Brief History of Craft Brewing in Hong Kong

Hong Cong Craft Brewery - Hong Kong Beer Co

The craft beer industry in Hong Kong has been steadily growing over the past 27 years since Hong Kong Beer Co was founded as Hong Kong’s first craft brewery. This blog will explore the reasons for the increase in craft beer market share in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Beer Co (HKBC) is Hong Kong's first craft brewery. It was founded in 1995 as South China Brewing Company and renamed Hong Kong Beer Company in 2003. An article in the New York Times on July 12, 1995, documented HKBC’s opening in 1995 and included some staggering statistics about the number of craft breweries in the United States at the time - 500. Today, the U.S. boasts more than 9,552 craft breweries - a 19-fold increase - according to the Brewers Association, a U.S. craft beer trade organization.

Hong Kong boasts a population of approximately 7.5 million people and as many as 65 million visitors per year. In this regard, it is similar in size and popularity to New York City, with its 8.4 million residents and approximately 66 million annual visitors. And yet, the Craft Beer Association of Hong Kong counts just seven local craft beer breweries as corporate members compared with a significantly higher 41 members of the New York City Brewers Guild. Astonishingly, New York City has nearly six times as many craft breweries as Hong Kong even though both cities service a similarly sized local market! Furthermore, comparing the number of craft breweries alone likely understates this disparity because the New York City breweries produce significantly larger volumes than their Hong Kong counterparts.

For two of the most remarkable cities of the 21st century, with shared similarities as globalized financial and cultural centres, why is craft beer more prevalent in New York City than in Hong Kong?

One obvious explanation is to meet demand! According to leading market and consumer data provider Statista, craft beer sales have been trending higher and now account for 27% of all beer sales in the U.S. Having started in earnest in the early 80’s, modern U.S. craft breweries have been around for longer than Hong Kong Beer Co and craft beer in Hong Kong. It therefore stands to reason that more people in the U.S. have had time to sample craft beer and compare its fresh variety of flavours to those of mass-produced beers. The following table summarizes five main reasons consumers increasingly prefer locally-made craft beer to commercial beer. Scroll right to compare craft's high quality, all-natural ingredients, small-batch handcrafted brewing process, freshness, full flavours, and immense variety to the largely homogenous, mass-produced commercial beers.  





Highest quality malt, hops, yeast, and filtered water.

Tend to use cheaper ingredients including inferior quality malt, hops, and adjuncts such as GMO corn, GMO corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and GMO rice. Also, numerous other ingredients used to clarify, stabilize, preserve, and artificially enhance the color and flavor including caramel coloring, GMO dextrose, and propylene glycol.

Brewing process

Small batches perfected by artisanal brewers.

Mass-produced by commercial breweries.


Brewed and distributed locally and generally consumed within weeks or months of brewing for optimal freshness. Aside from purposefully aged beers, fresh beer retains its intended flavours and aromas, and avoids oxidation.

Added preservatives extend shelf life. Imported beers travel thousands of miles without climate control and are frequently warehoused in bulk at room temperature for extended periods.  


Full, often bold, flavours and aromas derived from premium ingredients; flavours range from crisp and clean to hoppy and bitter, fruity, nutty, toasty, spicy, smokey, sour, tart, and citrusy; “affordable luxury” - each craft beer can be savored like a fine wine but in a single-serve container with no waste.

Can taste homogenous and bland since they are generically brewed for a mass audience.


Over 100 different beer styles including ales, lagers, hybrid ales, and mixed lagers.  

Almost exclusively light lagers.

In Hong Kong, demand alone does not fully explain the relatively lower craft beer market share. Unlike most countries including the United States, Hong Kong craft brewers face structural impediments that unfairly limit supply. Notably, even though more Hong Kong restaurants and bars are beginning to respond to consumer preference and offer craft beer, many are induced by hefty marketing incentives to offer mass-market beers exclusively. Should customers continue to prefer and request craft beer, as mass-market beer brands fear, Hong Kong consumers will finally be able to enjoy a wide range of locally produced premium craft beers at their favourite establishments.

Founded in 1995, Hong Kong Beer Co has continuously brewed craft beer in Hong Kong for over 27 years, all the while pioneering the craft beer industry in Hong Kong and Asia. Hong Kong Beer Co brews and supplies a variety of premium local craft beers – from our iconic Hong Kong Beer Amber Ale to other favourite year-round beers such as our Big Way Bay IPA, Happy Valley Golden Ale, Dragon’s Back Pale Ale, Sevens Stout, The Peak Pilsner, 852 Pacific Ale, and our exciting new N0.0 Limits Non-Alcoholic Pale Ale. In the past five years, we have also brewed over 40 limited-release craft beer styles, including our mainstays: Hazy Daze Hazy IPA, Mango Lassi Milkshake IPA, Mai Po Bourbon-Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, Sunset Peak Hazy Pale Ale, Hei Hei Hazy Double IPA, and each year, our Anniversary Saison.

As industry pioneers, Hong Kong Beer Co feels a tremendous responsibility to document and honour the rich history and tradition of craft brewing in Hong Kong. Together with our loyal customer base, we look forward to welcoming new discerning craft beer enthusiasts into our friendly and inclusive community over the next 27 years!