Hong Kong craft brewers look to ferment love for local beverages at Lan Kwai Fong Beer and Music Festival

Brewers hoping to showcase their latest delights in a city where drinkers are quickly acquiring a thirst for speciality beers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 July, 2016, 11:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 July, 2016, 3:00pm

Hong Kong’s microbrewers are looking to capitalise on the exposure offered by the annual Lan Kwai Fong Beer and Music Fest to increase brand awareness.

The summer festival, in its 14th year, will feature over 100 types of beers from countries including Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico and the US.

Hong Kong craft beer booths will line Wo On Lane, showcasing their carbonated delights and offering unique beer flavours such as citrus, wolfberry, honey and coffee.

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Devin Otto Kimble, director of Hong Kong Beer Company, said the festival allowed the company to “get in front of Hong Kong people in the middle of town” and give a shot of publicity to the brand.

“The folks who work in the brewery love going out and participating ... for them it’s a great place to hear feedback,” Kimble said.

His company will have a special brew – Orange Crush made of mandarina bavaria, new hops from Germany – for beer connoisseurs, part of its limited edition New Territories series.

Ian Jebbitt, co-founder of Gweilo Beer, hopes the event promotes local craft beer and the microbrewing culture.

“Craft beer is in the embryonic stages in Hong Kong. At the moment it’s very much in an education phase where people are learning about craft beer,” he said.

While Hong Kong’s craft beer only accounts for 1 per cent of sales, the city’s thirst for speciality beers has risen steeply in recent years.

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“Initially it was quite difficult because a lot of the bars in Hong Kong have contracts in place with some of the big distributers and big breweries which don’t enable them to sell other beers,” Jebbitt said.

But there had been a change in the market in the past six months, he said, as more and more consumers opted for craft beer.

The trend is worldwide, with double-digit growth in small and independent brewers in the US, representing 12 per cent of market share, and 21 per cent of overall beer sales, according to the Brewers Association.

Meanwhile, a first-time restaurant participant in the festival, Jinjuu, hopes the party event will help showcase some of its culinary delights. Cathy Tsim, senior sales and marketing manager of Lan Kwai Fong Entertainments, which operates Jinjuu, said a Korean-style street-food booth would be set up outside the restaurant in the hope of tempting customers inside for a full meal.

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Over the shoulder of Spencer Chan, director of Lan Kwai Fong Association, was 7-Eleven, blamed by bar operators in the area for taking away their business. But Chan did not believe the convenience store would affect sales during the festival.

“The major target [of the festival] are the beer lovers, not the convenience store customers. The real deal, the real beer lovers, will come to the festival rather than buy a bottle [from 7-Eleven] to enjoy themselves.”

The festival begins at 1pm on Saturday and runs until “late” Sunday night.