Goa Urrack season sets the tipsy tone

Panaji: Michael Arauzo is a busy man in the month of March every year. His dingy bar and restaurant along the National highway in Siridao village near here is a must visit for guzzlers.

"This is a time for Urrack (first distillate of Cashew fermentation). I get pure Urrack from Canacona. I don`t believe in sourcing it from vendors. I collect it directly from the cashew plantations," Arauzo explains as he continues to entertain customers and cleaning tables at the bar.

Its a Sunday afternoon and the place with hardly five tables is jam packed mostly with locals. Costing Rs 35 per quarter, the much-in-demand-drink, has people even standing outside the bar area in a tree shade waiting for their turn.

On all tables, Urrack is ordered. Beverages like Beer and whisky take a backseat during this time of the year.

"Fish and Urrack is my speciality," says the 56-year old Arauzo, formerly working with the Merchant Navy as a cook.

"This was a small hut earlier, which was owned by us in our barren paddy field along the highway. I got an excise license with the help of a local MLA and started my own business," he explains.

Arauzo`s wife, Christina, helps him in the kitchen. Urrack is the first distillate of Cashew fermentation. The brew contains 12-14 per cent alcohol content.

"Two parts of Urrack and one of fermented cashew juice distilled again makes Feni," says Minguel Braganza, Secretary, Botanical Society of Goa (BSG). (MORE) PTI RPS DK DK

BSG has been promoting Urrack amongst tourists and also encouraging locals, who have been into this trade for generations.

The hilly areas of Sattari, Bicholim, Canacona, Quepem, Tiswadi and Sanguem are places where Urrack is distilled. The juice extracted from cashew apple is brewed into Urrack.

"We are promoting Urrack amongst tourists in a big way. The recently held Konkan Fruit Festival had a special section for Urrack," Braganza said adding that attempts are on to get GI (Geographical Indication) for this drink, which is mixed with lime juice or orange drink to accentuate its flavour.

The brew is available only during limited period of the year, especially in the first week of March. "It is available during limited time, for first ten days of cashew season," said Gurudatt Bhakta, Secretary, Goa Cashew Distilleries and Bottlers Association.

The brew, he said, is usually sold in bulk without being bottled. "There is only one brand which bottles Urrack," he said. Urrack usually gets sour if not consumed after some time.

Bhakta also explained that it cannot be marketed much among tourists as many don`t know how to consume it properly. "There are certain intricacies that one has to understand while preparing a glass of Urrack by mixing it with lime or orange drink," he added.

The State Excise department has not been taxing this brew as a matter of policy. Excise Commissioner P S Reddy said that except for 20 paise per bottle, there is no taxation on this liquor.

"Urrack manufacturing is unique to Goa and hence it is being encouraged by the state government," he said.