Japanese Beer Brand Hitachino Nest's Toshiyuki Kiuchi on Brewing in Hong Kong
With a history dating back to 1823 and its beginnings as a sake brewery, the family-owned Kiuchi Brewery began making beer in 1996 under its owl-logoed brand, Hitachino Nest. Just opened is its first ever international outpost: a 7,500 sq. ft. site in Fo Tan, which Hitachino claims is Hong Kong’s most technologically advanced brewery.
At the brewery's grand opening in early August, we spoke to eighth generation owner Toshiyuki Kiuchi about bringing the brand to Hong Kong.
Why situate a Hitachino Nest brewery in Hong Kong? The first reason is simple: Hong Kong is the center of Asia, so food culture and craft beer culture is expanding from Hong Kong to all of Asia. The other reason is that we, as a Japanese brewery, cannot export beer to the mainland [ostensibly because of health concerns raised after the 2011 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster]. With a brewery in Hong Kong, we can export to mainland China.
Will the Hong Kong brewery have any unique brews? Right now we are brewing the same beers as Japan, but in our next step we will brew special beers for the Hong Kong market, such as sour ales. It’s perfect for Hongkongers eating Chinese food, which can be oily and a little bit spicy.
What’s different between the Hong Kong brewery and the one in Japan? The size of the brewery is the main difference—the Japan brewery is 10 times bigger. All the equipment is the same as in the Japanese brewery, it’s just the size that is different. All the ingredients we will bring in from Japan, sometimes from Germany [such as the malt]. The water here is different [Hong Kong water is considered almost a blank slate with barely any minerals, ideal for brewing beer], so we are adjusting the water treatment.
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What’s the signature style at Hitachino Nest? White ale. It uses wheat malt, coriander and orange peel. It’s a cloudy beer; the signature at Hitachino.
What’s your favorite? Good question. Every day I have tastings, tastings, tastings of beer! But I like lager-style beers. The Hitachino Lager is fruity, with a lot more hops; it’s also quite a smooth beer.
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Out of the 20-plus repertoire of the Hitachino Nest brand, four to six varieties will be brewed at the Hong Kong site. Here’s what you’ll want to try:
The Hitachino take on a Belgian-style witbier, this is a light brew but juicy and fruity on the nose, made with coriander, nutmeg, orange peel and fresh orange juice. If you’re looking for something tart and citrusy this is it.
Feeling something crisp and with a smooth bitterness to take the edge off a hot summer? Their lager fuses the intensity of American hops with the warmth of malt.
Dai Dai Ale
Named after Japanese mandarins as well as their corresponding color in Japanese (daidai-iro), the deep orange Dai Dai starts off with a citrusy burst and is slightly spicy on the tongue. It’s also generously hopped up, which lends to a rounded, bitter and dry aftertaste.
Some may believe that stouts are for those who like their booze strong; not necessarily. Made with roasted malts and coffee beans, Hitachino Nest’s Espresso Stout goes down like a smooth iced coffee with a hint of chocolate and caramel. If we could drink this first thing in the morning and get through the day still standing, we most definitely would.