Typhoon microbrewery storms Hong Kong

Typhoon microbrewery storms Hong Kong

One man is on a mission to inject some craft into Hong Kong's beer market with the region's second microbrewery
hong kong microbrewery
Pierre Cadoret raises one for Hong Kong.
Hong Kong microbreweryTyphoon's honey-brown color.Hong Kong isn't known as much of a beer connoisseur's town, but Pierre Cadoret is trying to change that. Late last year, the Cathay Pacific pilot launched Typhoon Brewery, Hong Kong's second microbrewery and the first to make English-style cask ale. 

Microbrewery might even be an overstatement. Typhoon's storefront brewery in Mui Wo is only slightly larger than the average 7-Eleven. It's also a one-man show. When he's not piloting long-haul flights to New York, Cadoret does everything from brewing to distribution and marketing. After months of fine-tuning his recipes, he has produced two brews: an English bitter called T8 and a porter called Black Rain. 

"Hong Kong is ready for something like this to happen," says Cadoret. "People keep telling me that people here like their beer yellow, cold and not too bitter. It's true. But people also don't have much of a choice because that's all that's on offer in most places. I'm trying to get people to think differently about beer."

Cadoret is inspired by the craft-brewing movement that has swept across Great Britain and North America, reinvigorating traditional brews that had fallen out of favor as mass-produced, industrial lagers came to dominate drinking habits. Craft beers use all-natural ingredients, are brewed in small batches and come in a bewildering array of styles.

Cask ale, often called real ale in the UK, is unfiltered and unpasteurized. After it is brewed, yeast is left in the beer, which naturally creates carbon dioxide and allows flavors to change and mature over time. The result is a beer with complex, multi-layered flavours -- but one that can spoil easily, which makes distribution difficult. 

Rather than storing in kegs, Typhoon's beer must be served in a bulky chilled container that helps it stay fresh for longer. So far, says Cadoret, it has been a challenge to convince bar owners to make the extra effort to serve his ales. But he has found a patron in Toby Cooper, owner of The Globe, a Central pub known for its dedication to beer. 

"It's not a mass-market beer," Cooper says of T8, which he has helped Cadoret refine since he first started brewing it. He now offers it on tap. "It brings people in. Before Pierre opened the brewery we were bringing in kegs of real ale from overseas for ridiculous expense. It wasn't very good because it had been sitting around for such a long time, but we still sold a lot of it, because people are interested in it." 

With the launch of Typhoon Brewery, Hong Kong now has two microbreweries and one industrial mega-brewer. While that hardly compares to other cities -- San Francisco alone has 23 brewpubs and breweries -- it's a good start towards developing a local beer culture. But just how good are our Hong Kong brews? We ordered up a few pints to find out.

Hong Kong microbreweryThe English malt that finishes up as Typhoon beer.T8

This English Bitter with 4.5% alcohol is by Typhoon Brewery. It's the first cask-conditioned ale brewed in Hong Kong.

Appearance: Orangish-brown, a bit cloudy, with a light frothy head.
Smell: Very fragrant with an aroma of freshly-cut apples and plums.
Mouthfeel: Extremely light carbonation. It's creamy but a little thin.
Taste: There's a lot going on here. An immediate hoppy bitterness is followed by flavors that evoke digestive cookies and a bit of burnt toffee. It's a good, well-balanced beer but somehow lacks the oomph of the best English bitters.

Try it on tap at The Globe.

Aldrich Bay Pale Ale

An English Pale Ale with 4.9% alcohol. Made by the Hong Kong S.A.R. Brewing Company, this is one of the star brews of Asia's first microbrewery, which opened in 1995 as the South China Brewing Company.
Appearance: Light amber with a thick head.
Smell: Vaguely fruity and slightly spicy.
Mouthfeel: Mild carbonation. It's smooth at first, but it finishes very dry, like you've just taken a big gulp of nothing.
Taste: Sweet and very malty, kind of like a beer equivalent to Horlicks. It's drinkable but nothing too special. If this is the only microbrewed beer Hong Kong has produced until now, it's easy to see why it never caught on. 

Try it on tap at East End Brewery, Cochrane's, Lan Kwai Fong Beer Bar and plenty of other bars.

San Miguel Pale Pilsen

This German Pilsener has 5% alcohol. It is brewed locally by the Hong Kong subsidiary of the Philippines' largest brewing company, the San Miguel Brewery.

Appearance: Light yellow with virtually no head and a lot of bubbles.

Smell: Nothing much.
Mouthfeel: Like razors and sandpaper. This beer is so over-carbonated it hurts your mouth.
Taste: Corn and a very bland sweetness. Mass-produced beer like this is meant for drinking ice-cold, quickly and in large quantities. But thanks to the preservatives and low-quality adjuncts like rice, don't expect to feel too good in the morning.

Try it .... almost everywhere. Seriously. It's as close as the nearest 7-Eleven. 

Christopher DeWolf is a writer, photographer and self-styled flâneur.
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