Whisky, beer and rum festivals ahead for Hong Kong, and it's carnival in Macau
The Lunar New Year festivities are nearly over - let the bacchanalian revels commence.
A formidable number of festivals celebrating the joys of food and drink will be staged in the course of this year - but the bad news for anybody observing Lent is that three of them are being held in March.
Already under starter's orders is the Macau Wine and Dine Festival at The Venetian Macao running from March 4 to 8.
This year's show, the third to be staged around The Venetian lagoon, will be a carnival-style affair featuring live entertainment, as well as more than 40 booths and restaurants offering an international selection of food and wine.
There will also be lectures by visiting professionals from the wine world. Admission is free, but cash coupons will be required to buy food and drink winedinemacau.com
Whisky lovers attending that party will probably want to catch the first couple of days, and then head back to Hong Kong for the second Malt Masters Whisky Festival, being held on March 7 at Qube, in PMQ in Aberdeen Street, Central.
Last year's show was a more intimate affair, held at Crown Wine Cellars, but this year it has expanded considerably.
The show is divided into two 3½-hour sessions: the first from 1.30pm to 5pm and the second from 6pm to 9.30pm.
Most of the participating distilleries are Scottish - Ardbeg, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Glenmorangie, Glenrothes, Highland Park, Talisker, and The Macallan among them - but the US' Michter's, Japan's Nikka, Wales' Penderyn and the English Whisky Company will also be present.
Each session will include a programme of master classes. Most of these will be conducted by distillery representatives, but Scottish author and leading whisky authority Charles Maclean will present one session, as will former master distiller at The Macallan and Dalmore, David Robertson, who will be speaking on the hot topic of whisky investment.
Of particular significance to visitors who take an interest in whisky history will be a couple of bottles from a batch specially created by Whyte and Mackay master blender Richard Paterson.
These recreate the flavour and aroma profiles of the Mackinlay's whisky left behind in an Antarctic hut by explorer Ernest Shackleton and his polar exploration team in 1907.
Tickets are HK$800 each, and master class tickets are sold separately at HK$200 each. The price of admission includes a Glencairn tasting glass which you can carry from stall to stall and take home at the end of the show, and a ticket for a "Dream Dram" - one of a selection of rare and expensive whiskies not otherwise available at the stalls. Supplementary Dream Dram tickets will also be available to buy. Festival tickets are available from maltmastershk.com Drinkers who like a pint as well as a dram have a week to recover before the Battle of the Brews on March 14 at The Space, 210 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan. Only 250 tickets, priced at HK$400 each, are available for each of two sessions - one from noon to 5pm and another from 6pm to 11pm. Those attending will enjoy "unlimited tastings across a range of 25 to 30 of the best craft beers in the city", says organiser Beertopia.
The event is being held as a stopgap because Beertopia this year has been deferred until October 9 and 10, when it will be held at the new Central harbourfront, featuring about 450 brews.
The third drink-category-specific festival of the year is scheduled for May 23 and 24, when the Hong Kong Rum Festival returns to the Honi Honi Tiki Cocktail Lounge in Wellington Street.
This is the third of these events held by the bar, and it too will offer a mixture of tasting booths, and master classes in the afternoons, before morphing into a party in the evening facebook.com/rumfestivalhongkong
That leaves the field for 2015 pretty much clear for the Trade Development Council's Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair, which returns from November 5 to 7. This year, the organisers are looking to feature spirits more strongly in the show, and to diversify the range of wines.
The big spirit brands were thin on the ground at the 2014 show, but a fair number of international small-scale artisan producers participated.
All these shows offer an opportunity to sample interesting tipples, some not generally available in Hong Kong or Macau. For the discriminating drinker this promises to be a stimulating year.