We Live in Hop
From having only one real craft brewery just two years ago, Hong Kong now boasts as many as 10, with four more rumored to open in 2016.
Kowloon Bay Brewery
Kowloon Bay Brewery is the brainchild of brewer Mike Bardill and Ging Van, who noticed the lack of good craft beers all over Asia during their travels around the region. But that’s all changed in the past few years. “Just a few years ago, we had less than a handful of locally brewed craft beers,“ says Van. “Now we have 10-plus breweries around Hong Kong and the number is still growing! This city has been waiting for fresh, unpasteurized, locally brewed beer for a while.“ Van adds that it’s a growing market among expats and locals alike. “More and more local Chinese are appreciating our styles of craft beers,“ she says “We are even seeing a growth in the 20s-30s female market as well, which was a nice surprise.“
What to try: In terms of preferred styles, Van says the brewery’s Weizen wheat beer and its hoppy, grapefruity Pale Ale seems to be more popular with the Hong Kong Chinese crowd, while the classically hoppy American IPA and Amber Ale are most popular with the overall audience. Another special brew is the Gluten Free Copper Ale, Asia’s first gluten-free craft beer.
Where to get it: Various locations including Roundhouse Taproom (tap takeover Oct 29) and the Cordis Hong Kong, 555 Shanghai St, Mong Kok, 3552-3388. www.kowloonbaybrewery.com
Joe Gould of Gweilo Beer says that when creating its distinctive session-style ales, which range between 4 and 6 percent, he took two factors into account: Hong Kong’s heat and humidity, and the fact that the craft beer market here is still very immature. “We have tried to create beers that are crisp and refreshing with tropical aromas and tastes, while making them light, so that they are approachable and inoffensive to people who would normally drink lager-style beers,“ he says. Gould adds that while the most popular craft beer styles in Hong Kong tend to be New-World-style brews which are generally very hoppy with high alcohol content, Gweilo Beer has also produced English-style beers under 5 percent ABV, but that use tropical flavored hops to reflect their Hong Kong roots.
What to try: “Gweilo Pale Ale was created as the first stepping stone into the craft beer world for someone who would normally drink lager,“ says Gould. “We really hope it can be the catalyst to help redefine the craft beer
market in Hong Kong.“
Where to get it: Various locations including The Roundhouse Taproom, 62 Peel St., Central, 2366-4880. www.gweilobeer.com.
Hong Kong Beer Co.
One of the longest established independent breweries, Hong Kong Beer Co. was established in 1995 as Asia’s first craft brewery to sell beer exclusively in bottles and kegs. A recent change of hands has revitalized the brand, and HKBC sources quality malts, hops and yeasts from around the world but uses local water, which is carbon-filtered and mineral-adjusted according to the style being made. “The market is growing quickly across Hong Kong and throughout Asia as a whole,“ says Rob Whitaker, Trade Marketing Manager with the brewery. “With the expat community and Hong Kongers educated in craft beer meccas such as the US, you see hoppy beers tend to rule the roost. However, with other locals there tends to be more popularity in the lighter beers. We've found that session IPAs go down very well at events and bars. Both locals and expats are passionate about the city and enjoy buying local products, which is great for us,“ says Whitaker. “This has even spread overseas where we see a growing interest from China, Singapore, New Zealand, Russia and so on.“
What to try: Year-round beers (draft and bottled) include the light, aromatic Gambler’s Gold. The White Pearl is the HKBC’s version of a Belgian white ale, with tart, citrus notes. Or keep it classic with the balanced, always drinkable Hong Kong Beer.
Where to get it: Various locations including Stone’s, G/F, China Tower, 1-9 Lin Fa Kung West St., Tai Hang, 2570-6858. www.hkbeerco.com.
“The craft beer market is definitely expanding as more people become aware there is something better, but they are also becoming more discerning about what constitutes good craft beer,“ says Laszlo Raphael of Moonzen Brewery, which he established with his wife Michele in 2014. The name Moonzen, which means “door gods“ in Cantonese, was chosen to represent strength and integrity, which embodies the couple’s values and the brand’s local origins. Part of Moonzen’s mission statement is to celebrate local culture and “let Hong Kongers know that amazing alternatives to commercial beers exist, brewed right here in Hong Kong,“ says Raphael. To that end, the beers incorporate Hong Kong folklore and are brewed with Chinese ingredients to create a unique identity.
What to try: The Moonzen range includes Thundergod Ale, which won “best beer produced in Hong Kong“ at the recent Hong Kong International Beer Awards. This flagship beer is a fresh pale ale, with tropical and citrus hop notes. Jade Emperor IPA is an IPA with citrus and floral notes and a golden maltiness, while Monkey King Amber Ale has heavy notes of caramel with a touch of peach.
Where to get it: Various locations including The Pawn, 62 Johnston Rd., Wan Chai, 2866-3444. www.hkbeerco.com.
Young Master Ales
Rohit Dugar, founder of Young Master Ales, says that the company brews beers they like themselves and want to share with beer fans in Hong Kong. “Our goal is to build a vibrant new brewing culture in Hong Kong by introducing unique new beers,“ he says. “If we had paid attention to pre-conceived notions of what kind of beers the Hong Kong market likes, we would never have made any of the innovative new beer styles we are now recognized for!“ The company’s artisanal ales are brewed fresh with high quality ingredients, including jasmine, chrysanthemum and osmanthus to give them a distinctive local touch. The brewery is constantly introducing new styles to showcase the diversity of beer, and it doesn’t filter, pasteurize, or add artificial stabilizers or chemicals. “Hong Kong is certainly enthusiastic about craft beers and drinkers’ palates are getting more sophisticated as well,“ says Dugar. “We find people are getting more and more adventurous and going beyond pale ales and IPAs, which are generally ‘gateway’ craft beers.“
What to try: The beer range list includes all-year-rounds, seasonals and one-off special edition releases, with three to five styles typically available. The floral, zesty Young Master Classic is designed to be versatile and refreshing, while the Hong Kong Black is a winter brew that blends six types of malt for a rich caramel and coffee finish.
Where to get it: Various locations including TAP – The Ale Project, 15 Hak Po St., Mong Kok, 2468-2010. www.youngmasterales.com.
Black Kite Brewery
Brothers Daniel and David Gallie launched Black Kite Brewery in the summer of last year for three reasons—“Our love of craft beer, it was a great time for it and we both happened to be looking for a change in careers,“ says David. Named after the birds they saw from their office windows soaring among the city’s skyscrapers, the brewery currently has six core styles of beer, from wheat beer to an IPA and a porter. The brothers have recently created a lemon-lime pale ale and a five-spice IPA for a local bar, and say they’re planning new specials and seasonal brews going forward, playing with local fruits and spices. “Hong Kong's craft beer market is definitely expanding as more people, bars and restaurants are starting to realize that there are other beers out there than the big commercial lagers,“ says David. Next round’s on them, then?
What to try: “We designed our beers with our German brewer to be generally on the lighter side of the scale, so that they would be tasty but easy to drink,“ says David. “Pale ales and IPAs are always popular with craft beer lovers, but our Hefeweizen wheat beer is one of our best sellers, probably because it's quite different to other local offerings and has an interesting banana flavor to it. It’s all from the yeast and malts—no bananas were involved!“
Where to get it: The Globe, 45-53A Graham St., Central, 2543-1941. blackkite.hk.
This month is full of Oktoberfest fun all around the city. Time to dust off those lederhosen…
Happy Valley Oktoberfest
Head on over to Happy Valley's weekly races this month for live traditional German tunes, lots of beer quaffing and a whole host of Oktoberfest games: Play “Hold the Beer“ (i.e., how many pints can you hold in your hands?) or sign up for a speed drinking contest for a chance to win cash prizes… which you can then spend on the horses.
Oct 14, 22, 7pm. Happy Valley Racecourse, Happy Valley. $10 at the door for access to public enclosure.
MGM Macau Oktoberfest
Raise your stein at the MGM Macau’s 12-day Oktoberfest, which will be hosted by the Högl Fun Band complete with beer garden vibes and flowing Spaten Oktoberfest beer. There’s also Franziskaner non-alcoholic beer—
but why would you order that?
Oct 15-25. MGM Macau, Macau, 8802-1888. $130 MOP from www.mgmmacau.com/mgm-oktoberfest; includes one drink.
Oktoberfest at the China Coast Bar + Grill
You don’t need to be on your way to the airport in order to check out some of the authentic German brews at the Regal Airport Hotel’s China Coast Bar + Grill. With bottles starting from $78 and traditional Bavarian eats, a German pronunciation contest and other fun and games, it’s worth making the trip.
Through Oct 11. Regal Airport Hotel, Hong Kong International Airport,
BB’s Oktoberfest 2015
Feeling that craving for a pig knuckle? You’re not alone. Get a free Heineken with every order.
Oct 12-31. BB’s European Cuisine, 6/F QRE Plaza, 202 Queen’s Rd. East, Wan Chai, 2838-3272, www.mhihk.com.
Marco Polo German Bierfest
Kick up your heels with Die Notenhobler band, flying in from Germany to host the Marco Polo German Bierfest for its 24th anniversary this year. As is traditional, expect lots of chicken dancing, Alphorn-blowing, and Erdinger. Make sure to get there early: Between 6-7pm, if you buy a glass of beer by Octopus card you get another for free. There’s also a lucky draw to win two round-trip business class tickets to Germany—for yet more Oktoberfest shenanigans.
Oct 16-Nov 7, 6-11:30pm. Marco Polo Hongkong Hotel, Harbour City, 3 Canton Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, 2113-0088. $150-280 from www.hkticketing.com.
The First Floor
The First Floor by Lifestyle Federation officially opens its doors in November, after a soft-opening from Oct 5. A dining club featuring a new “edutainment“ concept mixing entertainment and educational experiences, a series of gastronomic events based around Oktoberfest are taking place in October, including a “Craft Beer Brew & Bites“ happy hour, a craft beer cookie baking class and a hop and cheese tasting flight. Book in advance!
13 Duddell St., Central, 2840-0032 (booking and reservation) 2840-0222 (event and party booking). www.facebook.com/LFedutainment.