Sat, Oct 24, 2015 - Page 12 News List

The brews on 55th street

A husband-and-wife duo are setting out to change Taiwan’s craft beer scene one hop at a time from their microbrewery in New Taipei City

By Dana Ter  /  Staff reporter

Jack Yu and Johan Yan pose in front of their brewery, 55th Street Craft Brewery, in New Taipei City’s Xinzhuang District.

Photo: Dana Ter, Taipei Times

The inside of crystal malt tastes like caramel. Sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. A suave kind of sweet.

This specialty grain is used as the base to create 55th Street Craft Brewery’s signature beer, the Amber Ale. Made with crystal malt and dried longan fruit, the ale boasts a smoky texture with a hint of honey.

When the Colombian-raised Jack Yu (游承亞) and his wife Johan Yan (嚴若菡) opened 55th Street late last year, they wanted to create beer that people would associate as being from Taiwan. Hence the longans. Sourced from a farm in Miaoli County, the longans — along with the crystal malt — gives the ale a dry sweetness that makes it ideal for consuming in subtropical climates like Taiwan’s.

A young couple, Yu wears a gray hat and is somewhat soft-spoken, while Yan, who’s also a model, loves to smile and is very bubbly. They speak of their operation with both humility and pride when I visit them at their microbrewery in New Taipei City’s Xinzhuang District (新裝) on a lazy Saturday.

“In the beginning, I was a bit offended when people referred to our brewery as ‘cute,’” Yu says.

The brewery, which is in an old house in the middle of a cluster of warehouses, has a malt room, a small miller and an office space upstairs, and one mash tank, one kettle and six fermentation tanks downstairs. It’s indeed a compact, cozy space.

“Hopefully one day we’ll grow to be at least 10 times the size and not be so cute anymore,” Yan says. “But for now, we are a cute brewery.”


As the old adage goes, from humble beginnings come great things. The ordinal number is not a reference to some swanky midtown Manhattan address. When Yu’s parents moved from Taiwan to Bogota, Colombia more than 30 years ago, they opened a Chinese restaurant on a street named 55th Street.

55th Street Craft Brewery

Brewery address: 17, Ln 803, Zhongzheng Rd, New Taipei City (新北市中正路803巷17號) , by Danfeng MRT (丹鳳捷運站)

Distribution locations include: Fujin Tree, Little London, Little New York, The Speakeasy Bar, Carnegie’s (check Facebook for a full list)

On the net:

“It was their new beginning, and now this brewery is our new beginning,” Yu says.

Both husband and wife were unlikely candidates to be brewers. Before moving to Taiwan to study Chinese five years ago, Yu was training to be a psychologist in Bogota, while Yan’s modeling career in Taipei was starting to take off. Eventually, their hobby turned into a full-time business, one which they run almost entirely by themselves.

“We hardly did any research before we started. We were just like, ‘let’s open a brewery,’” Yu says.

Now, Yu does the brewing and packaging, while Yan runs sales and marketing and manages their Facebook page. Every week, they lug sacks of imported malt from the UK upstairs to the malt room. They then bring the malt to their homemade three roller milling machine which they jokingly call “the transformer.”

“It’s fun to use,” Yan says. “It’s so tiny that you can see the little grains being crushed by the transformer.”

After the grains are crushed, they are transferred to the mash tanks downstairs where the hot water extracts sugar from the grains. The new liquid, the wort, is then placed in the kettle, along with hops that Yu and Yan import from the Pacific Northwest in the US.

For their Amber Ale, they also hand peel the dried longans, throwing the shell in the mash tank and the meat in the kettle. After fermentation, the beer is neither filtered nor pasteurized. Since distribution is for a local market, it goes straight into kegs and bottles. When the beers are ready, Yan delivers them herself to bars and restaurants around Taipei.

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