THE BEST LOCAL CRAFT BEERS IN HONG KONG
So what is the craft beer scene in Hong Kong like? Well, it’s still very much so in its infancy stage, and nowhere near as established and mature like the craft beer industry in the USA. From the brewmasters I’ve talked to in Hong Kong, the majority defines craft beer & craft beer breweries as being more focused on the taste and quality of the beer versus the quantity and volume produced per month in the brewery. If you are primarily a lager drinker and drink craft beer for the very first time, you may find it to be really bitter (or as they call it “hoppy”) & basically a much stronger beer.
In this post, we cover what we recommend as the best 10 Hong Kong craft beers to try. This list is no means exhaustive as even as we speak, there are a ton more breweries, brewpubs and nano-breweries popping up in Hong Kong, but the below is a good place to start and build your Hong Kong craft beer repertoire. Let’s begin.
One. Hong Kong Beer Co.
Touted as the first original craft brewery of Hong Kong, this company had a tumultuous start. It was founded in 1995 as South China Brewing Company and its current name was later adopted in 2003 and the company also changed hands to its current owner in 2013. Their brewery is in Chai Wan and they’re one of the biggest microbreweries currently in Hong Kong. Most recently, Cathy Pacific partnered with Hong Kong Beer Co. to create Betsy Beer, a wheat ale, which was the world’s first hand-crafted bottled beer brewed to be enjoyed at 35,000ft. We liked Hong Kong Beer Co’s Dragon Back Pale Ale & Gambler’s Gold Golden Ale. We hear that the Big Wave Bay IPA is quite nice too but we have yet to try it. You will be able to find Hong Kong Beer Co’s beers readily available at most craft beer bars in Hong Kong.
Gweilo, literally translates to “ghost chap” which we have the origins & etymology here if you’re interested, is actually brewed onsite at Hong Kong Beer Co’s facilities. Most people will have heard or drank a Gweilo beer before because they are available for purchase at Park n shop the supermarket. I’ve only seen Gweilo’s Pale Ale and IPA and both are not bad and worth a taste.
Three. Young Master Ales.
Ah, Young Master Ales. Probably one of our favourites on this list. We love the design of the bottles and company, where it draws inspiration from Old Hong Kong. We particular like their Cha Chaan Teng gose (sour) that is inspired by a cha-chaan-teng, Chinese-British diner, favourite called a “Salty Lime 7”. A salty lime 7 is 7-up with a preserved salty lime on the bottom of the glass. Their brewery’s size at Aberdeen rivals Hong Kong Beer Co. and Young Master Ales does a lot of cool seasonals as well. We love Young Master Ales so much so that they’re one of the breweries we visit during our Local Craft Beer Brewery Tour in Hong Kong. If you’re interested in learning more about craft beer, the individual small microbreweries in Hong Kong, then you can come with us for not only tasting a lot of craft beer, but also learning about the whole craft beer culture in Hong Kong.
Four. Black Kite Brewery.
The brewery that is named after the numerous black birds called Black Kite that you can see dominating Hong Kong’s skylines, it’s a family-run brewery. Founded by two brothers who grew up in Hong Kong, they’ve got a really great story to tell. The beer that I would definitely recommend from them is the Oh, Bacon! smoked beer, which smells and tastes a bit like bacon, but Oh, Surprise! has no bacon! Originally, it was meant to be a seasonal, but it was so popular with local drinkers that they’ve added it to their permanent line.
If you’re interested in tasting bacon flavoured beer that has no bacon, they’re also one of the 3 breweries we visit during the Local Craft Beer Brewery Tour that we run in Hong Kong (yes, last shameless plug… well, maybe second last).
Five. Lion Rock.
I must admit that I have only tried Lion Rock on tap before and it was their Signature Pale Ale. It wasn’t extremely memorable in that it was inspired by something of Hong Kong or that it tasted like bacon, etc. It was just a nice pale ale that would be great paired with some fries and chips. I would recommend Pale Ales for those that are starting with craft beers as IPA could be quite strong and bitter on your first initial tasting. I particularly like the name of the Company as it is named after a mountain in Hong Kong that is called Lion Rock, as surprise, surprise, there is a rock there that looks like a lion. There is; however, a deeper symbolic meaning to Lion Rock and that is the Lion Rock spirit, which speaks about the determination and perseverance of the poor and working class of the Hong Kong people in the 70’s that worked collectively together to rebuild Hong Kong after World War 2, the culture revolution and the huge fire of Shek Kip Mei, amongst other things.
Six. Yardley Brothers.
Yardley Brothers is also founded by 2 brothers, if their name wasn’t obvious enough… Their story is awesome, and goes something along the lines of being avid homebrew enthusiasts and they ended up winning a coveted award for their Hong Kong Bastard Imperial IPA. The label on the bottle for Hong Kong Bastard says it all. It’s got a middle finger to the world because the story goes something a little like this… When the brothers set out to make a beer for the Hong Kong population, they were cautioned to make something light, and drinkable for the novice craft beer drinking crowd in Hong Kong and… they said the f*ck with that, and literally did the opposite. They made an Imperial IPA instead with 7.2%ABV, super hoppy and malty… and ended winning awards. And that’s how they cemented their careers into starting a microbrewery. (Note: Some details might be blurry because not only did I not take notes as Luke, one of the founders, was telling me this, but also, I was on my second cup of beer…)
Seven. Moonzen Brewery.
I also love the story behind Moonzen Brewery as well. Moonzen in Chinese means “Gatekeeper Gods”. Similar to Greek mythology, in Chinese mythology, we have a crapload of gods, with the Jade Emperor being the #1 guy. Consequently, all their beers are named after Chinese gods, and even the notes of their beers are well thought out to align and be consistent around each particular god. An example in point, their Red Ale is inspired by the Monkey King. In Chinese mythology, the Monkey King is quite the delingquent and steals forbidden peaches to eat from the Heavenly Garden; therefore, “their cheeky amber ale boats a beautiful and complex heart of caramel with hints of peaches stolen from the Heavenly Garden’. How’s that for a story? We like their Monkey King Amber Ale and Jade Emperor IPA.
Eight. Kowloon Bay.
Once again, honestly is the best policy here. I don’t know this brewery very well, and have only tried their American IPA which was very hoppy. As stated on their state, “Kowloon Bay Brewery is the brainchild of beer lover/brewer Mike Bardill and beer lover/business gal Ging Van”, and their idea began in Australia… How they got to Hong Kong I’m not too sure, but Ging Van is quote saying, ” As for Hong Kong locals, it’s time for them to experience why beer got so popular in the western world.” One thing they have down is make a gluten-free beer, which is a first in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Beer Co. and Young Master Ales are quite popular craft breweries amongst the expat crowd in Hong Kong, and if I had to make an equivalent for the local crowd, it would be Mak’s Brewery. If you went up to a Hong Kong local and asked them to name a craft brewery, they will most likely will either say “the one with an owl” (Hitachino and no they’re not a local craft beer) or Mak’s. Mak’s does really well with the local crowd partly due to their marketing efforts and outreach and another I would assume is their taste? If you’re interested to taste a Hong Kong local’s favourite craft beer, then try a Mak’s! We like how they used the Asian Longan fruit in their IPA.
At the time of publishing this post, they are indeed the new kids on the block! I may be biased because I was able to try their beers directly from the tanks and their Hangry Donut, a wheat beer, and Cereusly, an American IPA, are seriously good. Their official launch party is going to be this month and they’ve currently got 4 beers, with all 4 on them on tap at Second Draft in Tai Hang. We really like the Hangry.
Impressed by our Hong Kong craft beer knowledge? Then join us on a beginning to end story about Hong Kong craft beer with Hong Kong’s first craft beer brewery tour, the Original Craft Beer Brewery Tour from Humid with a Chance of Fishballs Tours. We visit 3 local breweries to meet the faces behind the beers, to get VIP & behind the scenes access into the microbreweries and to taste a lot of craft beers of course!