Making a splash

Shawn Kidd looks to bring some North American spirit to the enjoyment of craft beer in Taiwan

By Ian Bartholomew  /  Staff Reporter

Fri, Jun 14, 2013 - Page 12

Shawn Kidd likes beer. Not just in the way of having a couple of lagers after a long day at the office. Not in the way of getting legless on a Friday night. Kidd’s love of beer has taken a more serious turn, though he is not averse to enjoying a few jars of finely crafted artisanal beers, a topic he blogs about on his Facebook page savvysippr.

Kidd, who lives in Taiwan, has recently established Bierwest Inc, a craft beer import company focusing on west coast North American style beer. He’s already on track to promote these new brands through a series of events, and will be making a splash with his Seed Spitter Watermelon Wit beer: the official Canadian beer of Taipei’s Canada Day event on June 29.

“The craft beer scene in Taiwan is just coming up, it’s just about to take off,” said Kidd.

Back in 2004, prospects for craft beer were far less promising. Kidd was running a bar in Greater Taichung called The Dive. He tried to introduce a variety of American craft beers to his clients, but said he probably drank most of these beers himself. “People might try one, but would then move on to the more established brands,” he said.

After his stint at The Dive, Kidd went home to Vancouver and got involved in the craft beer and home-brewing scene there. Time away gave his love for beer a technical grounding: He passed the Intensive Brewing course at University of California, Davis, and the World Brewing Academy concise course in brewing technology with the Siebel Institute of Technology.

On his return to Taiwan early this year, Kidd discovered a burgeoning interest in craft beers, a fact borne out by the opening of a number of craft beer specialty shops around Taiwan such as Gooden (古登比利時啤酒專賣) in Taipei, and Craft Beers (卡夫特Craft精釀啤酒專賣店) in Kaohsiung, in addition to innumerable cafes that now offer a selection of Belgian, British and North American boutique, craft and microbrew products. He said that social media, styling and presentation all play a major factor in the recent growth in popularity of craft beers, but that they are still having a hard time reaching a wider audience.

But though there are a surprising number of beers available, craft beer still has a way to go. “[T]hey have not really achieved traction in the mainstream,” he said. “A lot of the [beer] distributors don’t really have their hand on the pulse of events and parties,” Kidd said.

The local craft beer club tends to be by invitation only, and hasn’t done much to boost the beer’s popularity.

“There has been one craft beer festival in Taiwan,” Kidd said, “But it was very regimented. There were only a few booths and you could only have little tasters and you couldn’t buy beer. It wasn’t a fun, kinda ‘wooo!,’ we are drinking beer type festival.”

Kidd is working on his own craft beer festival for the fall. “We want to make it a big outdoor beer festival, and I want to team up with a lot of urban street culture so that we have fix gear bikes, craft beer and food, and try and pull off something like a real North American beer festival where people drink lots of beer, listen to music and see art and so on.”

His beer festival is still in the planning stage, but Kidd will be featuring Seed Spitter Watermelon Wit at the Exposure Open Air Art Market tomorrow at Taipei Artist Village and hosting a free outdoor craft beer event at the Pipe on July 20.