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The making of Pakistan’s favourite summer drink

Updated September 02, 2018

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Barley is kept in a steep tank for three days for germination.
Barley is kept in a steep tank for three days for germination.

Barley drinks are common in this part of the world to combat fatigue and dehydration in the summer, even stretching back to olden days, when farmers would crush barley with sugar to make a healthy and replenishing drink.

Now, however, many companies produce such drinks and they are easily available in the market. One of the oldest such companies is Murree Brewery, which has produced barley malt for the last century.

Murree Brewery was opened in Ghora Gali by the British in 1860, and its Rawalpindi production unit was established in 1886. The brewery opened to meet the beer requirements of British personnel, but after partition in 1947 it also started producing food and non-alcoholic beverages under the name Tops.

The brewery produces three types of non-alcoholic barley malt. It imports the barley from Australia, after which three separate units are involved to manufacture the beverage itself.

A plaque from the old Murree Brewery — the brewery opened in Murree in 1860, but after it was burnt in 1947 the business shifted to the Rawalpindi brewery.  — Photos by Tanveer Shahzad
A plaque from the old Murree Brewery — the brewery opened in Murree in 1860, but after it was burnt in 1947 the business shifted to the Rawalpindi brewery. — Photos by Tanveer Shahzad

When it enters the production unit, the barley is in raw grain form and the grains have to be cleaned using a machine. This machine removes dust, rocks and pieces of metal, after which the grains are washed.

Now clean, the grains are placed in a machine that allows germination, which activates enzymes that convert the raw starch in the grain. After three days in the machine, the grains are transferred into a tank and boiled.

A machine records the temperature of barley being boiled at a plant.
A machine records the temperature of barley being boiled at a plant.

“We add sugar and flavour to the barley drink in this machine, and it becomes the best, healthy energy drink,” Murree Brewery manager Farasat Kazmi said.

After this, production is completed, and the drinks are packed in glass bottles, he said. The entire process of making the drinks is carried out with machinery, Mr Kazmi said, which workers are responsible for maintaining and checking the operations of repeatedly.

After the barley is boiled, the liquid and waste are separated and the liquid is moved to tanks where sugar is added.
After the barley is boiled, the liquid and waste are separated and the liquid is moved to tanks where sugar is added.

Many workmen are involved in the process of making the drinks, he said, and it is the art of the owner to finally sell it. The demand for barley malt increases in the summer because it is a traditional energy drink.

Mr Kazmi said separate units are installed in the brewery for non-alcoholic drinks - the process for these is different, he said, but barley is the main ingredient.

Bottles are transferred for packing while a worker checks a machine. — Photos by Tanveer Shahzad
Bottles are transferred for packing while a worker checks a machine. — Photos by Tanveer Shahzad

He added that the brewery ensures the product’s quality throughout the process; no artificial flavourings are used to make the drinks, because it is not possible for them to mix with the barley. Quality testing is carried out before the process begins and after they have finished making the malt, he said.

The barley waste can be used as food for milch animals, and is sold to milkmen as fodder, he said.

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2018