ROLL OUT THE BARREL
Thus the series of his General IPA’s are named after famous military personnel, including those sanctioned by warlord states, and other beer names at Great Leap are derived from traditional folklore, local history or their Chinese ingredients.
Jim Boyce, a beer and wine connoisseur and blogger in Beijing, said serious Chinese brewers put a lot of effort in what goes into their bottles, so they also care about how to present it to the world.
Boyce said his favorite labels are from Shangrila Beer in Yunnan province.
“The labels feature these colorful artistic images of the local culture around Shangri-La, and that is where Tibet, Yunnan and Sichuan meet. Quite beautiful.
“In Beijing I also like the consistency of style and the clever names of the beers at Arrow Factory. Stuff like Guanxi Pale Ale is very clever.”
At Jing-A Brewing taproom, there is the Airpocalypse Double IPA, meaning the worse the pollution in Beijing becomes, cheaper the beer will be.
Jing-A’s cofounder Acker said: “In a way, I hope doing craft beer can help to tell a different side of a story about China. We are using incredibly interesting Chinese ingredients that have never been experimented with before. So I think a lot of beer fans around the world will be very interested and curious about it. We share a perspective and culture of China to the world.”
His partner Kristian Li said: “It is an opportunity for China to showcase the country’s talent and wealth in ingredients to the world. It is not just made in China, but designed in China.”
As for Gao, he uses special Chinese ingredients such as roasted sweet yam, Tibet barley and Jasmine tea in beer brewing.
The label on his Baby IPA shows a chubby baby holding a big carp in his arms, signifying an auspicious image in China for the Lunar New Year.
“It is not only about introducing the craft beer idea to more Chinese people, but also introducing what typical kinds of craft beer we can make in China to world beer fans.”
For would be craft-beer makers in China, one hurdle is that under current regulations a brewery is not allowed to bottle and sell beer if it cannot produce at least 12,000 bottles of beer an hour, far higher than most microbreweries are producing now.
“There should be no limit on how much great beer a brewery can produce, but expecting a new brand to start at an industrial scale is something that China will have to reconsider as our market expands,” Setzer said.
“If you see a Chinese craft beer in a bottle, it means that it was either a) a special edition, one-time small release (we occasionally do this), b) made through a contract brewery with a large bottling facility and generally little input from the actual craft brewers themselves, or c) produced at a factory in the US.”
Thus most microbreweries serve tap beers on their premises, and you will find local craft beers are mostly in kegs, with few in bottles and cans.
Gao said little governmental attention has been paid to fostering the craft beer industry.
“Our first brewery was shut down by the government. So we turned to use a third-party brewery or, say, a contract brewery, to bottle some of our beers.
“It would be really good for the industry if it got some government backing.”
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Jing-A Brewing Co founders Alex Acker (left) and Kristian Li first began brewing as a hobby at home. Now their Beijing craft brewery is using Chinese ingredients and China-inspired promotions like the Airpocalypse Double IPA, in which the worse the pollution in Beijing becomes, the cheaper the beer is.