nights are couples-only and if you want a table, it's advisable to reserve in advance.
Le Rock Café, Rest House Road, Off Brigade Road
A rock pub where the night starts out slow but gets progressively more noisy and ends with an hour or so of heavy metal. Le Rock has a great music system and LCD screens all around. Their cocktail pitchers are fantastic. There is Kingfisher on tap (served in funky mugs), but if beer is your poison, make sure you arrive early: it tends to run out on super-busy nights. The seafood platter and bacon-wrapped prawns make for yummy bites.
Guzzlers, Rest House Road, off Brigade Road
An expat favorite, this laid-back place its great for days when you're not in the mood for an intense rock pub experience and just want to chill out with a beer. The music is unobtrusive and low enough to allow for easy conversation. You'll find most people here nursing a draught pint or a whiskey.
Pecos, Rest House Road, off Brigade Road
Possibly the cheapest pitcher of beer at a real pub. The patrons here fall into two categories: college students and those who wish they were college students. Pecos mostly plays classic rock from the '60s and '70s. Till a few years ago, their music was played off cassette tapes - what do you know, some of them still work. Less well known is their excellent food: the appams and stew they have for breakfast is to die for, as is the prawn curry, and the dosas, the thick fluffy type. You may even be forgiven for never getting to the main courses because of the spicy beef/pork/bacon chilli fry, which goes wonderfully well with beer. Be warned that they serve no other liquor than beer, though.
Arbor Brewing Company, Magrath Road
Just off Brigade Road, at the Allied Grand Plaza, Arbor Brewing occupies a sprawling floor, but that doesn't mean you'll find a table here. Jam-packed in the evenings - and with good reason, they brew some fantastic beers here - this is a stop for those who like their beer strong and full-bodied. Some of the city's best IPAs are brewed here, hoppy to a fault, but true to style and with some high ABV (alcohol by volume) ales, you'd do well to line your insides with their excellent nachos or chilli cheese bacon fries.