Beer in Hong Kong

Asia. It hits you with a frenetic blast of sights, sounds, smells and tastes. Banyan trees and frying garlic, oppressive heat and language that to an untrained ear sounds like some tropical bird coming to physical harm. I’m simplifying of course, I’m well aware that a continent has a diverse range of cultures and customs, but there’s something about being back on this particular continent that entices the senses and raises expectations of new experiences, maybe its the jetlag?

Perhaps I’m not wholly qualified to write a post on beer in Hong Kong. I am not a Hong Kong native, but I’ve visited several times in the past several years. I am not a beer judge, though I do heartily enjoy a finely crafted beer. I aim not to write a sermon but guide fellow travelers in the right direction

This time around my beer experiences in Hong Kong started on a smoggy Friday afternoon, a small pub on a square where schoolkids were taking turns running though timed jets of water that seemed to function both as a public art installation and meeting point. This particular pub my companion and I sidled into had a number of beers available, both draught and bottled. The usual suspects on draught – Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, Carlsberg and Filipino San Miguel. Stella Artois is Stella Artois anywhere in the world, I’m not a Hoegaarden fan and Carlsberg is cheap fizzy piss water, so it had to be the San Miguel. A pint was had for the princely sum of $34HKD. It was cold, wet and welcome on a warm afternoon and that’s pretty much all it had going for it. No discernible aroma, a lack of head and what seemed to be overly large bubbles. It was sweet and had a weak body, with an ever so metallic aftertaste. Maybe it’s not a variant of San Miguel that travels well.

Trudging on through shopping malls and plazas seeking a hostelry with a wider selection of draught beers I was SOL. My companion was tiring, it was time to hit the bottles. A detour back to our hotel led to the hotel bar happy hour, where a beer simply marked “Hong Kong Beer” was included in the list of bottled beers under the 2 for 1 happy hour promotion. This is what arrived….

a bottle of Hong Kong Beer….

With a label not unlike Speights! Once poured it was a very light almost straw colour and had a good foamy head, which settled reasonably quickly to a decent lace. A sniff revealed a hint of citrus and plenty of (I think – Cascade) hops. The first sip was highly impressive – fruity and hoppy but not overwhelmingly so. Not excessively carbonated. A crisp and pleasant mouthfeel, with a certain amount of bite on the aftertaste. Closer to an American style lager than a European one. Overall, pretty damn impressive! The second bottle worked extremely well with some spicy chicken satay.

So I suppose the moral of this story is don’t overlook the hotel bar! My later research on the producers – The Hong Kong Brewing Company shows them to be the only microbrewery in Hong Kong as far as I am aware – they have their own pub somewhere in the city. If any HK based craft beer aficionados can enlighten me further I’d be most grateful.

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