Craft beer has taken Hong Kong by storm over the past five years. There were two local breweries in 2013, and that has grown to more than 35 this year. The four main ingredients that go into beer-making are water, hops, malt and yeast.
The Craft Beer Association of Hong Kong (CBAHK) was founded in 2013 by industry movers and beer lovers with the aim of promoting and expanding the craft beer market in Hong Kong. Previously based in Germany, “alcohol enthusiast” Sandra Kwong is the first female president of the association. She also co-leads the local Pink Boots Society, which supports women in the beer industry.
We spoke to Kwong, who is also editor-in-chief of Coaster Magazine, about the different types of local craft beer, how to appreciate them and what makes them so popular.
Local brewery Gweilo is a recognised craft beer brand in Hong Kong and may be better known for its pale ale and IPA beers. But did you know it also produces refreshing cherry saisons? The Blooming Cherry saison is a good example of a seasonal beer; it is suitable for those who like lighter beers.
Another saison from Gweilo is the Berrylicious. This one came in an unlabelled mystery bottle as the brewery doesn’t bottle them but made an exception for us on this occasion for sampling. This is a perfect summer beer, though do not mistake its berry colour for a Kriek – which is much sweeter and fruit-flavoured. This saison is light and refreshing.
Next up is Yardley Brothers’ Machine Men, a light-coloured pale ale with a nice hop that gives out an attractive aroma. This is a crowd favourite. However, these days, there’s much hype about the IPA – Indian pale ale. The IPA is often considered the older sibling of the pale ale and the kind of drink for more seasoned beer drinkers. Yardley is also a local brewery.
Also by Yardley Brothers, the Lamma Island IPA is darker in colour with a bolder flavour. This beer is not recommended for first time beer drinkers as it is bitter and has a strong hop flavour.
Last but not least is a stout made by Founders in the US named KBS. This beer has a huge cult following and is certainly not for the faint-hearted. The first impression is that it resembles a Guinness, but soon it becomes apparent that this is a beer with an extra dimension. Even before you take a sip, the smell of bourbon, coffee and chocolate tells you what is to come. Produced by one of the older American craft breweries, the stout is aged in bourbon barrels for a full year underground – no wonder each release of KBS sells out fast.
Hong Kong’s growing appetite for craft beer is pushing the industry ahead. Although the West has established its reputation for brewing beers, our city is working hard to catch up by coming up with craft beers infused with a local touch. Go out and grab a beer. See which one is your favourite.