Brewing the best in Taiwan
One of oldest celebratory beverages in the world is none other than beer, which has a history that can be dated all the way back to 9500 BCE. Some archaeologists have even argued that alcohol was instrumental in the foundation of civilizations, shown by the regulation of the drink that was found on the ancient Code of Hammurabi as well as the worship of the Mesopotamian goddess of beer, Ninkasi.
Throughout history, beer has evolved and adapted to the palettes of different people and regions, with German beers being the most recognized of their kind in modern history. Prior to 1993, Germany was also extremely meticulous when it came to beer brewing, and required all beers to be brewed under the Reinheitsgebot, or the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516, only allowing the use of water, malt, yeast and hops in the process of brewing.
Today, the drink is the most consumed alcoholic beverage in the world, likely the result of its cost and profits. Due to the lucrative profits beers provide, a large number of beer companies have risen up in the world and it can easily be obtained in a can or bottle just like soft drinks.
Yet a population of craft beer artisans still exists in the world, keeping true to the art of fine beer brewing to bring out the true pleasantness of stouts, lagers, ciders and ales alike.
Microbreweries are now on the rise in Taiwan, led by both local and foreign connoisseurs. German brewer Roland Bloch is one such individual, whose expertise and love for Taiwan garnered the nation the accolade of brewing a contender for “The World’s Best Pale Beer” in 2014.
The Journey of a Master
With hop pellets in hand, Bloch enthusiastically presented one of the most important ingredients in brewing. According to the brewer, the art of brewing is based on getting the right balance between chemistry and taste, such as adding the right kinds of hops in the right amounts and at the right time to stabilize and control the flavor of a batch of brew.
A native of Bavaria, Bloch began his career as a brewer at the age of 16. After seeing an ad for an apprentice in a newspaper, Bloch became a novice at the Schaeff Brewery, where he was introduced to the basics of brewing both old and new.
“I was lucky because I learned to use the older equipment during the first year of my apprenticeship,” Bloch said during an interview. “And then in my second year, they installed new equipment that was more modern, which I also learned to operate in my third year.”
Eagar to gain further knowledge following his time as an apprentice, Bloch left for Wurzburg in Lower Franconia, where he became head brewer at the Golden Ganz Brewery for the next five to six years.
About his time at the location, Bloch said that he was able to gain a lot of constructive experiences as the head brewer with more control and responsibilities from the brew master. Aside from refining his skills to become the master that he is today, Bloch was able to conduct research through talking with customers and bartending at the brewery’s partnering establishments.
As an avid learner, Bloch went on to study at the Doemens Academy in Munich in the Masters program in Brewing and Malting, finishing in just two semesters. Bloch’s adventure then officially took off after earning his degree, traveling first to Ireland where he learned English and won recognition for his brewing skills.
Bloch’s journey then took him to England where he learned about and won an award for English ales in 2000, and then to Spain, Belgium, Japan and Scotland. The brewer’s final destination before he began his career as a company owner landed him in Australia, where he was able to fully develop and perfect his recipes to win 16 international beer awards.
“Brewing is a real art, and after learning for so many years, I am so good now that I can run many things by myself,” the brewer said of his skills. “My strength these days after my expenses is that I can smell and taste what I am making in the brewing process without having to measure anything; I no longer make beer from the book but from the heart and my belief.”
With all styles of brewing under his belt, and with a good understanding of the different preferences around the world, Bloch returned to Japan in 2010 to begin his own brewery to produce his own recipes.
However, just as Bloch had everything prepared and was ready to launch his company, the brewer came face to face with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, which put all of his initial plans on hold.
But as a man who doesn’t give up easily, Bloch persisted with the establishment of his company headquarters in Singapore. What was left for the brewer to do was then to find a location where he would be able to use good water to make his recipes, as well as having good-quality products for him to establish his brand, Bloch Brewing Co. As fate would have it, Bloch located his prefect country in 2013, where he has since been brewing for the past two years.
“I started my company in 2011 in Singapore, and then I started to find a place in Asia to start a place for my brewery. After two years of searching I finally found my perfect place! Which is in Longtan (Taoyuan).”
According to Bloch, Taiwan has the best qualities of China and Japan, in resources, products and of course the people. After investing a little to upgrade a local brewery in Longtan, Bloch became a partner of the facility, where he currently makes SGS-approved brews sold internationally, using only malts imported from Heidelberg, Germany, as well as locally made products from bottles to stickers.
In 2014, Bloch was invited to compete in the World Beer Awards, where his Four Seasons Ale was crowned as the World’s Best Gold: Bitter up to 4 percent. The brewer’s Finest English Bitter and Mango Fruit Beer also took home the Best Asian Gold: Bitter Award and Best Asian Gold: Fruit Beer Award, respectively.
Bloch went on to tally up a total of five awards for his brews during the course of the competition, stating that the award-winning recipes all represented the country of Taiwan. Currently, the brewer’s accolades have enabled his products to be featured on popular local e-commerce websites such as 7-Eleven’s 7net and Foodpanda.
“I really love Taiwan,” Bloch said, “and eventually I would like to open a bigger brewery here as my main operation. Now, when I enter and win competitions, I say my beer is from Taiwan, and now my Four Seasons Ale is the World’s Best from Taiwan.”
(Top) Local craft beer brewer Roland Bloch poses with his awards from 2014 in his factory. In 2014, Bloch was invited to compete in the World Beer Awards, where his Four Seasons Ale represented Taiwan to win crown of World’s Best Gold: Bitter up to 4 percent. (Above) Roland Bloch’s three prized brews are displayed in his brewery. From left to right, Bloch’s Four Seasons Ale was crowned as the World’s Best Gold: Bitter up to 4 percent, while the brewer’s Finest English Bitter and Mango Fruit Beer also took home the Best Asian Gold: Bitter Award and Best Asian Gold: Fruit Beer Award, respectively. With hop pellets in hand, Roland Bloch explains the brewing process of his Made-in-Taiwan craft beers. After investing a little to upgrade a local brewery in Longtan, Bloch became a partner in the facility, where he currently makes SGS-approved Taiwan brews that are sold internationally.