As a beer lover, one of the first things I did when I got to Hong Kong was take a stroll through the popular bar areas of the city, namely SoHo, Lan Kwai Fong and Wan Chai. I have to say, what I found disappointed me. There was no good beer—or at least, it was hard to find.
When you think of craft beer, Hong Kong does not spring to mind. In North America, however, new breweries are seemingly popping up out of nowhere every day. Back home I find that people are becoming more and more accustomed to craft beer and most know that there are more options than just Heineken, Stella Artois and Budweiser.
Unfortunately, for those of us living in Hong Kong, those are often our only options. But with many new breweries and brew pubs opening across the city, that’s starting to change.
I recently had a chance to sample the best Hong Kong has to offer at the city’s premier beer festival, Beertopia. So on a warm Saturday night, underneath the fading Hong Kong sun, a friend and I set off to discover what beer Hong Kong has to offer.
After a short MTR ride and 45 minutes of navigating the labyrinth that is Elements Mall, we finally made it to the West Kowloon Waterfront just as the sun was setting. Nestled into the promenade, Beertopia offers beer enthusiasts one of the best views in the world. To the south, Victoria Peak, illuminated by the bright lights of Hong Kong Island’s many office towers. And to the west, past cargo ships anchored for night, the city’s many outlying islands.
As we made our way through the festival grounds in search of our beer tokens, the crowd continued to grow. The DJ tent was gearing up, with inebriated festival goers awkwardly bobbing their heads, while a smaller crowd stumbled to see the live cover band playing on the far side stage. Meanwhile, local food vendors graced us with their overpriced, yet greasy and delicious bratwurst, pulled pork and poutine. Even though I was starving, we were here for one reason: beer. So we pushed on.
The global beer scene was surprisingly well represented, with many different countries featured including Canada, US, Scotland, Belgium, Germany and of course, Hong Kong. With beers named Jacky Hammer and Apocalypse IPA, there was no shortage of unique, hoppy goodness to go around.
To be honest, I was surprised at how much locally brewed beer was present at the festival. I have been to many a pub during my few short months here but had not had the opportunity to sample something truly unique to Hong Kong.
According to my trusty Beertopia guidebook, there were actually four breweries based in Hong Kong that were present at the festival, one of which has been around since 1995. In total, there were 19 beers available that were brewed right here in Hong Kong. There are also many new vendors located in the city, some of which will deliver beer right to your door.
So there actually has been craft beer in Hong Kong for a while. It just hasn’t spread very fast. A little post-Beertopia research enlightened me. The problem lies in an old import law, which made it too expensive to import beer from around the world.
With that recently abolished, good beer is flowing in and people are taking notice. Besides the success of Beertopia, new brewpubs are opening and the home brewing scene is also burgeoning. One fellow festival-goer’s t-shirt read “Brew Now, Drink Later,” which I think pretty much sums up the growing attitude towards real, artisanal beer in Hong Kong.