HK debut for 'smooth' brew
By TIM METCALFE
FINLAND'S finest beer, brewed from melted glacial water inside the Arctic Circle, has been introduced in the territory.
The brew, Lapin Kulta, is also known as the 'Golden Beer of Lapland'.
'There are only two beers in Europe that are pure enough to be bottled without pasteurisation yet keep for a year and this is one of them,' said Maurice Ting, a director of C.M. Bellman, the importer of the brew.
'The water and brewing conditions are so clean there is no contamination, while the brewery has developed a secret yeast that is bacteria-free.' Lapin Kulta, produced by the same family who founded the brewery in 1873, is the most popular imported beer in Sweden.
In addition, the brew has earned a gold medal at the Brussels International Beer Festival.
The brewing company launched the brand-name Lapin Kulta in 1969, naming it after an old gold-mining firm.
The first shipment to Hong Kong delivered last month has met with a 'positive response', according to Mr Ting.
The Hong Kong importers hope to capitalise on the demand for premium-quality beer from overseas.
'Hong Kong beer drinkers are becoming a lot more sophisticated,' Mr Ting said.
'Like a lot of other people, I used to ask for any beer when I went to a bar but now I choose a specific brand.
'A lot of people appreciate quality, chemical-free beer that doesn't give them hangovers. Some beers on sale are even cheaper than water, at $3 a can, but the quality is not there because they are brewed with additives, sugar and colouring. That is why a lot of people prefer to pay more for quality.' It is the icy waters of a river flowing from an Arctic glacier into Lake Torniojarvi that give Lapin Kulta its commercial sparkle.
'The glacial water had turned to ice thousands of years ago, long before there was any pollution anywhere,' Mr Ting said.
'There is nothing upstream from the brewery except wilderness.
'The Scandinavians are environmentally aware and people are not even allowed to fish in this river, or go swimming in it.
'The glacial water is soft and pure, with no harsh minerals in it - which means no hangovers the morning after.
'It is almost like distilled water but better because the source is pure and brings out the finest aromas in the premium beer.' In Finland and Sweden, Lapin Kulta has a big following because of its smooth and fresh, taste, according to Mr Ting who began to like the beer when he tasted it during one of his numerous business trips to Finland.
'I liked the beer so much that I asked friends to put a few cases in our freight between here and Finland,' he said.
His company exports garments and electronic goods to Scandinavia.
Importing the brew to Hong Kong has meant that the company has had to create special warehouse conditions.
The shipments have to be held in a dark, chilled storeroom.
Mr Ting said: 'We want it to reach the Hong Kong consumer in the same peak condition that it reaches consumers in Finland.' So far, Lapin Kulta is only on sale at a few places, such as Beirut restaurant in Lan Kwai Fong and the Overseas Bankers' Club.
But many more outlets are expected to stock the beer later on.
Lapin Kulta retails in Hong Kong at the same price as other premium imported beer.
Eventually, the importing company hopes the brew will become available in some outlets on draught.
The importer also plans to introduce Lapin Kulta in cans to some hotels which have requested that the brew be supplied to the establishments that way, rather than in bottles.
In the meantime, door-to-door deliveries are also being organised.
But at least five cases (24 bottles each) must be ordered to obtain a discount price per case of $198.50 - which works out at about $8 per bottle.