Brief History of Craft Brewing in Hong Kong

Brief History of Craft Brewing in Hong Kong

The craft beer industry in Hong Kong has been steadily growing over the past 25 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 8,275 craft breweries - a 17-fold increase - according to the Brewers Association, a U.S. craft beer trade organization.

Hong Kong boasts a population of 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 8.3 million residents and 65.2 million annual visitors. And yet, the Craft Beer Association of Hong Kong counts just 7 local craft breweries as corporate members compared with a significantly higher 38 members of the New York City Brewers Guild. Astonishingly, New York City has four 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 centers, 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 25% 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.  

 

Craft

Commercial

Ingredients

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.

Freshness

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 flavors 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.  

Flavor

Full, often bold flavors and aromas derived from premium ingredients; flavors 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.

Variety

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 exclusively offer mass-market beers. 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 favorite establishments.

Founded in 1995, Hong Kong Beer Co has continuously brewed craft beer in Hong Kong for over 25 years, all the while pioneering the craft beer industry in Hong Kong and Asia. Hong Kong Beer Co has a commitment to serving a vast array of beers – from our iconic Hong Kong Beer Amber Ale to other favorite year-round beers such as our Big Way Bay IPA, Gambler’s Gold Golden Ale, Dragon’s Back Pale Ale, and The Peak Pilsner. In the past 5 years, we have also brewed over 40 limited release beers, including our mainstays: Seven’s Stout, White Pearl White Ale, Hazy Daze Hazy IPA, and White Lager, and our exciting new Peach Sour and Mango Lassi Milkshake IPA.

As industry pioneers, Hong Kong Beer Co feels a tremendous responsibility to document and honor 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 25 years!