Cathay Pacific Launches High-Flying Craft Beer

On February 21, Cathay Pacific released Betsy Beer, a 5.1% ABV, 20 IBU craft brew specially created by Hong Kong Beer Co. for the airline cabin environment at 35,000′. With the launch targeted at Cathay’s Hong Kong to United Kingdom routes, the beer was designed to include elements of both locales. Longan (dragon eye) fruit and honey from the Wing Wo Bee Honey Farm in Shatin were added to represent Hong Kong. Fuggle hops grown in Kent, England, were chosen to characterize the destination. Rounding out the recipe is 60% wheat malt, 40% Pilsener malt, and a lager yeast.

Cathay Pacific’s ad agency, McCann Worldgroup Hong Kong, first approached the airline last year with the concept of creating a beer designed to enhance the in-flight experience. Once McCann’s Cathay Pacific Central Team finalized the concept, Cathay & McCann then approached Hong Kong Beer Co. to develop the brew. They were chosen based on their reputation and pioneering role in Hong Kong’s craft beer industry. McCann’s Julian Egli had previously worked for Liquid Assets, Hong Kong Beer Co’s former distributor, so was also familiar with their products. Continue reading

Hong Kong’s Largest Craft Beer Celebration

Beertopia 2016 PosterAsia’s first craft brewery launched in Hong Kong in 1995 when I happened to be living there. Fast forward to 2012, the city still had only one craft brewery, despite the efforts of some enterprising individuals who saw the potential. Fortunately, when Canadian, Jonathan So, discovered the lack of craft beer events and a general apathy towards beer in Hong Kong, he decided to do something about it. He started the Beertopia festival.

When embarking on a venture, you never really know what will happen. Changing culture can be a long, drawn out process or it may happen overnight. Are people ready for it? Is what you’re offering attractive? Are you engaging people with the right messaging? Can what you’ve created be scaled up and leveraged to carry the change forward? Continue reading

The Challenges for China’s Craft Beer Revolution

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Xian Brewing brewer, Jon Therrian, adds malt to his brew kettle.

As in North America, the craft beer phenomenon in China is not a fad. it’s a cultural transformation being driven by a generational shift in the consumer market. With the growing influence of urban Millennials in the marketplace, their needs and preferences are increasingly driving trends.

Craft beer is an aspirational lifestyle product that is attractive to China’s new middle class. It’s an “affordable luxury”, as Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewing is fond of saying. Although craft beer lacks the status of wine or Scotch whisky, its appreciation requires all the sophistication of wine tasting but at a fraction of the cost.

Product novelty is important to Millennials. Therefore, drinking a generic light lager designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator holds little interest. Small-batch brewing, on the other hand, embraces continual product innovation. You might say, then, that macro beer is a gastronomic cul-de-sac, craft beer an adventure. Continue reading

An Unexpected Turn

How to Drink Beer in Mandarin book cover.When I started planning the writing of The Great Hop Forward, I read that a successful Kickstarter campaign results from an audience built ahead of time. Therefore, the first thing I did was set up a Twitter account to do just that.

I like Twitter because I find it more conducive to establishing relationships than Facebook. I also like how Twitter allows you to create lists of those you follow in order to segment different audiences, communities, and information sources. And when you find suitable people or organizations to establish a relationship with, their followers are likely to be of interest to you, too, saving time hunting around for more followers.

To interest people in following you, you need to offer them something of value. My value proposition is to be the best information source in English for craft beer developments in China. I also want to encourage people to travel to China to experience the excitement of its economic and social transformation – craft beer being an interesting microcosm of that change. Continue reading

Where This All Began

Guangzhou street scene.

Men play Go on a Guangzhou street in 1992.

I first visited China on January 25, 1992. It was also my first time visiting a communist country. Even though the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone had been in existence for nearly 10 years, a sense of unease sat in the pit of my stomach as my train plodded through the Guangdong countryside en route to Guangzhou from Hong Kong. I suppose part of it was the butterflies one may get when venturing outside your comfort zone. The other part likely came from the staff’s uniforms which reminded me of the power officialdom can bring to bear on the perceived wrongdoer, agitator, criminal, or spy. I was going to Red China!
Continue reading