TAPS and Parallel 49 Create First China-Canada Collaboration

In craft beer’s never-ending quest to create something new and different, collaboration beers began as an expression of friendship and mutual respect between two or more brewers. For example, when I learned that the brewhouse from DIX BBQ & Brewery in Vancouver had been bought by the owners of Brassneck Brewery, I proposed to their brewer/co-owner, Conrad Gmoser, that he, Derrick Franche, and Tony Dewald do a brew together on the system they had each used.

So was born the Spirit of DIXmas Past IPA, a bold West Coast IPA that DIX was legendary for. Today, it is brewed at an annual gathering of the three brewers at Brassneck, timed to come out just before the Christmas holidays. Its release at Brassneck spawns an impromptu reunion of DIXheads, the hophead regulars who held their own New Orleans-style funeral wake when the Mark James Group brewpub closed.

These days, collaborations – like brewmasters dinners and tap takeovers – have become rather everyday. To make a statement, you need to come up with a unique angle, such as the Red Racer Across the Nation Collaboration for Canada’s 150th anniversary. This was a 12-pack of collaborations Central City’s brewer, Gary Lohin, made with one brewer from each province and territory in the country, which I shared at the China Craft Brewers Conference Industry Night in Shanghai in May. Continue reading

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The Dragon and the Beaver: Comparing Craft Beer in China and Canada

The emergence of craft beer is, foremost, a reaction against the excessive dominance of mass-market lager. If one believes a state of harmony is achieved with the mean, then this is but a natural reaction to restore balance with a greater degree of diversity.

While local conditions and histories differ, this only affects the characteristics and pace of change, not the fact that the appeal of craft beer is growing around the world. We can see from examples in Canada and China, the similarities in how the development of craft beer not only transforms the business of brewing but also the culture of drinking. 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!
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