A slightly lengthy piece this one--as usual--the Chinese newspaper column version is a compressed one--Blog version would include few sentences not published in newspaper.
here's the chat:-
On CRAFT in ASIA
Q:- You have been invited to other Asian cities -either for beer fest or tap takeover ---give us your view on Asia craft beer scene:-
Yes, we've been fortunate to be invited to some very cool events and beer festivals in a few other countries in Asia. I'm always eyes wide open when I'm traveling around Asia and looking at the craft beer market. I feel Singapore has been ahead of most of Asia as the scene there has a lot of history since Brewerkz opened nearly 20 years ago. The new influence of brewers in Singapore is evident and the amount of imported craft beers is very high. Hong Kong has gone from nothing to something substantial in the matter of 3 years. The first year we did Beertopia we were one of the only Asian craft brewers pouring beer at the festival. The next 2 years it changed drastically to the point where there were around 7 HK breweries pouring beer at the festival - with a few more in HK but not pouring at the beer festival. The variety of craft beer in HK is overwhelming - almost too many products that have flooded the shelves in a very short time. This is a bit different than we see in mainland China as the import regulations are substantially different. I was also surprised by the craft beer scene in Seoul when visiting there about 6 months ago. A nice vibrant local brewing community with a nice selection of imported beers present. It's super exciting to travel around Asia and see what's happening with craft beer - Asia is the next big global market for craft beer production and consumption.
Q:- You have been to international beer fest -- as well have a fairly wide knowledge about the craft beer scene in Asia -- what are maybe some of the Asian brew that you personally like or thought under-appreciated?
I think Baird is a solid brewery with some great brands - I feel they sometimes get overlooked in certain markets. I've been impressed by Pasteur Street in Saigon as well - great beers and super people. We were honored to have both Baird and Pasteur Street make the trip to Shanghai in May for the beer festival we hold during Shanghai Beer Week.
也有越来越多进口啤酒。香港过去三年时间， 从基本没什么选择快速发展到有不少自家品牌酿品，不同品牌/类别 进口啤酒更是数量繁多。几个月前去了一趟首尔， 那边有活跃的自酿活动，进口啤酒也蛮多，让人觉得意外惊喜。
Q：- The home brew scene is getting strong in Asia --even in South East Asia-- places like Singapore or Thailand -- Is the Asian brew being handicapped by difficulties in sourcing better quality brew materials? Or the standards been rather fine?
I think there is some handicap on home brewers due to the shortage of quality brewing materials - it can be challenging for professional brewers as well! This is getting easier for home brewers and I know we are happy to help home brewers with malts and hops from our supplies. I've judged in a number of home-brew competitions this year and the quality of beer is improving; some issues with temperature control and sanitation are apparent with some beers but overall the quality is getting better.
Q:- Craft beer consumption is basically very small in Asia --many people still don't get the idea of craft beer or not heard of it --from what you noticed in China and Asia generally -- how much has the market move forward in the last 5 years?
I think the market has made leaps and bounds the past 5 years. Instead of 25 years behind we're now only 15 years behind - so we gained 5 years on other parts of the world. I've been impressed with markets like Hong Kong and South Korea really exploding with local beer production.
Q:- If you would like to- name them--what would be say the top 3 or top 5 craft beer places in Asia that you would recommend to visiting friends?
I think the top spots to visit for craft beer based upon my travels would be Taipei, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo. That would be my list but I believe Shanghai can be added to that list based upon what my brewing industry buddies say after visiting:-)
On CRAFT in CHINA
Q:- China craft beer scene -- some says it’s still kind of muddy-- some says it’s coming up strongly -- your view ? What are perhaps some parts needing big improvement and some encouraging signs?
It's definitely growing in leaps and bounds the past couple years. It's interesting to observe and get in touch with product quality around the country. There are many new brewpubs opening which is very exciting. Some of the beer being produced needs some improvement on quality but its' encouraging to see many young brewers enter the market with excitement. Yes - there are many new things happening with craft beer in China. There is strong interest from consumers so that is driving the growth with new brewpubs opening, new bottle shops and new tap houses also opening. In general the quality is getting better as well - there are still places making sub-par quality beer but the number of those places seems to be decreasing. There is also a surge in craft beer festivals - too many to be honest! This can be fun and exciting but the communication to work together on beer festivals has been poor in 2016. I guess everyone thinks there is a pot of gold at the end of the beer festival - pretty sure they're starting to realize it's a massive amount of work and not really financial rewarding. It's more of a craft beer community movement where we should all work together towards a common goal of increasing craft beer visibility.
Q:- China -with its purchasing power -- and the tendency to buy up whatever possibly could- as shown by Chinese tourists and maybe the wine sector -- makes craft beer lover felt a little apprehensive about embracing the emergence of Chinese drinkers on the world stage -- your view ? Is that real or unfounded?
The bottle shop shelves do reflect this a bit - many products with best before dates expired and many products parallel shipped from other markets. It's a bit sad but I think the market will correct itself naturally. Hopefully consumers begin to realize the freshness factor of craft beer and shift their focus to quality craft beer made locally as well as proper beer storage conditions.
1 of boxing cat's bar in Shanghai
啤酒质素来说，虽然还是有些卖着次货，不过整体水平有提升。 市场的兴起可从各地大大小小的啤酒节活动看出， 说实话这些活动过多了，也许有些人以为办啤酒节等同可以赚大钱， 实情并不，这类活动应该更好协调策划才能有效让CRAFT BEER文化更好的传递出去。
自去年开始，一些在国内没有正式代理入口的如BELL’S, DOGFISH HEAD, SIERRA NEVADA, STONE等知名美国品牌开始大量涌现，不少饮客趋之若鹜，
不过很快发现不对劲，很多酒因为储存/处理不当或已过期， 味道一早“死了”。国内瓶子店货架充分反映出这现象， 很多瓶子不是“死货”就是“水货”，这是蛮悲哀现象。不过， 我相信市场会逐步自我调整，希望饮客多认识“新鲜度”的重要， 也关注啤酒应有储存要求/方法。
非法”方式进入国内市场，这些非法入驻供应链的品牌应该意识到， 一旦市场开始调整，执法当局发现并介入的时候， 他们会从市场上消失
Q:- Understand that there has been a lot more grey imports of European/US brew into the market for the last few years than ever before -- good or bad signs ?
Also -- seems a lot more locally brewed beers -- signs of development –locally brewed beer quality on the up? (by International standard)
There has been a massive influx of grey market imports the last year -seeing Sierra Nevada, Dogfish Head, Bells and Stone in China has been very eye opening. I think originally people gobbled up these brands but then realized the taste was kinda dead. A bad situation for the brewery with the bottle shop owner gouging customers with old product. We are seeing more breweries distribute their craft beer locally - some doing it by proper channels and some illegally selling their beer outside their production and distribution licensing. Once again - the market (or government) will correct this over time. I expect to see a few brands disappear from existence as my understanding is this can be a crushing blow to the business if the government steps in and discovers beer is being sold illegally to commercial venues. On the brewpub side we're seeing healthy growth by location and it's allowing us to expand our footprint a bit. I'm also seeing other brewpubs open a second or third outlet in the same city so this is very encouraging while providing customers a good beer experience onsite.
On BOXING CAT
Q:- Why Boxing Cat? What’s the story behind? (Boxing part is easier to relate than the Cat part :)
-and why Shanghai?
The company name came from the former Brewmaster; Gary Heyne. He had a cat named Louie that he occassionally gave beer to in a small bowl. If Louie had "enough" beer he would stand up on his back legs and do some small cat punches; almost like shadow boxing. Maybe the hops worked like Cat Nip?? The thought was vivid to Gary and he suggested the name "Boxing Cat" and it stuck - easy to say and had some visual identity. The reason for starting a craft brewery in Shanghai was that Gary Heyne, Kelley Lee and Lee Tseng were all in Shanghai already and they missed good beer from home (USA and Canada) so they decided to fill this niche that was missing in the market back in 2008.
Q:- Some says Boxing Cat has deep American DNA in its brew though its being done in Shanghai --how much Chinese influence is there after all these years ?
I think the company definitely has some American DNA - the food menu is influenced by cuisine found in the Southern Part of the USA (Gary was also from Texas) and many of the beers draw inspiration from the American craft beer movement. The Chinese influence has grown over the years - some influence on the beer styles and ingredients we use in the beer as well as a little sprinkling of Asian food on the menus; whether daily specials or certain dishes on the regular menu.
酒吧食物也基本是美国南方风格影响，不过， 中国风影响逐步从我们酿酒用的一些中国原料/食材方面看出， 食物选择也添加了些中式餐点。
Q:- What would be some of Boxing Cat’s immediate concerns in the coming 12-24 months?
Boxing Cat Brewery is growing a lot in 2016 and 2017. We're getting into distribution of our own beers so that means adding staff to sell the beer and service local accounts with cold chain deliveries and tap maintenance. We're also opening up 2 new concepts in Shanghai to help push craft beer to new heights. One concept is called Cobra Lily where we will highlight Asian food and craft beer together. This is something we've wanted to do for awhile so this is exciting for us on the restaurant side. The other venue will be Western style with a great selection of craft beer on tap. The main focus for the company will be the brewery operations though and getting BCB draft beer and eventually bottles into craft beer venues.
Q:- Very briefly---how would you tell a newbie why he or she should give craft beer a try?
To get away from flavorless lager beer! There are so many unique flavors available in craft beer - why would you limit yourself to such boring mass produced lager products.
我喜欢IPA 或PALE ALE，因为可以好好喝上几杯享受啤酒花香。
Q:- Tell us some of your personal go to beers—or maybe non-beer items?
I'm a fan of IPA's and Pale Ale's so that is my go to style when traveling around. I like a "WOW" beer once in awhile but often I'm more impressed with an IPA or Pale Ale that I can have several and really enjoy the flavor and hop aroma. If Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA is available you'll see me buying that beer - luckily Deschutes can now be purchased in a few Asian markets.