In a poky room in a backstreet of Beijing, self-taught brewer Carl Setzer uses spicy Sichuan peppercorns, oolong tea leaves and cinnamon to invent beer flavors suited to Chinese tastes.
The burly American runs Great Leap Brewing, one of a small, but growing number of microbreweries in China hoping to entice drinkers in the world’s biggest beer market with their hand-crafted lagers, ales and stouts.
Chinese drinkers buy more than 40 billion liters of beer a year, but the vast majority are consuming cheap, locally produced lagers that cost as little as US$0.50 a bottle.
Warning: Excessive consumption of alcohol can damage your health
Snow beer, which is brewed by SABMiller PLC and its Chinese partner China Resources Enterprises Ltd, is the biggest-selling beer in the country, followed by Tsingtao, which is made by one of China’s oldest and best known breweries.
However, Setzer and other microbreweries operating in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai hope to attract China’s growing middle class, who like the taste of foreign beer and can afford to pay 15 times the cost of a local brand.
“You’ve got 50 or 60 million beer drinkers in this country — let’s aim at 10 percent of that and see if we can get a market going for people who want something that is a little bit better, a little bit different,” Setzer said.
Warning: Excessive consumption of alcohol can damage your health
Setzer, who says his beer has “flavor” and “soul” unlike local brew, produces 800 liters a week for the hundreds of Chinese and foreign expatriate drinkers who stop by his traditional courtyard for a glass of ale.
Ho Punyu, 34, is a regular at Great Leap Brewing after foreign friends introduced him to the bar’s handcrafted ales a year ago.
“Tsingtao and Yanjing beer taste like water,” said Ho, an investment adviser in Beijing, referring to China’s second-best-selling beer and another brand local to Beijing. “I look at things in term of value — the taste is good, the price is right.”
At the Boxing Cat Brewery in Shanghai, where a pint of pale ale costs 45 yuan (US$7), nearly half the customers are Chinese — which brewmaster Michael Jordan says proves there is a market for top-notch beer in China.
“The business here is in its infancy so there’s a lot of opportunity,” said Jordan, who brews 2,000 liters a week. “It is also challenging because Chinese culture is not used to craft beer — there’s a lot more flavor complexity.”
China has been making beer for thousands of years, according to the American Association of Wine Economists (AAWE), but it is better known for its potent white liquor, baijiu, distilled from grains such as sorghum and rice.
Beer consumption has exploded in China. The AAWE, a non-profit organization made up of economists from around the world, said the country consumes 40 billion liters a year, compared with 150,000 million liters in 1961.
However, on a per capita basis, China lags far behind beer-swilling countries in Europe, with the average Chinese person consuming 24 liters a year, compared with more than 160 liters in Ireland and the Czech Republic, AAWE said.
Other estimates put Chinese per capita beer consumption at about 32 liters.
At 5 percent to 10 percent a year, the growth in China’s beer market is much slower than for wine, which is becoming the tipple of choice for those seeking to impress, said Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group in Shanghai.
“We expect red wine consumption to be growing 20 to 30 percent a year for the next five years minimum — it’s one of the hottest sectors to be in right now,” Rein said.
Setzer said he is constantly experimenting with local ingredients to come up with new beer flavors to entice more customers to his rustic microbrewery in central Beijing.
Some of his most successful creations so far are the Iron Buddha Blonde made with oolong tea and the Honey Ma Gold, which is made from spicy Sichuan peppercorns and organic honey.
“The Honey Ma is the 33rd attempt ... I brewed it 33 different times before I found one that I just loved,” Setzer said, as he sipped a pint of ale. “The more you do something, the more crazy you want to be.”
Analysts say the success of microbreweries in Shanghai and Beijing has been driven by foreign expatriates and Chinese who have lived abroad or work with Westerners, and they are unlikely to appeal to drinkers outside the major cities.
Most beer in China is sold in large bottles in restaurants, which mainly stock local brands.
“I don’t think microbreweries will ever get hugely popular because there is a different taste and different price point and conception of what beer is,” Rein said. “Typically Chinese like more watered down versions of beer — it is a lot lighter in taste.”
Sam Mulligan, director of market research group DDMA in Shanghai, agrees.
“Beer is considered an adult refreshment rather than a serious drink in China,” Mulligan said. “You see people drinking it for breakfast.”
Softbank Group Corp plans to keep a stake in the chip designer Arm Ltd, even if it sells a partial interest to Nvidia Corp, the Nikkei reported. The companies are negotiating terms, the newspaper reported, citing sources. Softbank might take a stake in Nvidia after it buys Arm, the report said. Nvidia and Arm might also merge through a share swap, and Softbank would become a major shareholder in the combined company, it said. The two parties aim to reach a deal in the next few weeks, the sources said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. Nvidia is the
‘ONE-STOCK SHOW’: Turnover hit an all-time high as TSMC continued to determine the local market’s direction and surpassed Visa in market capitalization The TAIEX early yesterday hit an all-time intraday high on the back of soaring Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) shares, before tumbling back to the previous day’s close as the contract chipmaker could not single-handedly prop up the index. The TAIEX rose more than 400 points in the first 20 minutes of trading to hit a record 13,031.7 points, but later pared its gains to close down 0.01 percent at 12,586.73. Turnover was NT$343.252 billion (US$11.63 billion), the highest in the Taiwan Stock Exchange’s history. TSMC continued to dictate the market’s direction, as its early surge by the daily
Gold surged to a fresh record on Friday, fueled by US dollar weakness and low interest rates, while silver headed for its best month since 1979. Spot bullion is up more than 10 percent this month, as US real yields lingered near record lows. While the ferocity of rallies in gold and silver cooled in the middle of the week, most market watchers predict there might be more gains ahead. Both metals have added about 30 percent this year, with gold and silver exchange-traded funds boosting holdings to a record, as concern about the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic fuels demand for
MediaTek Inc (聯發科) has hired a former US Department of Commerce official to help it navigate worsening US-China tensions that have already ensnared its customer Huawei Technologies Co (華為). Patrick Wilson, who most recently served as director of the department’s Office of Business Liaison, has been appointed vice president of government affairs at MediaTek USA to lead its public policy initiatives, the chip designer said in a draft press statement seen by Bloomberg News. Wilson previously worked at the Semiconductor Industry Association, where he led the trade group’s dealings with the US federal government. Technology companies with ties to or operations in China