Tag Archive: Hong Kong

For All The Beer In China: The Mainland and Hong Kong Beer Scenes.

So, as you have probably guessed from the title, I am splitting my quick look at the beer scene in China (Based on my admittedly limited experiences in one trip) into Mainland and Hong Kong. mainly because they are two very different scenes and two very different places culturally. As always, these are based on a short couple of weeks away, so feel free to chip in with anything I missed or got wrong.

Mainland China:
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Gweilo: Pale Ale (Hong Kong: English Pale Ale: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Clear. Large amounts of carbonation and massive bubbled white head.

Nose: Grapes. Apricot. Crisp hop character. Vanilla custard. Light lemon. Orange jelly. Light strawberry and slight dry spice.

Body: Peppery bitterness. Creamy backing body early on. A dry bready character later on. Light grapes. Vanilla yogurt.

Finish: Peppery. Brown bread. Good hop bitterness. Grapes.

Conclusion: With my recent, hugely impressed encounters with Hong Kong beer, especially in the Kowloon Taproom, I was looking forwards to break this one open – and boy, first impressions yanked me right in.

Huge solid head over a clear body made this impressive on the eye. The aroma is similarly fantastic – crisp hops, subtle fruit notes and soft vanilla variants for sweetness. Subtle and layered, I was anticipating that first sip.

You already know where this is going right? We have been down this path before. The body is …ok .. that dry, bready style that is so common of pale ales – normally I associated with the American takes, while this is generally listed as an English pale, but same point applies – a bit more grounded than the American style I guess – more peppery with good bitterness. At this point the difference between a slightly hoppier pale ale and a so called session IPA becomes even more blurred as they seem to have a lot of similar characteristics here. The main difference here seems to be that it has better body and mouthfeel than most session IPAs of similar abv.

It has vanilla yogurt flavour and thickness at times- good bitterness as mentioned, but nearly all that fruit subtext of the aroma is lost. It feels like a solid but dull base – the yogurt notes feel like they flatten the rest of the beer rather than enhance it. Promises a lot more than it gives and falls into the same trap as a lot of APAs I’ve seen (yes, EPA, I know, point still holds) in that it is overly dry and has not enough range. It has a lot of promise from the good mouthfeel for the abv but does too little with it. A weak end to what was an awesome beer trip.

Background: I saw this in a mini supermarket thing while I was looking for Tim Ho Wan Restaurant (Call me a Yorkshire stereotype if you want, but when I heard it was the worlds cheapest Michelin star restaurants I said – “Right, I’m trying that”). Their IPA was listed as part of ratebeer’s top 50 beers of Hong Kong, but I had hit IPAs pretty hard this trip, so decided to go with the pale ale instead. Drunk after getting back to the UK, this is the only beer I brought back, so the final beer of the trip. This was drunk while listening to some Testament – I had seen they were touring soon so was using youtube to check out what they sounded like.

Malt Musings: Hong Kong Beers: The Lightning Round

Ok, so after doing notes on Cereusly I decided to do a tasters rack to try as many beers as I could, since I only had a few nights in Hong Kong. I quickly realised that Hong Kong had a far better beer scene than I expected – I had done quick googling before heading out and found that even the best beers from HK didn’t seem to have too much buzz, or high scores in review aggregators. By now I really should know not to put too much faith in those. Anyway, I decided that I needed to do some quick notes just to help illustrate what good stuff is coming out of Hong Kong, even if I couldn’t do full notes for each. So, here we have a few quick overviews of some great beers.

1st in rack: Hong Kong Beer Co: Big Wave Bay IPA: 7% ABV

This one is citrusy and creamy with green fruit notes in kiwi and grapes style. The hop character is smooth and generally with restrained bitterness until the finish, where a solid hit comes out. The use of green fruit and bitterness reminds me of 8 Wired’s Hopwired. It isn’t as good as that masterpiece, but even the comparison is a high complement and it is still is a very dangerously easy to drink IPA.

2nd in rack. Yardley Brothers: Quit Your Job! 6% ABV. 28 IBU. Is this a wit beer? Googling on getting home says Saison, and I guess I can see that, but it definitely has wit beer influences. The description given by the bar really got this one spot on – Banana split sweetness with black pepper backing. This is bloody lovely. It is smooth as can be, wheaty and lightly bitter with a tasty pepper finish. Genuinely a gorgeous beer – the spice notes are well used, and the light bitterness gives an offset from the brilliantly done dessert like banana notes. Reminds me of “Not Just Another Wit” but, as it turns out, a saison. Which is a seriously high complement – if you like wits or saisons, and you see this, it is a must try in my opinion.

3rd in rack. Yardley Brothers: Mum’s Rhubarb and Orange Crumble Sour: 6% ABV. This is fairly gentle as a sour – Still rather than fizzy with only light acidity and sourness, instead concentrating on the flavour – pushing lots of fruit character – I am very impressed in that the rhubarb comes across very well – which I think is the first time I have seen that in a beer. With low sharpness and sourness it ends up feeling pretty full bodied for a sour- which could be because of its higher than average abv. Tasty in itself, it worked very well to use as a refresher between the other beers on the rack.

4th: Hero Beers: Black IPA : 6.8% abv 55 IBU. A smooth beer with chocolate, roasted notes and slight sour dough before a bitter chocolate finish. It has bitter hop character, but comparatively low for a black IPA. Not super aggressive like Cereusly but a solid BIPA. Quality wise this feels in line with the best beers of mainland China, so a very competent example of the style, but nothing stand out. Good use of cocoa and bitter chocolate notes, but feels like it needs more hop use with it. Still, if the weakest of the four tasters is this, then it is a great rack.

Heroes Beer: Cereusly +50DB IPA (Hong Kong: IPA: 6.2% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Thin white head over a clear body.

Nose: Lemon. Gooseberry. Good hop character.

Body: Juicy. Kiwi. Solid bitterness. Hop oils. Big hop character. Vanilla toffee. Gooseberry and tart grapes. Lemongrass. Frothy mouthfeel. Bready middle.

Finish: Good, heavy bitterness and hop oils. Charring. Dried black tea to gunpowder tea. Lemon sherbet.

Conclusion: This, at the end of the trip, is the first big, utterly stand out beer I have tried. I make no secret for my love for big hops in an IPA and this has that in spades.

This opens up juicy and fruity, a slight pause of kiwi before hitting with the aggressive bitterness afterwards – The green fruit of the early moments quickly falls to bitterness, charring and gunpowder tea like notes which last a long time. Late body tart gooseberry and tart grapes comes out, a refreshing release of fresh character, before it descends back into bitterness and bitter tea in the finish. It is a roller coaster ride of peaks and troughs, throwing you between sensations and only slowly letting the vanilla toffee straights of the ride show through as moments to catch your breath.

It is raw edged, yet does not feel unpolished. An assault IPA that keeps you interested to the end. It even manages as much subtlety as such a raw, assault beer can, far more than the average beer this intense, which makes for a sense awakening but not single note beer.

The Jackhammer of Hong Kong, but, if I may say so – even more intense, and more complex. Hop heads in HK, check this one out – it is the one you are looking for. I seriously hope this gets a wider distribution so more people can enjoy it. It deserves it. A proper great, intense IPA.

Background: I hunted out the Kowloon Taproom to try some more Hong Kong craft beer, and it did not disappoint – all decorated up for Halloween, with the staff in costume. It is a fairly small place and filled up fast, but the staff were great, very friendly and so enthusiastic about their beer. Had a chance to chat with some patrons and tried a fair range of beer. Some seriously good stuff. This, promising to be a big IPA, caught my eyes instantly and so was the first beer of the night.

Moonzen: Monkey King Amber Ale (Hong Kong: Amber Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Clear apricot. Thin white head.

Nose: Strong toffee malt. Cinnamon. Malt chocolate. Dried apricot. Fruitcake. Lemon sherbet.

Body: Sherbety lemon. Light chalk. Peach. Peanuts. Peppery. Mild toffee. Mild bitterness.

Finish: Lemon. Figs. Malt chocolate. Bitterness and a mix of praline and nuts. Gunpowder tea. Peanuts. Chalk.

Conclusion: This is a very different amber ale experience, examined and explained right here in the streets of Hong Kong! *cheap pop* (For some reason wrestling is on my mind right now, so I am being mildly self indulgent in my writing)

Anyway, most amber ales I’ve encountered have had at least a degree of being malt led. This does show strong toffee and therefore malt influence in the aroma, but the body is instead a fresh sherbety lemon led thing with peach notes behind. The malt body shows itself more as a nutty character, with a chalky backbone rather than a heavier toffee or malt chocolate base. There are hints of heavier malt notes but the fresh hop notes definitely rule the roost and push the rest to the back.

It is an odd beer in that it does not match anything I expected going in – so I must just take it as a beer in itself – fresh, citrusy, hints of peaches, but with a chalky grounding base. Let it warm and more balancing malt comes out, hinting more at the expected style concepts along with a growing peppery to gunpowder tea bitterness that adds some pep.

While it is slightly off when cool, heat balances the citrus notes with the malt and it becomes a good amber ale with just a touch of heat. The characteristics are odd – matching almost British ale grounding notes to American peach sweetness – a pretty good and different amber ale that it worth a try if you happen to be in Hong Kong.

Background: Hmm, we handed Hong Kong back to China in what, 1997? Should I list it separately, or under China? I listed it under Hong Kong based on 3 main considerations. 1) I needed to go through customs to transfer between the two. 2) they have their own money and 3) Most locals still view themselves as a separate entity culturally in the discussions I had. The whole scene seemed different enough that a separate listing from China seemed to make sense. Anyway, this was a random find – I was heading back from viewing the definitely legit items selling night market towards the hotel when I saw the Funky Monkey Bar – seeing that it had a few craft beers I decided to drop in for a quick one. Quite a cool aesthetic to the place.

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