Sunday, November 6, 2016

WEEK 90---of HK craft beer scene & more--chit chat with Rohit Dugar of Young Master Ales

This week we stay in HK --continuing from last column's chat--this time with Rohit of Young Master Ales

继上期门神酿坊後,“顽啤主张”跟另一家起步早的香港酿坊,少爷啤酒(YOUNG MASTER) 创办人ROHIT聊聊,
The Newspaper Column (Chinese version) is done differently with another format --however the Original Chat version(in English) as shown here would still be in Q&A format:-
*Craft movement in HK
The craft beer scene in Hong Kong is obviously moving forward in comparison from when you first started—what do you think of the current market? What’s good and what’s needing more improvement---generally speaking.

Hong Kong has made incredible progress in a short amount of time. There is something to be said about the entrepreneurial spirit of this city. I believe the next stage is for a lot of newer local breweries to more clearly define their identity and express a point of view beyond just making good beer. 
I also think critical appreciation of beer has come a long way but has further to go. As you expect, you first see “beer geeks” interested in certain beers primarily due to its brand recognition or ratings and over time developing an ability to appreciate a broad range of styles, understanding brewers’ intent and judging beer properly in a blind tasting. 
Lastly I think storage and handling, particularly of imported beer has a lot of room for improvement. We do see a lot of beer from high quality breweries coming in to Hong Kong and is served for high prices in a less than desirable condition.
Overall though Hong Kong has all the ingredients in place for a dynamic, world-class beer scene – active home brewing community, craft focused beer festivals, high quality taprooms, imported craft beer from all over the world and a number of high quality local breweries.
对香港市场见闻感受/ 期望
“香港的CRAFT 市场可以用突飞猛进来形容,这个城市的创业精神是有目共睹的,下一步相信会有更多香港本土酿坊思考如何突出自身品牌观点,而不只是着眼于酿酒而已。与此同时,市场的整体鉴赏力虽然已有提升,不过还是有很大进步空间。一般来说,“啤迷”起点是从对某个酿坊品牌的欣赏或参考高评分啤酒开始,慢慢扩大到有足够味蕾鉴赏力品饮/欣赏很多不同类别风格啤酒,甚至是达到具备”盲饮”测试能力阶段。”

What would be some of your wishes/vision for HK craft beer scene moving forward?
I would like to see bolder expressions of craft beer in every segment – bars / restaurants, local breweries, beer festivals, homebrewing, imports etc. than we already do. I believe everybody involved should have a drive to constantly improve and take things up a notch.
*Home Brewing vs Running a Brewery 
Home brewing and brewing as a business is obviously very different--or is it pretty much the same despite the big commitment in terms of business needs?

Brewing fundamentals don’t really change between homebrewing and commercial brewing but the execution of the same ideas is quite different. Most of our team is comprised of former award-winning homebrewers and we very much keep that spirit of experimentation alive on a commercial scale. The learning curve to transition from homebrewing to commercial brewing is steep and over the years we believe we have learnt a lot about how to keep experimenting with one-off beers and deliver precise consistency in our core beers.

All those investment and big machine and at times business pressure aside---what about fun factor? Is it still very much a fun thing to do brewing commercially now that you have a market to look out for as compared to anything goes when home brewing?
We would probably shut shop if it stops being fun and all business. If we were to optimize our operations purely for business we would make a couple of core beers and not take any risks with the beers we make. Constant thoughtful experimentation is very much what defines us and our brewing philosophy, inspires us to work hard and at the same time makes it fun.

What are some of the more delicate issue of brewing in Hong Kong? (any local issues or say getting supply of hops / malt / yeast & more….
The single biggest challenge with brewing in Hong Kong is an obvious one – space. Real estate costs are high and more importantly suitable sites where you could setup a small to mid-scale brewery are scarce. Ingredient supply is not a problem at all given Hong Kong’s open ports and robust infrastructure. Regulations are relatively predictable and reasonably easy to navigate despite some bureaucracy that is natural when dealing with governments.
*Brewing Philosophy & Young Master
The branding and positioning of your brewery/beers does reflect the HK elements --going forward --would it be more a case of adapting to local palate/market needs or more of trying to go forth with beer style/taste profile where consumers might need more time to adjust to/get familiar with?
We are a Hong Kong brewery and naturally our brand identity reflects the same. Specifically we are inspired by mid-century industrial Hong Kong given we are in a factory building making something, which was common place a few decades ago but has since died down. In terms of beer styles though, we completely reject the idea of adapting to the mythical notion of a “local palate”. We make beers we believe in and want to bring to the local brewing scene. We don’t believe in dumbing down our beers under any circumstance.

CRAFT 文化成熟的环境中,啤迷会欣赏酿得好的所谓“易喝”啤酒,而新朋友也能接受所谓比较“复杂”/实验性酿品。对我们来说,不同风格类别众多就是CRAFT精髓,也是CRAFTMACRO(大厂啤酒)最明显区别。少爷至今不同酿品展示了这点,换句话说,我们唯一不考虑的饮客群就只是那些死脑筋不愿意试新口味的人们。”
Getting balance between what majority drinkers demand (easy drinking-- usually also more saleable beers) and what Geeks seeking (bolder-more refined -more experimental beers) can be quite a delicate issue --what's your view on that?
I disagree that craft brewers need to look at beer drinkers in categories like you describe. While on the one hand by definition, some beer styles call for a special occasion while others are designed to enjoy multiple pints in a session. However, in a truly evolved beer culture, true “beer geeks” should be able to appreciate a very well made sessionable beer and in a similar vein, presented the right way in the right context a bold experimental beer can be appealing to a novice. To us, variety is a defining characteristic of craft beer and makes it distinct from mass produced beer. For that very reason we always make sure our portfolio reflects a vibrant variety at all times. In other words the only group of drinkers we don’t really cater to are the ones who are not open minded and perhaps set in their ways.
+ Note--on hindsight--that question did kinda suggesting Geeks don't appreciate seemingly more session/lighter beers( such as low abv Table Beer and more)--which is kinda misleading--that's not what i intended to say--but i did put the question out and it sounded like that--so a sort of correction here :) 

What might be some immediate plan for your brewery/ brand of beers--say in the next 12-24 months?--do tell us what you have in mind with all those barrel in place.....
We always keep a pipeline of unique beers coming and see it almost as a responsibility to introduce new and unique styles to the local brewing scene in Hong Kong. We recently purchased a foeder that we are very excited about. We have a sour beer program in place already but we are taking it up several notches by doing lambic style wild yeast fermentations in our foeder. Likewise we have had a barrel aging program since we were three months old and now we have acquired a larger variety and quantity of barrels – including chardonnay, tequila, brandy and bourbon barrels. Expect some very unique beer styles coming out of them.
Any recent experiment brew in mind that you would love to try out?
Too many to list, but in the near future we are most excited about the beer we will make in our newly installed foeder.

Any collaboration brewers/ breweries in mind or already in the pipe line ?
We have an ongoing collaboration with Boxing Cat Brewery in Shanghai. We make a citrus infused IPA every 6 months with changing citrus element and hops every time. We are planning more collaborations in 2017 once we are more settled into our new brewery. Stay tuned.
*Personally Speaking
Some of your personal favourites style of beers to drink?
I really don’t have a favorite style. In the right setting, I can appreciate any well-made beer that is in great condition.

Tell us some of your personal favourites cities to drink craft beer?  Asia or out of Asia
Outside of Hong Kong, Tokyo and New York City come to mind, partly because I have spent a lot of time in both places. Both cities have a nice variety in their bar scene and it helps that they are incredibly food cities to pair with the brews.
“对口味有要求的人就懂得欣赏CRAFT BEER。我会试着了解新朋友心情状态来推介合适的啤酒,也鼓励喝几个不同风格类别啤酒组成的“试味拼盘”来找出喜欢的款式。不过,如果是死脑筋不愿意尝试不熟悉口味的,那就不期望他们会欣赏了。”
What would you say to a newbie or someone never had craft beer before? (on why one should give craft beer a try)
Anyone who appreciate flavor should be able to appreciate craft beer. I would try to learn about the mood they are in and recommend something suitable. I would also encourage them to sample tasters of several distinct beers to figure out what they like. If however they are not an open minded person or someone that doesn’t enjoy flavorful things, I wouldn’t expect them to get interested in craft beer.

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