We Checked Out A Craft Brewery in Hong Kong

We essentially tried to marry two different traditions. A beer style, a kind of somewhat forgotten beer style from Germany called gose, which is a sour and salty style of beer. We were simply sitting in a cha chaan teng and somebody ordered salted lime 7-Up, which is like a very common thing in Hong Kong. And then we started to think this kind of idea incorporated into beer would be really cool. Hi, I’m Rohit Dugar, the founder of Young Master Brewery here in Hong Kong. So somebody in the team pointed us to this movie from the ’60s. It’s about, you know, the son of the owner of a factory. So the young master of the factory, and, you know, it’s a coming of age kind of story. He’s a young playful character, and as kind of the plot progresses, he gets serious and responsible and does the right thing. That kind of resonated at many levels because, you know, beer’s supposed to be fun and playful. Young Master is one of the first craft breweries in Hong Kong, and now one of the largest. Over the course of next year, we expect to be producing at full capacity, which is about a million or so liters a year. The company has a range of local beers, with aesthetics and flavor profiles unique to Hong Kong. For example this beer, Cha Chaan Teng Gose. It’s soured using lactobacillus, essentially probiotic strains of lactobacillus bacteria. And we add sea salt and coriander seeds, and we layered essentially you know, house-aged salted limes’ flavor on it, which kind of just brings the whole thing together. I think that’s an example of how we approach using local ingredients. We don’t want to indiscriminately just throw something in for the sake of doing it. It needs to be rooted and make sense as an overall beer. What makes a local beer local? Like, you have barrels from everywhere. Where do the yeasts come from? So some of the yeasts come from labs that are essentially all over the world. But in our sour beer program, it’s actually, some of the yeast is wild and indigenous. So you know, when we do, you know, wood-aged sour beers we are getting some kind of organisms that live in the atmosphere here that are actually going into the beer and contributing to its complexity as well. The beer Hak Mo Sheung is essentially inspired by Chinese mythology, and it’s named after this kind of demon who represents the dark side. This particular bottle has chocolate and vanilla added to it. It’s a very expensive beer to make. But you get this decadent rich chocolatey, smooth beer at the end of it. So this beer called Another One, we took this as a technical challenge. How do we make a beer that’s relatively low in alcohol but still very flavorful, and that is not an easy thing to do. Once you go below kind of the 4-4.5 percent mark most of the beers on the market that you’ll see are going to be very watery and, you know, not interesting at all. So we had to change our brewing technique quite substantially to be able to do this. The thing about the tastes, especially in East Asia, is most people love their tasteless lagers and their profileless beers, right? How do you feel about that when you’re coming out with bold tastes? I think I… and I guess everybody at Young Master, we do not believe in this notion that people in East Asia in particular like flavorless things. I think that is insulting. I think what has happened is the industrialization of beer has dumbed it down, so those are the only choices for people. So our job is to make a choice available to them and let them try these things. Young Master is just one of many craft breweries that’s popped up in Hong Kong in recent years, suggesting that beer lovers want more choices. And as each maker pushes the envelope with taste and technique, the potential for craft beer grows. This part of the world hasn’t had a beer brewing culture for quite some time. What we’re trying to do is marry a very old, you know, beer that’s 10,000-plus years old, and local culture has, you know, very deep old roots too. When you’re trying to marry the two to some degree, that cannot be done overnight.

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