Sun, May 03, 2015 - Page 12 News List

Bubbling under

Two American expats are living every beer lover’s dream — brewing and selling their own beer

By Jenny Munro  /  Staff reporter

The Redpoint TaiPA is Redpoint Brewery’s flagship beer, which the co-founders say is the first local pale ale in the Taiwan market of beers brewed by foreigners.
Warning: Excessive consumption of alcohol can damage your health.

Photo courtesy of Redpoint Brewing Company

Beer. It’s the beverage that unites friends, strangers, teams, nations.

Former US president Abraham Lincoln said that people can be relied on to meet any national crisis, if you “bring them the real facts, and beer.”

Beer is the world’s most popular alcoholic drink — and among all drinks, it ranks third behind water and tea, according to The Barbarian’s Beverage: A History of Beer in Ancient Europe.

In the US, beer is a huge industry, with more than 3,000 breweries meeting an unquenchable thirst.

Taiwan, by contrast, has one major brewer — Taiwan Beer — that accounts for about 70 percent of the local market, thanks to the monopoly it enjoyed from 1947 until 2002, when the country was required to open up its markets if it was to join the WTO.

A handful of independent craft brewers have since joined the scene, but they remain largely unknown, except among the most discerning of beer drinkers.

Spencer Jemelka, 29, and Doug Pierce, 39, both from the US, but who now call Taiwan home, are the founders of Redpoint Brewing Co, which has been making a name for itself among local drinkers since its launch a year ago.

The two men met seven years ago on the Bailing sports field in Taipei’s Shilin District (士林), with a mutual love of rugby bringing them to the Taipei Baboons rugby club.

The pair also shared a love for beer, but found the variety of brews available in Taiwan lacking compared with the rich array in their homeland.

Their solution? Brew their own beer.

REACHING THEIR REDPOINT

However, getting started was not easy, as the pair found it difficult to find ingredients and equipment.

Homebrewers in the US number 1.2 million, according to the American Homebrewers’ Association, while here, it would be safe to say the industry is fledgling at best.

Lack of ingredients was one thing; lack of brewing experience was another.

“Everything was self-taught,” said Jemelka, a sandy-haired, broad-shouldered scrumhalf from Boulder, Colorado who came to Taiwan in 2008 to study diplomacy at National Chengchi University.

So began many hours of beer research — reading books and online materials as well as watching Youtube tutorials.

What started out as a hobby soon took on a life of its own, as the two men honed their craft over many brews, and they started to find that it was too much for them to consume on their own.

So they started giving out samples to their friends, “mostly on the rugby team, because they’ll drink anything,” Jemelka said.

Soon they were making new brews every two weeks, so popular was their drop.

“People started telling us, ‘you know what, this is getting pretty good,’” Jemelka said. “Then we had an idea this was something special. That was sort of when the light went on.”

That light was the idea that the two men could make a business of their passion — Redpoint was born.

The name Redpoint will catch the eye of rock climbers, as it is a term that means reaching the end of a climb you have attempted before without falling.

It can take many attempts to complete a climb successfully — to reach your redpoint.

“It means basically practice makes perfect,” Jemelka said.

It’s a notion that has held true during this journey for the pair — for whom rock climbing is yet another one of their passions — as they upgraded from a 20L system to a 100L system, perfecting their recipe again and again.

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