Originally published on October 23, 2017 by Graham Turner. Updated on May 20, 2019 by Sarah Moran.
Are you finding yourself staggering about Lan Kwai Fong on a Friday night, clinging on to the lukewarm pint of Carlsberg that skinned you for $75? Are you asking yourself why? Isn’t there more to life? Well, the answer is yes, my friends. If we’d had this discussion a decade ago, I would say you’re pretty much out of luck, drink your medicine, and stop moaning, but the tides have turned — ferociously — and we take beer very seriously in Hong Kong now. And it’s glorious.
The elimination of taxes on low alcohol beverages in 2006 created an opening for the import of craft beer. This flooded the city with some much needed variety in beer, whetting our collective palette. Now we have a borderline silly amount of bars that specialise in beer or at least, take care to have a selection of craft beers available. We brew our own, quite successfully as well, we have beer festivals, and we even have our own Craft Beer Association. Such progress deserves to be acknowledged and recorded for posterity. So here it is: a guide to Hong Kong’s craft beer and where to find them. See you down the pub!
Black Kite Brewery
Founded by brothers David and Daniel Gallie, and named after the familiar bird that is an iconic fixture of Hong Kong’s sky’s, Black Kite Brewery creates beers that are easy to drink, but are still packed with flavour. As it stands they have six core beers on the go and an ever-changing special. They don’t do official tours or tastings as such, but are very receptive and ingratiating to anyone looking to check their wares, so hit them up firstname.lastname@example.org.
Golden Ale (4.6%ABV) – biscuity malt, earthy and citrusy hops
Amber Ale (5.4%ABV) – fruits and spices complimenting a caramel-tinged malt
Pale Ale (5.2%ABV) – slightly bitter, aromas of citrus and passion fruit
IPA (5.7%ABV) – citrusy, fruity and slightly floral
Wheat (5.0%ABV) – cloudy, hints of banana
Claiming to brew the “purest & tastiest all-grain beer in Hong Kong”, Moonzen Brewery don’t mince their words when it comes to their product — one that they are clearly very proud of. And with good reason. Around since 2014, Moonzen puts an emphasis on celebrating Chinese culture and craftsmanship in their beer and it shows, not just in their beautifully ornate label designs, but in the kinds of flavours they produce. Want to see how they do it? Hit them up on their Facebook page and book a spot on one of their Friday evening tours and tastings.
Moonzen Jade Emperor IPA (7%ABV) – foundation of maltiness with citrus and floral hits;
Moonzen Monkey King Amber Ale (5% ABV) – complex notes of caramel and peach;
Moonzen Moon Goddess Chocolate Stout (5%ABV) – creamy and smooth with strong chocolate and vanilla flavours;
Moonzen Thunder God Pale Ale (5% ABV) – fresh and light with tropical, citrus and hoppy flavours;
Moonzen Yama Sichuan Porter (8%ABV) – distinctive flavours of malt, smoked caramel, and Sichuan peppers.
Founded by brothers Duncan and Luke Yardley, the Lamma Island-based brewery have built a fairy rabid following on Lamma Island, and despite starting out small and intimate at first, have moved onwards and upwards by opening a brewery in Kwai Hing. Here they offer tours and tastings if you give them a shout at email@example.com. They always throw amazing events with beer, live music — and more beer. Top-quality beer, paired with some loud, live music? A match made in heaven.
Lamma Island Pale Ale (5%ABV) – floral, citrus, hoppy, caramel, and malty in one glorious orgy of flavour;
Quit Your Job (6%ABV) – Hazy and light with a strong head, slightly bitter to taste with a refreshing finish;
Single Batch Double IPA (7.5%ABV) – Biscuity, malty, floral aroma with similar tasting notes;
Hong Kong Bastard Imperial IPA (7.2%ABV) – Aroma of hops, grapefruit and light maltiness
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A beer founded with an aim to create something fun, fresh, and unique. The team at Gweilo started by stripping the brewing process back to its bare-bones, benchmarking over 150 beers before settling on the formula that is now sweeping the city. It’s a philosophy that they’ve stringently stuck to, unlike many other breweries which arguably get ahead of themselves and start going a bit mad with the range of brews they produce after finding some initial success. Gweilo have kept things lean and mean, serving up three tentpole beers, all of which are really quite delicious.
Pale Ale (4.5 %ABV) – light with citrusy aromas and Asian fruits;
IPA (4.8%ABV) – fresh and vibrant, tropical hops flavour with a crisp finish
Kowloon Bay Brewery
Beer lovers Mike Bardill and Ging Van, like many of the brewers on our list, were somewhat disillusioned with the lack of craft beer in Hong Kong and set out to change that. Collective epiphanies are a big theme throughout this article — the big takeaway is, when you step back, you can see the snowball effect taking place — and it’s a beautiful thing. Anyway, back to these guys. Kowloon Bay Brewery has a pretty tight arrangement — Bardill does the brewing and Van does the selling. It’s proven to be an effective way of working and the ambition of the brewery is clear with a whopping 14 beers available (five core, nine specials). Definitely more hits than misses, and if they keep producing brews at this rate, you might see them at every bar in the city before too long.
Pale Ale (5%ABV) – made using cascade hops to give a floral, grapefruit character
Weizen (4.8%ABV) – wheat beer with subtle spice banana flavours accentuated with vanilla
Bohemian Pilsner (4.8%ABV) – straw-coloured beer that uses Saaz hops to provide a soft, hoppy profile;
Strong Red Belgian Ale (8%ABV) – sweet, malty flavours. Could be used as a replacement for dessert wine
Pumpkin Ale (5%ABV) – malty ale with cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, and allspice in the mix
Lion Rock Brewery
Creating recipes that pay homage to Hong Kongers’ industrious nature, perseverance, and spirit of solidarity, Lion Rock Brewery put out an impressive selection of 10 brews, each honing in a particular characteristic of the SAR. These beers are popping up all over the city at a rapid pace, as well as being available to buy through their website in bottled, small, and large keg varieties, so these guys are working hard to push their craft. If you fancy a nosey around their operation, shoot them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lion Rock Signature (pale ale, 5.2%ABV) – Complex fruity flavours with peach and gooseberries;
Grandmaestro (IPA, 6.4%ABV) – balance of bitter and hoppy, with aromas of passionfruit, peach, gooseberries, citrus fruits, blackcurrant, and pine;
Oriental Pearl (oatmeal stout, 5.9%ABV) – emphasises malty sweetness with liquorice, chocolate and coffee aromas;
Wheat Lover (weizen, 5.9%ABV) – Subtle aromas of banana and vanilla with a uniquely malty flavour;
Metamoric (winter ale, 6.3%ABV) – slight citrus flavours with caramel sweetness;
Expendables (imperial IPA, 8.1%) – fruity and citrus flavours complemented by a slightly spicy flavour with hints of herbs
Beer that is made by Hong Kongers, for Hong Kongers. Mak’s Brewery comprises of three young locals who wish to challenge the notion that “all good beer is made by foreigners” and that a product made with local knowledge, by locals, can compete with the very best out there. From what we’ve tried, this humble brewery is well on its way to competing with the hypothetical “big boys”.
Mak’s Longan Pale Ale (5.5%ABV) – complex flavour with hints of wolf berries and preserved fruit;
Mak’s Mint Beer (5.3%ABV) – A pale ale base with added flavours of dried mint leaves and wild winter honey;
Mak’s Yim Tin Beer (4.7%ABV) – Very fruity with delicate notes of malt and tangerine.
Young Master Ales
One of Hong Kong’s first ever microbreweries, Rohit Dugar launched Young Master Ales with a view to creating beers drawing on Hong Kong’s heritage; unique to our city and not another arbitrary, culturally agnostic product. Their beautiful Ap Lei Chau brewery, with its rustic tasting room boasting a view over the sea, is a joy to sample a beer in, and a pleasure we strongly suggest you partake in when the brewery opens its doors to the public on Saturdays.
Captain’s Bar Beer (4.7%ABV) – German malt and European-style hops give this beer its crisp, clean, and refreshing finish;
The Young Master Classic (5%ABV) – fruity, floral, and zesty, made with North American and Australian hops;
The Rye on Wood (6%ABV) – aged with medium toasted new American oak to give it a distinct flavour;
Island 1842 Imperial IPA (8%ABV) – Hoppy with a powerful nose of spicy, floral, and zesty hops.
Hong Kong Beer Co.
Originally established in 1995 as South China Brewing Company, and launched as Asia’s first craft brewery to sell beer exclusively in bottles and kegs, Hong Kong Beer Co took its current name in 2003. HKBC was acquired in 2013 by Devin Otto Kimble and Daniel Flores, the two founders of Singapore’s multiple award-winning Brewerkz Restaurant & Microbrewery. It could be argued that pre-2013, Hong Kong Beer Co was never really considered a true craft brewery — and was more interested in churning out pedestrian pours that are cheap and effective. All that has changed now. There’s a real sense of actual artisanal craft with Hong Kong Beer, and it’s transformed the company’s reputation.
Gambler’s Gold (golden ale, 4.6%ABV) – prominently aromatic nose with tropical fruit accents;
Hong Kong Beer (amber ale, 5.1%ABV) – light caramel and malt profile with a prominent citrus aroma;
Dragon’s Back (pale ale, 5.3%ABV) – medium-bodied, twist on the usual English formula with the addition of American hops, enhancing the refreshment and aroma;
Big Wave Bay (IPA, 7%) – fresh and balanced with a robustly malt base, accentuated with bitterness, fragrant citrus, tropical fruits, and pine.