CHRISTOPHER DEWOLF savours Hong Kong’s beer-brewing history and remembers a time when a pint cost HK$1.50
CHRISTOPHER DEWOLF charts Hong Kong’s history of drinking, buying and brewing beer
ON PAPER, PEOPLE
in Hong Kong don’t drink very much. According to the Department of Health, the average resident drinks just 2.83 litres of pure alcohol per year. That’s in comparison to 7.2 litres in Japan and 11.6 litres in the UK.
And yet this is a city awash with booze – and most of it is beer. That has been true from its very first days as a British colony, when local army men mixed porter with ginger beer to fight the summer heat. Military officials encouraged the consumption of beer as a way to keep troops from drinking the dangerously cheap local rice spirit, which left them blind drunk and prone to mayhem.
British beer historian Martyn Cornell, who lived in Hong Kong for several years, reports that trading company Jardine Matheson already had a warehouse full of beer by the time the Treaty of Nanjing was signed in 1842, giving Britain control over Hong Kong Island. By 1866, the colony was importing nearly 12,000 barrels of beer from the UK every year.
Back then, the most popular style of beer was porter, a dark brew made with chocolatey brown malt. By the end of the 19th century, though, Hong Kong was flooded with pale lagers imported from Denmark, Germany, the US and Japan. Walk into a local supermarket today and you might think that not much has changed: the shelves are still full of imported lagers. But Hong Kong has a long history of locally brewed beer, too.
Hong Kong’s first brewery opened in 1907, when two Portuguese businessmen installed brewing equipment in a converted house in Happy Valley. The business, however, folded after just a few years. An attempt by an English entrepreneur ended in similar failure, with the brewing kit being dismantled and shipped to Manila.
Parsee merchant Jehangir Ruttonjee was destined to have more success. In 1933, he opened a brewery in the (then) rural town of Sham Tseng in the New Territories, and while the first few years were rocky
– a boom in silver prices slashed the price of imports, making local beer more expensive than beer shipped from abroad – Ruttonjee was soon supplying the thirsty people of Hong Kong with fresh lager branded ‘HB’: Hong Kong Brewery.
Business was interrupted by the Second World War. Japan invaded Hong Kong in 1941 and occupied it for the next four years. Ruttonjee was thrown in jail and tortured for resisting the occupation. His brewery was leased to a businessman from Osaka who continued brewing.
When the war ended in 1945, Ruttonjee travelled to the brewery, only to find it had been damaged by American bombs. He set to work rebuilding, and in less than a year, HB lager was being poured in local pubs for HK$1.50 a pint – about 20 cents cheaper than Carlsberg and other imports.
In 1948, Ruttonjee sold his brewery to the Philippines’ San Miguel Brewery, which continued brewing in Sham Tseng until 1996, when it moved its operations a short distance north to Yuen Long. (It’s still going strong: according to the website, the brewhouse can produce 1.2 million cans of beer daily – the biggest proportion of which is San Miguel Pale Pilsen.)
The story could have ended there. But today, more beer is brewed in Hong Kong than ever before. After the territory axed its tax on beer and wine in 2009, a small group of entrepreneurs began importing craft beer from around the world. That inspired a number of local beer enthusiasts to try their hand at brewing beer themselves. There are nearly 20 breweries in Hong Kong today, most of them small operations making pale ales, stouts and other standard varieties of beer.
Some, like Moonzen Brewery, are experimenting with ingredients like Tibetan saffron and red bean. Young Master Ales is currently maturing Asia’s first batch of lambic, a Belgian-style beer made with wild yeast. Some breweries are making porter, the favourite beer of 19th century Hong Kong. Even this airline has created its own with the Hong Kong Beer Co: Betsy Beer – named after Cathay Pacific’s first plane and engineered to taste better in the air – which debuted in February. 表面上，香港人並不嗜好杯中之物。根據衛生署的調查字數 ，每名港香 居民平均年每飲到肚裡的純酒精為2.83公升，比起日本的7.2公升和英國的11.6公升，相自是 形見絀。
然而香港實際上卻是個泡在酒裡的城市，而其中大部分是啤酒。英早於 國殖民地時代初期，當時駐本地的英軍會將波打酒和薑啤在起混 一 喝，以此在炎夏時消暑。軍官鼓勵士兵飲，啤酒 目的是令他們不會暢飲價錢廉宜得驚人的本地米酒，從而避免士醉兵 酒鬧事。
曾旅居香港數年的英國啤酒歷史家學Martyn Cornell指出，清早在 廷於1842年簽署京南 條約，將港香 島割讓予英國的時候，怡和洋行已將一整個倉庫貯滿啤酒。到了1866年，這個殖民地每年從英國輸入的啤酒數已量 接近12,000桶。
當時最受歡迎的啤酒是波打酒是，這一種以朱古力般棕色的麥芽釀製的深色啤酒。不過到了19世紀，末 香港的市場上已充斥著自來 丹麥、德國國、美 和日本的淡啤酒至。時 今日，你在本地超級市場內見到的情景，或許跟昔日大同小異──貨架上依然堆滿入口淡。，啤酒 其實 本地釀造啤酒在香港也一有 段悠長的史歷 。
香港的首家啤酒廠於1907年開業兩，位葡牙人萄 商 將跑馬地一所房屋改，建然後在裡面設置釀造啤酒的器材，就開始釀起啤酒來。可惜酒釀 廠只維持了數年就結業，另一位英國企業家再接再厲，結果也是以失敗，收場 釀造啤酒的設備更被拆卸並運往馬尼拉。
巴升商律人 敦治運氣比前好人 ，他 的啤酒事業頗為成功。1933年在，他 當時仍新為 界鄉郊小鎮的深井開設啤酒廠。開業最初數年可謂荊棘滿途：銀白 價格飆升，致導 入口貨物價格大幅下降，進啤口酒價格比本地啤酒更為便宜。然而律敦治迅速重整旗鼓，推出「HB」（香港啤酒廠Hong Kong Brewery的縮寫）品牌的新鮮淡，啤酒 為香港人一解喉頭渴之 。
第二次界戰世 大 令他的業務作運 中斷。1941年港，香 淪陷，被日軍佔領接近四年律。 敦治不但日嚐牢獄之苦，更因為抵抗佔領而受盡折，磨 而他的啤酒廠則被日軍租予一名大阪商人，繼續釀造啤酒。
戰事於1945年結束，後 律敦治重返啤酒廠視察，發現它已被美軍轟炸至面目全非，於是著手進行重建。不到一年，淡HB啤酒已本在 地酒吧供應，每品脫1.5港元，比嘉伯士 和其他進口啤酒便宜約2毫。1948年律， 敦治把啤酒廠予售 菲律賓生力啤酒廠，後在者 深井繼續釀造啤酒，直至1996年把酒向才 釀 廠 北遷至多沒遠的元朗。生力啤至今依然量產 豐富，根據酒廠網站的資料，生力啤每天生產120萬罐啤酒，其中大部分為生力清。啤
故事並沒有就此劃上句號。時至今日，香的港 啤酒產量猶勝從前。自從2009年取消啤酒和葡萄酒稅後，一些企業家就開始世從 界各地輸入手工啤酒。一眾本地啤酒愛好者由此獲得啟，發 嘗試親自釀造啤酒。現時香港擁有約20家啤酒廠，當中絕大部分都屬小規模經營，釀造酒精含量低的淡、啤酒 味道濃烈的黑啤酒和多種其他常見的啤酒。
有些啤酒廠更嘗試使用別具新意的材料來釀啤酒，例如門神啤酒廠試用西番藏紅花和紅豆等創新原材，料 而少爺啤酒廠正在等待亞首洲 批採用野生酵母釀造的比利時lambic啤酒熟成。，此外 部分啤酒廠則釀造19世紀時香港最受歡迎的波打酒。就連國航泰 空也不甘後人，聯同香港啤酒公司在年今 2月推出了Betsy Beer；這款啤酒國航以 泰 空首架客機命用名，科學方法釀造，令啤酒在空中有更佳的味道。
Raise a glass Clockwise from far left: The San Miguel Brewery in Sham Tseng, 1973; local brewery Young Master Ales; Cathay Pacific’s Betsy Beer, made with wonderfully bizarre-sounding fuggle hops趁早舉杯最圖時左 順 針： 1973年的深井生力啤酒廠；本地的少爺啤酒廠；國泰航空的Betsy...