Tuesday, April 4, 2017

WEEK 101--REBOOT from ZERO--some basic ideas of craft beer PART 1

When the newspaper column idea was mooted back in April 2014--it was basically with one aim--try to introduce craft beer to people who don't have any idea about craft beer --in the most simple form/ language possible.
在亚洲,Craft Beer对绝大多数人是陌生名词,到底所谓的Craft跟大家“认识”的啤酒有什么不同?以下是一些基本概念。

The column started with weekly writing--then turning to bi-weekly since 2015 and have now breached the 100 articles mark--perhaps it's good to reboot--to try and talk to some more newbies who have zero idea about craft beer with this and subsequent REBOOT from ZERO articles....
1) WHAT IS Craft Beer?
the key word--CHOICES.
Craft Beer is full of varieties/different styles/flavours --it's what shattered the BEER IS BORING perception in spectacular fashion.
If you think of food--what everyone know as BEER(MACRO BEER) is like a bowl of plain noodles---Craft Beer is where you will find all kinds of varieties/flavours.
1) 什么是Craft Beer 
如果用吃来比喻,大家认识的大厂啤酒是阳春面,Craft Beer世界有各种各样不同口味面食等你发掘。
2) WHAT's so special about Craft Beer?
Think of all the flacours you can find in daily food items--the basic of sweet/sour/bitter/spicy/umami---those you can find in fruits/ dessert/spices/beverages and so on---you can find all the flavours in a beer form--and in real taste--not those artificial fake chemical flavours.
2) Craft有什么厉害?
可以这样说,日常食物\甜点\水果\香料\零食中能品尝到的味道,都能在啤酒中找到,更重要的,不是人工香精那种"假味道",优质Craft Beer都是真材实料酿造的。
3) Where can I find Craft Beer?
Generally-craft in Asia is still developing or in very early stage of development:-
in Malaysia--it's mainly and almost only in Klang Valley--there's 3 bars + 1 bottle shop around town--and words that there's 1 more bar likely opening up north in Penang soon.

down south in Singapore--there's quite some bars/bottle shops worth going to--at least 6-7-and if you home brew--this is 1 city you can get your brewing materials from.
up north in Thailand--personally my fav city for beers--mainly because Mikkeller Bangkok is there, there's also a strong "Thai brew" movement going on--meaning you can sit in a bar and not just drink imported beers but drink "technically outlawed" beers(with some legal ones) from the Thai Geeks who brew.
3) 哪里喝得到?
Japan--Tokyo probably has got the widest selection in ASIA as far as varieties is concern--you have choices of local Jap brew and imported variants not only in and around Tokyo but many other areas of Japan too.
Korea--the craft movement been gaining momentum--with local and imported craft choices developing steadily over the last 2 years.
HK and Taiwan--both cities been moving kinda fast since the last 3 years--more imported variants can be found--there's bars and bottle shop--as well local breweries of which some are slowly gaining international attention.
China--the craft market potential is huge--however the market is still on very early developing stage--there's plenty of imported beers--but the one thing anyone drinking in China needs to be aware of is--quite a lot of imported beers are via grey importing--and that could also mean the beer could be well and truly dead before it gets on your glass/belly due to various handling issues. 
4) Can I find craft beer at Supermarket or Convenient Store?
In Asia--it's not too common to be able to find craft beer like how one can easily find MACRO BEER in a supermarket or convenient store--the reason being craft beer is NOT something you just display and it will sell on it's own like how MACRO do...
4) 超市或便利店找得到?
在亚洲,Craft文化还在起步中,随意在超市或便利店找到Craft Beer的几率不高,也因为Craft的独特性(种类繁多,需要一定知识才能有效推介),一般超市便利店没卖。
Craft Beer--due to varieties/different styles/taste profile--would need someone who is a bit more "knowledgeable" to explain to customers what is what--hence not many supermarket-convenient store owners would stock craft beer...
Anyway--even if you could find craft beer in a supermarket or convenient store in ASIA--don't get too excited--it's best to check the drink by date--or is there any storage/handling issues?
5) WHAT you mean-" drink by date"? or storage/handling issues?
The best part about craft beer is varieties of choices
Hence--there are beers which would taste the best or better--when it's consumed fresh or the ealier from 'drink by date" the better--for examples any pale ale/IPA which emphasis on hops freshness--or say any porter/stouts which emphasis on freshness of spices or beans used.
5) 什么保鲜期?什么储存得当?
Craft Beer 好玩的就是不同类别风格繁多,打个比喻就像一条鱼可煮,煎,炸,焖,蒸,炒,腌制或做生鱼片,啤酒也可以玩出很多不同口味。
那么多不同类别啤酒,有强调趁啤酒花气息新鲜时候喝的Pale Ale/IPA,又或是咖啡豆/香料气息比较强时候喝的Porter/Stout等。这就是啤酒的"尝鲜期",时限内尽快喝的版本会比过期的好喝。
On the other hand--a beer will taste awful--no matter how fresh it might be--if the handling side gone wrong--A bottle or can of perfectly fine brew can go very wrong if it's infected during bottling or canning process--or say exposed under direct sunlight-or light struck- or stored in a hot and humid environment.
6) Beer on tap would always better than bottles/can version?
NOPE--it depends on what type of beer.
But most importantly--drinking from tap-system DO NOT always guarantee the freshness or quality of beer--tap system needs cleaning consistently--a perfectly tasting beer would go bad if the tap-line is dirty/infected.
A tap-line which is not clean--is something like if you have some left over Chili on a bowl --you know what will happen if you pour some soup into..... 
6) 都说Draft Beer比较新鲜好喝,上啤酒泵版本比瓶子罐装好喝吗?
没有绝对 ,要看啤酒类型而定。
7) Beer ONLY taste best when drank FRESH?
Again--the answer is NOPE--it depends on what style of beer
There are beers which no doubt would taste best when drank fresher--but there's also quite a lot which is best to let it age and drank after a period of time/few years/many years after....
The reason being --some beers can have secondary fermentation inside bottles and would aged beautifully as compared to drinking fresh which can be deemed as 'waste of beer".
7) 啤酒一定要新鲜才好喝?
一些啤酒比如Pale Ale, IPA, 甚至是一些Porter, Stouts强调趁新鲜喝,不过也有不少强调陈放一段时间或好多年後才喝。

Sunday, March 26, 2017

WEEK 100---Promoting Craft in ASIA--we all can be influencers

This is week 100 of the newspaper column--could be 100 or 101/102 since there's 1 or 2 missed post on this blog.
This is a very general look at how far/near craft been moving in Asia --though the reality is that craft is still very very small in terms of overall beer market consumption in terms of volume--as well still very much unheard of by most people who drink some kind of alcoholic beverages(never mind if its beer or not).
简单说,啤酒世界可一分为二,绝对大块那个是MACRO BEER-大厂啤酒,另一块小小的就是CRAFT BEER
对喜欢CRAFT BEER的人们来说,这是一直以来市场消费的真实情况,CRAFT只是小众玩意,就算有那么多好喝的不同类别风格啤酒,可是市场上消费者不知道还有其他选择的话,再怎么好喝也没用。
Something we all who love craft beer(and mead) here in ASIA must admit is that--with market basically surrounded/conquered by the big boys of MACRO BEER---craft movement will not move if majority of the people who buy beer DON'T KNOW there's alternatives out there in the form of craft beer.
No matter which cities yo live in ASIA---the market is "owned" by the MACRO big boys--the majority only know beer in the form of BEER--the 1 question facing everyone of us who love to promote craft culture--introduce more people to craft beer is--HOW THE HELL DO YOU LET MORE PEOPLE KNOW there's something so delicious out there in the form of CRAFT BEER? that each and everyone of us has got a CHOICE--that you don't have to drink shit beer all the time.
Maybe these scenario would tell-tale a little?
1) In Asia--most people would seek for good food/delicious food--feeling proud of what their city has got if there's something famously delicious--but the common scenario is such that--people would go out of their way for food--but never beer.
Generally--people who seek out for good food-be it foodie/critics or gourmet food seekers( and so on)--would always only think of pairing their food with wine, at times fine spirits--but never beer--beer has been looked upon as nothing more than thirst quencher--easy--simple-cold-nothing complicated( lacking in class) to warrant a proper dining table treatment. 
1) 亚洲饮食文化中,就算最注重美食的美食家-食评人,都只关注葡萄酒威士忌之类,完全不觉得啤酒是需要注重的酒类,长期的错误观念让绝对多少人觉得啤酒只是喝了胀气的酒精黄汤水,甚至觉得喝啤酒没品味,跟美食搭不上关系。
Question is--if you think taste profile in your food is so important--how the hell not when it comes to drinking a beer?(stereotype is such a scary thing- that even foodie thought beer is just BEER)
2)The sub-culture thingy--it's basically everywhere--TV shows /drama/movies/even songs/ literature/comics--there's plenty of scene where drinking beer is basically binging, to get shit-faced --it's basically saying you just need to gulp it down--in big volume.
2) 亚洲次文化中,"不醉无归" "喝到趴下"是很多人觉得理所当然的,喝酒嘛,当然要尽兴。在一般大厂啤酒销售点,几个人围在一起喝"啤酒塔""一桶桶的瓶装啤酒是最常见画面,"劈酒"更是平常事。就那样,啤酒一直被误解成牛喝的东西(牛饮)
The idea of tasting/savouring a beer--that's quite alien to many--people would either laugh at that idea--or thought you are just trying to be fxxking pretentious?
3) BEER is relatively something cheap and easily accessible--it's a fact that many MACRO big boys has got "local" breweries in many part of ASIA--that would mean already cheaper cost of production PLUS tax incentives in some cases.
3) 很多大厂啤酒在亚洲城市都有设厂大量生产供应本地需求,因为是"本地厂",抛开原本就是用料简单低廉,当然还有税务优惠,价格肯定比进口CRAFT廉宜,也因为那样,不少消费者一听到入口啤酒价格,在不了解质素味道层次能带来巨大差别味蕾享受情况下,心理上很快抗拒,觉得啤酒只是啤酒,为什么要多给钱?
Some Asia cities like KL where i live--if you want American beers--that would mean sorry ass weak Ringgit to pay for strong USD in exchange rates + import duties + GST ...
Even in cases where say a craft beer is perhaps only 5 ringgit higher than a bottle of MACRO--there's still this perceived value in most non-craft drinker's mind--that BEER is something cheap--why pay more? it's just BEER....
So how the hell can we spread the words--let more people understand they have a choice when they drink a beer next time?
 "INFLUENCER" is the word.
Think back of the time when you first started having your first few craft beer--did you started on your own? or there's someone along the way which triggered/started your quest for even better beer?
It's quite a natural act for geeks wanting to share info/knowledge with new people--and what better way can someone new to craft beer to start than having a geek or someone who knows some craft beer places to drink with?
Next time when you go out with friends--especially friends who know nothing about craft beer---when it's time to order a beer or two--why not ask yourself and your friends--is that all BEER can offer? what about CHOICES of beers? what about flavours?what about varieties?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

WEEK 99 --- Open up your senses-- STOP being a Beer-Blind

It is a fact not even worth arguing--that 9 out of 10( or it could well be 11 out of 10!) people only know beer as BEER, as in MACRO BEER - that its always a no-brain-er when ordering a BEER.
这当然是错的- 多得单调无趣大厂啤酒多年“调教”有方--大家基本都变“啤盲”而不自知。
It is also a fact that MACRO BEER giants- through the years--with their marketing money/strength and "lifestyle" ad campaigns has firmly planted the stereo-type images of BEER in a certain way--here's some general attitude people would have when mentioning BEER (much like in a blind-folded way) :-
1) BEER is either "white" or "black"-varieties? what varieties?
Anyone growing up/living long enough in  Asia- particularly Malaysia or Singapore would have heard this many times over--that BEER is either only "white" or "black"--that's the only way BEER is known.
It's a fact( though it's a pity) that absolute majority don't know / not heard of craft beer--that's the awesome colorful beer world full of varieties/styles way beyond just "white" or "black".
Perhaps the closest anyone who refer BEER world as just 2 tone in color could muster is DRAFT BEER( instead of craft)- thanks but no thanks to the influence of MACRO.
1) 啤酒不是白就是黑,没什么需要选择的。
啤酒不是白就是黑只是大厂啤酒市场营销策略描绘的单调无趣选择,啤酒世界真实情况是选择多样化到会让一些人“选择困难症”发作,是绝对不止黑白的霓虹灿烂,这个啤酒世界的名字叫做Craft Beer。(请不要混淆为DRAFT BEER
2) BEER needs to be ICE-COLD and Down Fast
Try telling anyone that you need to let a glass of beer slowly warm up--give it a little bit of time to "breath"/"find it's footing" so that you can better enjoy it's full flavour--and you shall be laughed at.
in the world of BEER--almost no one knows that a beer actually would taste better/more rounded/fuller in taste profile if given proper temperature treatment/timing that beer deserved(i said almost coz there are few who do warm stout--but that's another story).
thanks but no thanks to MACRO- almost all of us only know a glass a ICE COLD BEER is best served with Frozen Glasses--and down it in no time. ( coz it taste horrible when warm :)
2) 啤酒哪需要讲究什么不同温度,冷到结霜程度快快喝就对了。
Craft Beer世界,不同类型啤酒需要不同温度才能真正领略到完整风味,太冷喝只是浪费酒,正确方式是让啤酒稍微回温,原理有点像是喝葡萄酒讲究“醒酒”或让“酒呼吸”那样,只有适当温度才能让啤酒发挥应有风味。
3) Never MIX--just keep to"white" or "black"
it's quite a common belief among some MACRO drinkers that the best way to avoid getting smashed is "do not mix your beer"--meaning if you been drinking "white"--just keep to that, don't drink the next beer "black"--always only keep to the same beer!
Well the truth is--no matter who you are or how high or low you Alcohol tolerance level might be--you will be asking for troubles if you:-
a) drinking empty stomach
b) drinking when you already dead tired
So--thanks but no thanks to MACRO--the real fun of drinking varieties of different styles of craft beer will hardly be known by most BEER drinkers.
3) 啤酒不要混着喝,喝白就一路白,黑就黑。
至于不要黑白混着喝这回事,一点问题也没有,说白了,啤酒混着喝才是Craft Beer好玩之处,为的不是醉,而是尝试不同味道风格类别啤酒,
当然,喝Craft Beer这回事,最重要的还是品尝,不是牛饮,更不是买醉。
4) ICE PLEASE--BEER is too warm/too "thick"
Adding ice cube--it's quite a norm in the world of BEER- isn't it? well--it's even quite common with some wine-drinkers--so what is wrong with adding ICE?
here's a case at Mikkeller Bangkok sometime ago--a curious drinker went there - found the glass of porter too "strong" for his liking(though already had taster)--asked for ice cube--obviously not given any--went on social media to wank..
Is that guy right to ask for Ice cube? YES i heard many many of you BEER drinkers said- so thanks but no thanks to MACRO- the idea of actually "murdering" a beer flavours by adding ice or by serving it ice cold don't exist in you--and that's a real pity you don't understand the concept of flavours in beer.
4) 啤酒杯中加冰块是正常的,反正有人喝红酒也那样。
不过,在Craft Beer世界中,冷只是一个事前动作,真正品尝时候需要的是啤酒由冷在回温过程中出现的味道变化,这是领会完整啤酒风味的过程,任何加冰的动作等于是在谋杀味道。
不懂啤酒真实世界的人或许会觉得“加冰”没什么不可,只是,对懂得Craft Beer的人来说,“加冰”这动作是很有讽刺意味的,显示了大厂啤酒蒙蔽大家对真正啤酒世界感知能力的策略多成功,而一般消费者对啤酒的认知是多么无知。
5) Why bother go specific places only--just to buy BEER?
BEER is something easily accessible--BEER is something very convenient--that has been the key to MACRO successes.
The fact that craft beer community is formed by tens of thousands of small breweries/distributors/bars/bottle shops- and the nature of craft culture of "brewing what i like/think could be fun" mean only 1 thing--that there's no way craft would rival MACRO in terms of accessibility or available volume.
It's quite interesting to note that in ASIA lots of people would drive/travel far and wide just to get a good meal--no one will ask why go there coz the reason is obvious--only that restaurant/that chef can cook something so delicious.
BUT--why no one think that way when it's time to choose a BEER? that you need to go somewhere specific--coz that bottle of beer/that keg of beer is only available there!
5) 啤酒随处可买到,为什么CRAFT只能去专卖店?
Craft Beer的世界不是由几家国际大公司自己生产自己供应自己玩完,而是世上很多不同地方成千上万酿坊形成,每一家的酿品都不太一样,产量也不太多,有时候甚至只是酿一次玩玩就不酿,当然做不到随处可买到,这就是为什么喜欢喝或想喝Craft的朋友一定要去专卖店找,就像找美食那样。
6) BEER is just BEER- it's cold maybe a bit bitter-that's all
It was quite a joke when this dude who "like BEER" went to Cantillon sometime ago--posted his comments on social media-- asking people to "avoid this place if you love beer"--kinda trying to turn Cantillon into "CANTI-NO".
But-is that dude wrong in saying what he felt/tasted? that he could not handle the beer he thought should be BEER?
Not really--maybe we should congratulate the marketing/blind folding team of MACRO for successfully making most of us "Beer-Blind" who knows nothing about varieties of taste profile out there in the beer world--thinking all beers would only tasting how BEER should be all these while.
6) 啤酒就只是有点苦涩,冷冷的饮料,不可能有什么其他味道。
so whose fault is it that most of us are essentially"Beer-Blind"? regardless if you realized or not--the truth is--in the world where commercialization is where big money is made---perceptions formed(rightly or wrongly)-- there's simply no stopping MACRO playing that "blind-folding" game they been so good at over times--it's entirely up to us to decide--if you would still like to be "beer-blind" or you would maybe try saying this next time:-
"i need choices--WHAT would be a nice beer to drink?"
just like you always do when it comes to FOOD.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

WEEK 98---SIGNS you are IN TOO DEEP....

in whatever phase of life--we get obsessed/hooked with all kinds of desirable/undesirable things--diving into the black hole of craft beer/craft mead can have the same effect...
here's a few signs of definitely getting in too deep:-
啤迷从最初懵懵懂懂接触CRAFT BEER到逐步掉进黑洞,走向入魔之路,其实都有迹可循,比如以下几个(当然还有更多其他):-
1) more than 50% of your social media post is all about CRAFT
unless you don't like the idea of social media--it's quite a natural process to see most social media post from those who indulge in the world of craft revolving around craft beer/mead, be it a pic of bottle with glass and some tasting note or a shared post about craft--in fact, a lot of your googling would likely be about finding out certain info about a certain beer/mead/beer style/brewing info/ trade info and such... 
1)超过50%的社交媒体Post/网络搜寻都是Craft 相关
无论是FB/ INSTA/ Tweeter等社交媒体,无论是"你在想什么"PO图文或是转发图文,占大多数的都是跟啤酒\蜜酒相关话题。同样的,在网络上无论是搜寻资料或是跟其他人聊得最多的,也是跟啤酒或蜜酒相关。
2) your new acquaintances are mainly from craft community
It might be mostly from social media--or actual "real people" that you meet in person at bar/craft events--i.e strangers in "real ife' becoming acquaintances- tasting group buddies- even real good friends--all because of shared values of craft culture.
2)认识新朋友绝大多数来自Craft 社区
Craft 社区当然只是个概念,指的是喜爱Craft级别啤酒或蜜酒,相信,参与,或自发推广Craft文化的人们。
3) travelling has a new name now
gone are the days when you just travel for the sake or travelling or "get away"--most travelling now would be as closely related to craft events as possible--you plan your travelling around beer fest- or to visit a few bars/breweries, even for new release of particular beer --those days of just wondering around or go photo snap at tourists attractions has more or less regarded as "non-essentials".
Even on days when you travel on company expenses for work--no matter how--trying to seek out craft beer places would always be on "MUST do list".
4) comparatively- you are tasting MORE but drinking LESS
those living in ASIA would probably have a better understanding of how this is happening--that comparing to the initial period when one started to indulge in the world of craft--the drinking volume was bigger or much bigger than say 3 or 4 years later when one's palate is more developed and quest for varieties/urge for tasting rather than keep drinking in quantity of the same old same old takes over. It's natural geeks would drink much lesser in volume gradually--and would move on to the phase of bottle sharing--tasting--essentially tasting MORE but drinking LESS.
4) 跟以前不认识Craft或最初喝Craft相比来说,喝的量少了
5) tasting group is a natural progression
with not 1 single city in ASIA(though personally i do think there's at least 1 bar which can live up to the demand) able to fulfill the demand for awesome varieties like those available in Europe/US- it's a natural progression geeks who seek to buy/beer mail/trade with those having access to beers/mead not available here --and the reality is when you "import" own beer/mead--you are paying foreign currency( if you are earning in Malaysia Ringgit- and need to pay USD--eat this- Ringgit to USD went from 3.3 : 1usd to now 4.5 for 1usd)--you need to pay logistic cost--then depending which ASIA city you live in--you might need to pay some silly taxes too.
ADD all those in--it's needless to say the beer mail is COSTLY.
At this stage--it's normal most geeks would have a few tasting group buddies that meet regularly/off and on -- either for cost sharing bottle share or "bring your best bottles" tasting sessions. After all- craft is more fun when you share... 
6)you know WHEN "a beer is just a beer"--and WHEN "a beer is definitely not just a beer"
sounds confusing?
it's quite simple--we all love craft beer/mead for it's varieties, for choices available--so when someone ignorance or uninitiated think or says BEER(as in big factory commercial lager) is what craftbeer is--that's obviously NOT TRUE--BEER is certainly not just beer.
BUT--the varieties of craft beer/mead world can be confusing at times too--that because of curiosity of geeks over some highly hyped beer/mead--people are willing to succumb to the theory of "rare is good"/"rare is gold" and pay silly prices for a particular bottle to the tune of few hundreds/over 1K USD.
This is the time we take a back seat and says "hey-it's only beer".  
然而,在不同类别繁多的Craft Beer世界中,最基本的经济原理"物以稀为贵"还是通用的,意思是,一些啤酒因为实在很厉害,产量很少,加上被啤迷追捧,造成有人因利炒卖有人无论怎样都要满足好奇心喝到,导致出现离谱的高价黑市买卖。