Interview – Jay Duan of North Taiwan Brewing

North Taiwan brewing has certainly made waves since opening, with consistent awards in recent years. Their ever popular fruit beers – especially their Lychee – have made it overseas into various markets including Singapore. My impression of them was a brewery which only made fruit beers – until I came across their full lineup which included a saison, abbey among other ales.

Interest piqued, I probed further and was impressed by the fact that they are not a huge operation – but are able to bottle and package, and ensure product consistency with shipping and export. I decided to contact them for more information, and thus this interview was born!

North Taiwan

NT’s full range of offerings.


Craft Beer Asia:

Give us some history on yourself and why you ended up brewing beer. Also,tell us about the brewery – how long have you been operating – you have won some awards.. etc.

Jay:

North Taiwan Beer was founded in 2003. We had a factory which went through a full renovation, before we started brewing in it. The founder of North Taiwan Beer was actually a student of my uncle, Duan Huo Ren, who lectures on fermentation science at a local university. I was exposed to the brewing industry by my uncle, and got hooked on brewing sometime in 2006. I was homebrewing at that point, and I realized that I really enjoyed it. After spending a few more years with beer, choosing it as a profession came naturally.

I started on a part-time basis, and after that I was called to serve the military. Upon completing my service term, I was off to Australia for a working holiday until 2009, when I returned to NTB and became a permanent employee..

We have won gold for flavored beer in 2013 for the Asia Beer Awards, as well as Gold and Silver in the Asia Beer Cup 2014. We also received recognition in the Beerfest Taipei 2014.

Craft Beer Asia:

How is craft beer performing in Taiwan? Are people willing to try strong/aggressive beers from america or are they still starting to enjoy the lighter styles?

Jay:

Craft is gaining popularity steadily in Taiwan. Belgian and American styles such as abbeys and pale ales are crowd favorites. Market share for craft versus the big breweries is still small, but consumption is going up year on year. Palates are changing with more people catching on to heavily hopped beers and big bitterness.

Craft Beer Asia:

You are exporting internationally. Have you had to upgrade equipment or processes to make sure the beer stays fresh when it is shipped?

Jay:

After bottling, all our beers go through a re-fermentation in bottles which give natural carbonation and also adds protection against off flavors from aging. Bottle conditioned beers are different – more lively and vibrant compared to beers which are aged and forced carbonated.

Craft Beer Asia:

Lychee!

Lychee!

We only receive your fruit beer in Singapore but not the saison or abbey. Could you tell us how the lychee beer is made – fresh, or syrup? Added at what point in brewing or fermentation?

Jay:

Apparently our abbey beer was not as well received in Singapore – so the distributor didn’t bring it in. But people love it elsewhere! We only use fresh lychee for the beer which is added into the fermentation tank. Our base beer is a wheat based ale. No flavor extracts or essences are used hence what you get is all-natural.

Craft Beer Asia:

What are your current challenges in running a brewery in Taiwan?

Jay:

Breweries can only operate in industrial zones by law – which is really a pity. Brewpubs are in this sense, illegal – however I find it does not make sense, as breweries are really clean places – they have to be! A brewpub is a place for people to come together, and this law has slowed down the development of beer culture.

Without the ability to brew and sell on premise, we also have issues with logistics and getting our beers out to our customers. Retailers are not keen in taking our beer without a draft setup supplied and regular maintenance, which can be a problem for us to support. Those are the current challenges we are facing.


Big thanks to Jay for taking the time to reply to my questions, and be sure to try some North Taiwan beer when you can – they are not just about fruit beers although I would never refuse the Lychee on a hot day… Cheers!

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About skinnybrewer

Found his calling as a professional brewer - life dosen't seem complete without shoveling malt, scrubbing tanks and smelling wort. Loves writing and talking beer when not making it. From Singapore.
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