The People Behind The Pints – Meet The Craft Breweries of Hong Kong

What’s been going on in Hong Kong, you might ask? Well, if you’re talking about beer – 11 breweries have come into being in just under 2 years!

Written by Jonathan So, guest writer for Craft Beer Asia. Based in Hong Kong, he is the founder of Beertopia, the city’s largest craft beer festival, which will take place October 9-10, 2015 this year. Feel free to get in touch with him here: info@beertopiahk.com


It’s been an exciting two years for craft beer in Hong Kong, with a veritable explosion of brewing operations starting up in the city. Running the gamut from brewpubs, to new nano- and pico-breweries, to relatively large and established 500hl a month operations, the city currently has at least 11 craft beer companies to call its own. Some of them have been flying under the radar until now, so we’re here to get you up to speed.

Yin Yang Brewtonics by Moonzen.
Yin Yang Brewtonics by Moonzen.

Prior to 2014, the domestic brewing scene in Hong Kong lagged behind other major cities in Asia, such as Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, and Tokyo (possibly the craft beer capital of Asia, with its plethora of dedicated craft beer bars and over 200 craft breweries in Japan). Back then, the only real option for good, locally produced Hong Kong beer was Typhoon Brewery’s T8 or fantastic Eastern Lightning, which could only periodically be found on hand pump at The Globe. Sadly, the small Lantau-based brewery, founded and run by Cathay Pacific pilot Pierre Cadoret, closed operations in late 2012.

Luckily, in the intervening years, some of the city’s most ardent and intrepid beer enthusiasts have set out to put Hong Kong on the craft brewing map. They’ve made high quality, domestically produced beer a reality,  and in the process, changed the way Hong Kongers drink. The breweries below are the fruits of their labour.

Knowing how quickly things can change in Hong Kong, and with additional new breweries already in the pipeline, we hope this is just the beginning of a shift towards increased general awareness and consumption of better beer in a city that’s been dominated by mass market lagers for far too long.


BLACK KITE BREWERY

Black Kite - Brewery Interior
Black Kite’s home.

Black Kite Brewery started production in April 2015. The brewery was founded by
brothers Daniel and David Gallie, who were born and raised in Hong Kong. The brewery is named after the birds they frequently saw from their office windows soaring among the city’s skyscrapers.

Based in Aberdeen, the brewery has a capacity of about 10,000L a month. Head brewer Johannes Lux is originally from Bitburg, Germany. He apprenticed at Bitburger Brewery before gaining experience from various breweries from around the world, including Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and China.

Q : What was the biggest challenge with getting the brewery up and running?

A: “Typical in Hong Kong: Renovation! It took far longer than anticipated, and was particularly difficult because everything had to meet the licensing requirements.”

Q : What beers are currently part of the standard lineup?

A : “The current lineup features a Pale Ale, Wheat, IPA, Brown Ale and Porter. We also do a Golden Ale for Hullett House.”

Q : What can people expect and what are the plans for the future?

A : “We hope to get into more bars, and we’re experimenting with a few different special ales. We’re really excited about our coffee beer! We’d love to open a brewpub in the future and also expand the brewery.”

Q : Can people visit the brewery? If so, how and when?

A: “We don’t have set visiting hours yet, but if you email beer@blackkite.hk, we can probably arrange something!”

Find Black Kite at:

Black Kite beers can be found at Hullett House, The Globe, Mrs. Pound, Beer & Fish, Casa Sai Kung, Casa Kennedy Town, and The Ale Project.

Black Kite Brewery
11B Derrick Industrial Building
49 Wong Chuk Hang Road
Aberdeen, Hong Kong
www.blackkite.hk


FAT ROOSTER BREWING CO.

Fat Rooster Brewing Co - Brewery Equipment Based in Wong Chuk Hang, Fat Rooster started brewing in December 2014. Run by James Dwyer, who also handles the brewing responsibilities, the brewery has a capacity of approximately 4,000L per month. Originally from the UK, James has been in Hong Kong for more than 10 years and also runs the Beerhound.com.hk online retail beer store. Right now, the main lineup features their Hong Kong IPA and Brown Ale.

Q : Where does the brewery name come from and what is its significance?

A: “Proud to be local, we wanted a name that was not only catchy and quirky with personality, but also paid respect to the culture of the fast-paced, neon-illuminated city we all know and love. With most cultures embracing the rooster as a sign of illumination – ranking tenth in the Chinese Zodiac – and its symbol being as vibrant and diverse as its shimmering plumage, we decided to name our brewery Fat Rooster Brewing Co.”

Q: What was the biggest challenge with getting the brewery up and running?

A: “The fermenters are massive, so getting them through the doors was very tight!”

Q: What can people expect and what are the plans for the future?

Fat Rooster Brewing Co - Kegs with logos
Mini Kegs!

A: “The Hong Kong IPA will stay as our headliner. Meanwhile, a larger range of styles will
be released. Additionally, we are looking at wider distribution across the city and we plan to make Fat Rooster available via mini keg-shaped growlers, which can be filled at places like The Saint and Coyote. Stay tuned!”


Find Fat Rooster at:

Fat Rooster beers can be found at The Saint, Rockabilly , Grand Central Bar and Grill, and other outlets. For the complete list, refer to the Our Beers page on their website. Unfortunately, brewery visits are currently unavailable.

Fat Rooster Brewing Co.
Wong Chuk Hang
www.fatrooster.hk


GWEILO BEER
Gweilo Beer - beer closeup 2

Gweilo Beer was launched in 2015 by friends Emily and Joe, who are both originally from the UK. Emily and her husband are homebrewing enthusiasts who moved to Hong Kong in 2012 and were disappointed in the limited availability of good, locally produced beer. Joe, a fellow craft beer lover, moved to Hong Kong in 2013, where he met Emily, and together they decided to team up to create fresh and exciting, locally brewed beer in their adopted home.

A self-described “gypsy” brewery, Gweilo Beer’s recipes are currently contract brewed under license by Hong Kong Beer Co. in Chai Wan. It currently produces 4,000L per month and anticipates having to increase this before long.

Q: What was the process for getting the brewery launched?

A : “We spent six months tasting and benchmarking more than 150 craft beers as research for the recipes. This testing helped us create the profile for our beers, balancing the flavours, depth, colours and alcohol levels. We then embarked upon sensory sessions to sample a range of malts and hops from around the world. The final stage of the process was small-scale test brews to perfect the recipes. After a long journey, we started selling beer to the people of Hong Kong in June 2015.”

Q : Where does the brewery name come from and what is its significance?

A : “A range of craft beers that help redefine Hong Kong’s beer market needed a name which was born in Hong Kong and has undergone a redefinition of its own. “Gweilo” is a redefined name, for a redefining beer.”

Q: What beers are part of the standard lineup?

A: “Currently, there are two Gweilo beers available; the Pale Ale and the IPA. Both are based on the English ‘session’ style ales that we used to brew back in the UK. These recipes have been combined with tropical influences to complement local flavours in Hong Kong.”

Q : What can people expect and what are the plans for the future?

A: “We are busy researching our third recipe, as well as planning seasonal brews. The team is excited to be involved in the upcoming Beertopia event and we also have a few things up our sleeves for Beer Week in October! Be sure to look out for the Gweilo Beer Van that will soon be giving away free beer on the streets of Hong Kong. More details of all events can be found on our Facebook page.“

Find GWEILO at:Gweilo Beer - beer closeup 3

Since first pouring at The Globe, Gweilo Beer can be found at numerous bars and restaurants including The Roundhouse, Beer & Fish, and The Tramline Liquor Co. A full map with locations can be found on their website.

Gweilo Beer
www.gweilobeer.com



HONG KONG BEER CO.

HK Beer Co. - Fermenters 1
The behemoth brewery of Hong Kong!

Established in 1995, HK Beer Co. was Hong Kong’s very first craft brewery. Originally founded as the South China Brewing Company, it was the city’s third local brewing operation, behind San Miguel and Carlsberg. Fighting the good fight, their first beer, Crooked Island Ale, challenged the dominance of lagers in Hong Kong, and was even available at the very first incarnation of The Globe.

In the intervening years, the brewery changed ownership and name. For a period, it became known for mostly producing uninspired lagers. That all changed in 2013 when the brewery was purchased by Devin Otto Kimble and Daniel Flores. Originally from the United States, they started Brewerkz in Singapore in 1997, and have spent a number of years in Asia.

With a renewed dedication to brewing creativity, all recipes have been completely updated, and there’s a new lineup of beers, revamped branding, and even a series of real ale, the Crooked Island Cask series to commemorate company’s first beer and 20-year anniversary. Under the guidance of new head brewer Simon Pesch, the brewery has been producing beer from its new home in Chai Wan since March 2014 and has a capacity of 50,000L a month.

Originally from San Francisco, Simon relocated from Berkeley, California, where he was the brewmaster of Pyramid Brewing for the last 14 years. During that time, Simon’s beers won multiple awards, including the prestigious Mid-Sized Brewing Company Brewer of the Year award at the Great American Beer Festival in 2008.

HK Beer Co. - Fermenters 2
Workin’ the cellar.

Q : What was the biggest challenge with getting the brewery up and running?

A : “The biggest challenges associated with setting up a brewery in Hong Kong were finding the right space to house all the equipment needed, as well as searching for the correct brewmaster who held the same passion and desire for brewing as we do, and the drive to turn Hong Kong Beer Co. into a world-class brewery.”

Q : What beers are currently part of the standard lineup?

A : “We have 6 year-round beers: Gamblers Gold (Golden Ale), Hong Kong Beer (Amber Ale), Dragons Back (Pale Ale), Big Wave Bay (India Pale Ale), Sevens Stout, and White Pearl (Wheat Ale). We also have our Crooked Island Cask Series – real ales that we change every month or so. The brewery is also about to launch The New Territories series, which will be constantly evolving and brewed specially for craft beer aficionados.”

Q : What can people expect and what are the plans for the future?

A : “More innovative and creative beers, that push the boundaries for craft beer in Asia. We are looking to brew beers that have never been done before in Hong Kong, as well as adapt traditional styles to be more Hong Kong.”

Find HK Beer Co. at:

HK Beer Co. can be found in more than 100 locations across Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Singapore. Visit their website for the full, up-to-date list. Brewery tours are available Wednesdays after 4 p.m. and Fridays between 4 and 8 p.m. For more information or to make an appointment, email: info@hkbeerco.com.

HK Beer Co. - Bottles on white
Mainstay beers of HKBC.

Fun fact:  When turned 90 degrees clockwise, the HK Beer Co. logo resembles 吞, the Chinese character for drink or swallow.

Hong Kong Beer Co. Ltd.
Unit 5A, Ground Floor
Wah Shing Centre
5 Fung Yip Street
Chai Wan, Hong Kong
www.hkbeerco.com


KOWLOON BAY BREWERY
Kowloon Bay Brewery - Logo

Currently in the final stages of construction, Kowloon Bay Brewery is so shiny and new that it’s still a couple weeks away from starting production. Once complete, the brewery will have a capacity of 2,800L per month.

The brewery was started by craft beer enthusiasts Ging Van and Michael Bardill. Born in Hong Kong, Ging was raised in Hawaii and spent time in San Francisco before returning to her birthplace in 2009. Michael, on the other hand, is originally from Warrington in the United Kingdom, and settled in Australia before moving to Hong Kong in 2015 to take on the brewing responsibility for the new brewery. He brings with him a graduate certificate in brewing from the University of Ballarat, commercial brewing experience at Mornington Peninsula Brewery in Victoria, Australia, and over 26 years of homebrewing experience overall.

Although based in Tsuen Wan, the company is named after the area that was originally considered for the brewery. The name sounded cool enough they decided to stick with it.

Q: What was the biggest challenge with getting the brewery up and running?

A : “Our biggest challenge was definitely funding. This was not our originally planned brewery size to start. However, given that most investors like to see the business with some track record before deciding to support the venture, it was quite hard to gather enough funds to start the 15hl brewery we originally planned for.  Therefore, we decided to start with this smaller scaled version before expanding over the next year or so.”

Q : What beers are currently part of the standard lineup?

A : “The brewery will launch with five styles: Pale Ale, American IPA, Weizen, Nut Brown Ale and Amber Ale.”

Q : What can people expect and what are the plans for the future?

A: “We are definitely looking to expand our brewery to either 15hl or 20hl, depending on the demand.  We are also being solicited by bars, pubs and restaurants in other countries in Asia, and as far as the US!“

Find Kowloon Bay at:

Follow Kowloon Bay Brewery on Facebook and Twitter to find out where its beers will be available when they launch!

Kowloon Bay Brewery
Tsuen Wan
www.kowloonbaybrewery.com


MAK’S BEER

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Brewery tours!

Mak’s Beer (麥氏釀酒廠) was started by cousins Po Mak (麥波) and Ho Lun Mak (麥浩倫), and their good friend Tak Chi Lo (盧德枝). They are three Hong Kong locals who love beer so much they decided to start brewing it themselves. Mak’s Beer started producing beer in April 2015.

In addition to being the last name of two of the co-founders, “mak,” 麥 in Chinese means wheat, which was the first style produced by the company. Based in Tsuen Wan, the brewery has a capacity of 2000L per month.

Q : What was the biggest challenge with getting the brewery up and running?

A : “The biggest challenge we’ve faced – and still face – is the acceptance of craft beer in Hong Kong. Craft beer has only recently become more common in Hong Kong and most Hong Kongers are still not familiar with the concept. So our aim is to educate people regarding craft beer and hopefully see them join and participate in craft beer events.”

Q : What beers are currently part of the standard lineup?

A : “We currently have four beers: Wheat Ale, Longan Pale Ale (made with dried longans), Sugarcane Stout (made with black sugar cane sugar), and Salt Farm Pilsner. The last contains no salt, but is inspired by a village in Sai Kung called Yam Tin Tsai (鹽田仔) that we all love. And we’ll have new styles coming soon!”

Q : What can people expect and what are the plans for the future?

A : “In the future, we hope to increase our capacity. We also hope to brew more unique styles of beer with unique flavours for our different clients using local Hong Kong ingredients. And hopefully we’ll have our own brewpub at some point.”

Jpeg
Mak’s lineup.

Find Mak’s at:

Mak’s Beer can be found at Itchi, Ruggers, and Chao 2 by Chaophraya. Take a look at their

Facebook page for additional locations. While the brewery currently does not hold regular tours, visitors are welcome and interested parties can send them an email to arrange a visit.

Mak’s Beer
1603, Block 2, Tak Fung Industrial Centre,
168 Texaco Road, Tsuen wan, N.T.
www.maksbeer.com


MOONZEN BREWERY

Moonzen - Label Sketches by Lazslo 2
Behind the logo..

Established in December 2013, Moonzen (門神) was flying under the radar until their Thundergod Pale Ale won the awards for Best Pale Ale and Best HK Produced Beer at the 2014 Hong Kong International Beer Awards. That achievement was followed by a bronze medal at the 2015 Asia Beer Cup for their Jade Emperor IPA. Suffice to say, they’re flying under the radar no more.

With its 1-hectolitre system, the brewery was founded by Michele and her husband Laszlo Raphael. The pair also handles the brewing responsibilities. Michele is originally from Hong Kong, while Laszlo is from Mexico and has been in Hong Kong for more than 6 years.

And those gorgeous bottle labels? Laszlo does the design concept​ before working closely with a talented friend, ​who ​digitizes them​, does the typography​​ and finalizes all the details​. For their Yin Yang Brewtonics series, they enlisted the help of Michele’s father, who did the elegant calligraphy.

Q : Where does the brewery name come from and what is its significance?

A : “​Moonzen means ‘door gods’ (門神) in Chinese. We chose ‘Moonzen Brewery’ for our name because we are inspired by the rich tapestry of Chinese folklore and are rooted in Hong Kong culture. In ancient Chinese folklore, door gods are the spiritual guardians of entrances, attracting good luck and fending off evil spirits. They possess integrity and strength, and are bolstered by their fierce expressions and impressive weaponry. In Moonzen’s case, they showcase our values and local origins, fueled by our fierce passion for craft beer and top-notch brewing equipment.​”

Moonzen - brewery
Beer made with.. love?

Q : What was the biggest challenge with getting the brewery up and running?

A : “Setting up the equipment [was the hardest part] because we ordered separate parts and built the brewery ourselves. Also, finding parts in Hong Kong that could be used to build the brewery.”

Q : What beers are currently part of the standard lineup?

A : “​Currently available beers are the Thundergod Ale, Monkey King Amber Ale, Jade Emperor IPA, Kitchen God Honey Porter, and Moon Goddess Chocolate Stout​.”

Q : What can people expect and what are the plans for the future?

A : “Exciting beers inspired by local​ flavours and new styles.”

Moonzen - beers
Are the labels for sale?

Find Moonzen at:

Moonzen beers can be found at spots such as Craftissimo, ​HK Brewcraft, Gourmet on Victoria, and The Bottle Shop. Visit their website for the full list. While they don’t offer official tours at the moment, those interested in visiting their facility in Kwun Tong can make an appointment via email, at beer@moonzen.hk.

Moonzen Brewery
Kwun Tong
www.moonzen.hk


TIPPING POINT BREWING CO.

Opened in 2013, founder Rajan Pun, who is originally from Nepal and has spent almost 20 years within the F&B business in Hong Kong, was motivated by the fact that the city didn’t have a single brewpub at the time. Joined by co-owner, Torahito Shinohara, originally from Japan, and head brewer Troy Foo, the brewpub, located in the heart of Wyndham street’s bars area, currently has a capacity of about 1400L per month. Troy, originally from the United States, has worked for both Miller brewery and Peroni, before joining Tipping Point.

Q : Where does the brewery name come from and what is its significance?

“When you pour something from a big portion to the smaller portion, it could be anything, that last moment before it pours to the other end is “tipping point.” For us – Pouring to the pint glass from the tap, there is a tipping point. For the customer – When they pick up their glass for a sip, right before the beer pours into their mouth, there is a tipping point.“

Q : What was the biggest challenge with getting the brewery up and running?

A : “Space is always a challenge in Hong Kong, especially in the Central area. Since we were the city’s first brewpub and the first ones to try and brew on premises, we faced even more challenges. Additionally, the venue needed to be completely inviting to guests while the brewing process was taking place, in terms of noise, smell, etc.”

Q : What beers are currently part of the standard lineup?

A : “We’ve currently got the MC3 IPA (using Magnum, Citra, Cascade and Centennial Hops), TP Pale Ale, West Coast IPA, D-Day IPA (an American-style IPA, using only American ingredients), The Forest Pale Ale, and the Vienna Wit.”

Q : What are the plans, or what can people expect, in the future?

A : “In the future, expect more beer styles using classic Chinese ingredients. We are also planning on distributing our beers more widely across the city, but we are just supplying friends and family, wholesale, for now.

Visiting the brewpub:

Open daily, with tours available upon request. Make an appointment via email or Facebook.

Tipping Point Brewing Co.
GF & 1/F, 79 Wyndham Street
Central
http://www.tpbc.beer


THE TRAFALGAR BREWING COMPANY

Where the magic happens.
Where the magic happens.

For those familiar with the original Trafalgar, a popular Wanchai British pub, The Trafalgar Brewing Company is its older, more mature sibling. Gone are the beer pong and shisha, instead replaced by a small on-site brewery. Spacious, and much larger than the original, they opened in July of 2014, and served their first batch of beer the following month. The brewpub, with a monthly capacity of about 2,000L, is run by Sam Tam, who spent time in the UK and also runs the original Trafalgar.

Q : What was the biggest challenge with getting the brewpub up and running?

A : “The biggest challenge is maintaining constant quality, since the kit we have, although is of reasonable size, sometimes changes in variable like temp or bitterness of hops can significantly affect the outcome.“

Q : What beers are currently part of the standard lineup?

A : “The year round beers are the Golden Mushroom Pilsner, which is named after my Golden Retriever and doesn’t have any mushrooms in it, Victory Ale, Hops & Glory IPA, and the Kiss Me Hardy Stout.”

Q : What are the plans, or what can people expect, in the future?

A : “We are looking into introducing a Chinese tea infusion beer, experimenting with teas like oolong and jasmine, and so far things have been promising during the trial stages. Eventually we’d like to increase the production and brewing capacity.”

Visiting the brewpub:The Trafalgar Brewing Co - Bar Exterior

The Trafalgar Brewing Company brewpub is open daily. While they don’t hold regular tours, the small brewing area, with it’s tanks and equipment, can be seen from behind the large glass window.

The Trafalgar Brewing Company
1/F, Causeway Centre
28 Harbour Road
Wan Chai Hong Kong
www.trafalgar.com.hk


YARDLEY BROTHERS BREWING

Founded by brothers Duncan and Luke Yardley, the Lamma Island-based brewery started producing beer in January 2015. Originally from Edinburgh, Scotland, the brothers have called Hong Kong home for five years now. Currently a small operation, they’re producing about 660L per month.

Yardley Brothers - Brewer Closeup
Looks about right…

Q : What was the biggest challenge with getting the brewery up and running?

A : “The biggest challenge was sourcing the supply of ingredients, and finding and funding a property to rent.”

Q : What beers are currently part of the standard lineup?

A : “We have two beers at the moment – the Lamma Island Pale Ale, and Lamma Island Rum Bear, which is an imperial IPA.”

Q : What can people expect and what are the plans for the future?

A : “We soon hope to have time to offer tours and expand production.”

Find Yardley Brothers at:

Best enjoyed at...
Best enjoyed at…

Yardley Brothers beer can be found at Lamma Grill, and the Yardley Brothers “BeerShack,” opening August 8th (weekends only, 16B Tai Yuen Village, Yung Shue Wan, Lamma Island). Brewery tours and visits are not available yet.

Yardley Brothers
Lamma Island
www.yardleybrothers.hk


YOUNG MASTER ALES

Founded by Rohit Dugar, Young Master Ales is one of the city’s most well known craft breweries. Since beginning operations in November 2013, the brewery has produced numerous unique and creative seasonals and one-offs. They’ve also done collaboration brews with other breweries, such as Renaissance Brewing from New Zealand and Boxing Cat Brewery from Shanghai.

An avid homebrewer prior to opening Young Master, Rohit won first place in Hong Kong’s very first homebrewing competition in 2013, with the recipe that would go on to serve as a template for his  seasonal Hong Kong Black beer. Based in Ap Lei Chau, the brewery has a capacity of 15,000L per month and hopes for additional expansion in the future.

Q : Where does the brewery name come from and what is its significance?

A : “Our name is inspired by old Hong Kong and specifically a movie “工廠少爺”. The setting of the movie is in a Hong Kong factory, which was the mainstay of the local economy a couple of decades ago. Our brewery is based in a factory building and we are making something here, which you don’t see much of anymore. Also the movie is a coming of age story of the protagonist, the “Young Master.” He is a playful character but, as the plot progresses, he grows up to do the right and responsible thing. We like this interplay between fun and seriousness, which is what beer and beer making is about, so the name appealed to us on many levels.”

Q : What was the biggest challenge with getting the brewery up and running?

A : “Availability (or lack thereof) of suitable sites is one of the major difficulties. Other challenges stem from there not being a brewing industry in Hong Kong (until recently). Because of this, there is no support infrastructure and a limited availability skilled technicians etc., which makes otherwise easy problems harder to fix.”

Q : What beers are currently part of the standard lineup?

A : “At any given time we have four year round beers, one seasonal and two to three one-offs or experimentals. Year-round beers include the Classic Pale Ale, 1842 Island Imperial IPA, Rye On Wood and The Captain’s Bar Beer. Our seasonals are the Mo’ Mo’ Wit (Summer), Festbier (Fall), Hong Kong Black & Celebration Ale (Winter) and In the Mood for Spring (Spring). Besides these there is a constantly changing set of experimentals and one-off beers.”

Q : What can people expect and what are the plans for the future?

A : “People can expect much more of what we have been doing – constant innovation and regular supply of new and unique beers. Also, hopefully an expanded production capacity and availability of our beers in bottles.”

Find Young Master Ales at:

Young Master Ales beers can be found on tap in at more than 40 locations across Hong Kong. The full list of outlets is on their website. The brewery is open for visits and tours most Saturdays, from noon to 5 p.m. Send them an email to schedule an appointment.

Young Master Ales
Units 407-9, Oceanic Industrial Centre
2 Lee Lok Street
Ap Lei Chau
www.youngmasterales.com

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