05/19/12

This Week’s Global Beer Headlines (with Commentary)

*A beer crime may have been committed at this year’s Preakness–I don’t mean the reported thirty minute waits to top up the $20 refillable beer mugs–apparently the mugs were being filled with Budweiser: Baltimore Sun

*Speaking of crime and beer, Darrin Annussek, a protester who apparently walked to Chicago from Philadelphia to take part in a NATO summit protest, was arrested this week.  During the raid the home brewing equipment of the out-of-towner’s host was confiscated by police, seemingly being confused for a Molotov cocktail workshop.  According to Kris Hermes, of the National Lawyers Guild, “There is absolutely no evidence of molotov cocktails or any other criminal activity going on at this building.” (Home brewers beware.) CBS Chicago (NBC Chicago also had coverage with a great headline “Beer Not Bombs”)

*Twelve upping Darrin’s walk to Chicago, 12 beer fanatics in the U.K. have undertaken a 16,337 pubs 28-year pub crawl, and I can’t imagine they’re done.  The best quote for the article comes from one of the fanatic’s girlfriends, “When I started my relationship with Kelvin, it was clear from the start that beer was part of the package.”  Mirror

* In a story from Africa, a beer shortage received first billing in a set of calamities striking Harare, Zimbabwe beating out electrical blackouts and water stoppages. Well ahead of any quotes or mentions of the importance of electricity or water conservation was this, “What we are getting erratically are quarts and cans. Pints, which many drinkers prefer, are not available.”  The word disastrous was also applied, to the beer situation.   The Herald

* Finally an item from Taiwan has me ready to book a ticket across the Strait.  Apparently until around 2002 the Taiwanese government had a monopoly on alcohol production, which they had to give up in order to join the WTO; creating the genesis of the country’s micro-brewery movement. Today, while the the old state owned company combined with imports make-up 99% of the beer market, craft brewers like Quentin Yeh should soon change that statistic.  A quote from Quentin, “Our craft beer, unlike its filtered and pasteurized cousin that comes in cans, preserves the distinctive taste of yeast with a fresh finish,”     Taiwan Today

I hope you enjoyed the headlines.

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05/13/12

Maybe not Today, Maybe Not Tomorrow, But Soon Maybe We’ll see Dogfish Head in HK

HK BeerfestYesterday, while engrossed in beer conversation at the launch party for a new Hong Kong beer distribution company, this Trappist Punk sadly made two realizations: 1) We’ve allowed this site to become terribly dilapidated; & 2) I have an intense hankering for almost any Dogfish Head or similar top notch east coast brew.  This led me to ask the owner of what seems to be a very promising distribution company about the chances of acquiring said beer in a corner of the world mostly devoid of America’s finest brewed creations.  Sadly, he informed me that not only did this seem unlikely, due to capacity limitations Dogfish has actually stopped distributing in his home state, Wisconsin.  (This should be in another post, but if you are ever in Milwaukee, make sure you give the guys over at Lakefront Brewery a couple hours of your time.)

Well, I thought, at least I asked, and to the company’s credit their repertoire includes a robust selection of Rogue beers, which I quite enjoy.  For those reading this in Hong Kong, the company is called Hopleaf and they sell retail.

Today, sitting at my PC, I came across a headline that gave me a glimmer of hope that one day (albeit probably not until I move back to the U.S.), Dogfish may finally be able to service Hong Kong — and Wisconsin again, for that matter.  The headline read, “Dogfish gets OK for warehouse build.”  I know — not that startling. But the catch was deeper in the article:

“The brewery will produce 171,000 barrels of beer in 2012. While it hopes to expand to 500,000 barrels of production within the next 10 years, Benz said there are no business plans to do so at this time.”

That’s quite an increase and maybe enough to get a few bottles out to Hong Kong.  The bottom of the article also indicates that Dogfish recently received approval to expand their current facility, which maxes out at about 200,000 bottles of beer a year.   While I am not expecting to taste Dogfish Head at next year’s Beertopia festivities in Hong Kong, I do think that as Hong Kongers continue gaining a better appreciation of American Craft beer, in no small part thanks to the guys at Hopleaf, Hong Kong may become an attractive lucrative market for all those beers I miss so dearly. By 2015, Euromonitor data — quoted by the Canadian government, strangely enough — suggests that Hong Kong beer consumption will rise to 75 million liters from 73 million this year; I suspect with availability of the right American craft beers this could easily rise above 80. Here is a link to the original article.

08/3/09

China’s Growing Appreciation Toward Beer

ChinaBeerI was perusing the internet the other night, as I usually do, and began to notice a trend.  It all started with this headline: “SABMiller Halts Beer Volume Drop on Chinese Demand”.  At first I didn’t think too much of it, so I moved on.  Several minutes later, on a completely unrelated site, I come across this headline “Net profit in China’s major beer producer Yanjing up 25% in first half”.  Now I was convinced something was up, and I wanted to know more.

To my surprise, it turns out that by volume China is the world’s biggest beer consumer.  But, on a per capita basis China’s beer habit appears far less impressive at just 22.1 liters per year, this compares to 81.6 liters per year in the US.  However, both pale in comparison to the Czech Republic, whose residents imbibe an astounding 156.9 liters per capita–that’s roughly 41 gallons of beer per person per year!

This chart shows 2004′s annual beer consumption by volume for the top 15 countries, along with their per capita beer consumption:

Beer Consumption

Source: Kirin

Once my mind synthesized the headlines I mentioned earlier, and these beer statistics, I realized the global beer industry could be at the dawn of a new age, especially in China.  China’s population is currently estimated at around 1.3bn, compared to just 0.3bn in the US.  China’s rapid economic expansion has created a burgeoning middle class, whose tastes have shifted as incomes have risen.  Not only does this expanding middle class palate now crave things like pork over just vegetables, but also beer.

With this in mind lets run a simple exercise; let’s say as China’s economy develops, its per capita beer intake catches up with its nearby neighbor South Korea at 38.5.  This means China’s total beer consumption would rise to   50,050 ML–more than 2x the total US consumption…  Taking it one step further, if China’s per capita consumption catches up to that of the US, then China’s total beer consumption could equal that of the rest of the world combined.  I won’t event get into what happens if they catchup with the Czech’s, but I hope you have a stockpile!

450px-TsingtaobeerbottleMy point is that the Chinese beer industry’s potential is far from being realized.  In fact a recent report by Citigroup pointed out that China’s beer sector has bucked the recent economic slowdown with volumes up near 10% y/y in May. Major players in the domestic Chinese beer market include Tsingtao, Zhujiang, and Yanjing.  Tsingtao should stand to benefit quite nicely from increased consumption, based on its strong domestic brand name–I’ve thrown back more than my fair share while living there.  Numerous local brewers are also spread out across the country mostly catering to smaller geographical regions; consolidation is inevitable as the industry continues to develops.  Potential for brand-name foreign brewers is also off the charts, whether through local acquisitions or other types of investments.  I can’t imagine anything will slow this trend down, so just in case, here’s how to order a beer in Mandarin:

“Wo yao yi bei píjiu”

In case you need two…

“Wo yao liang bei píjiu”

07/9/09

Frontiers of Brewing: The Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Just wanted to drop everyone a quick note, I just spotted some interesting footage of CNN touring the only brewery in Pakistan:


According to Wikipedia, Pakistan is the second-most populous Muslim-majority country on earth, and being an Islamic Republic, only non-Muslims are allowed to drink alcohol. This means that the brewery cannot serve about 95% of the country’s population. If a brewery can succeed under these circumstances it surely is a mark of distinction!

Murree Brewery has brewed beer and whiskey since the days of British occupation and not much has changed since then. So if you happen to be passing through the Islamic Republic anytime soon, do as they suggest and “have a Murree with your curry,” and know that you are one of the lucky few to have the opportunity.

07/3/09

This Just In: North Korea Launches First Ever TV Beer Ad

No sooner than the punks write about North Korea’s Taedonggang beer, the company launches North Korea’s first-ever beer commercial. In the advert the beer is referred to as the “Pride of Pyongyang” and claims that it will help ease drinker’s stress. It also states “It will be a familiar part of our lives.” I could talk about the commercial all day or you can watch it for yourself…

I have to thank Adam, the same guy I randomly met in Rock and Roll Pub in Seoul, who made me aware of this commercial. He is both a gentleman and a scholar.

“Make Beer Not Missiles…” Sadly, from what I have read the beer costs roughly US$0.60 a bottle in Pyongyang, and only the most elite North Koreans can afford it. But, there does appear to be an underground ‘home-brew’ movement amongst the lesser classes. Ingredients for these home brews include anything the brewer can get his or her hands on. A man named Jong Su Ban said this about the process, “We found corn flower and hops and made something that came out a weird milky color” he went on to say “At least it was fizzy like beer.” Remember much of the great Italian and French cuisine we enjoy today was derived from what was considered ‘peasant’ fare, so who knows where this movement could bring Korean brewing in the future…

06/30/09

A Korean Beer Quest II: Seoul Microbreweries

While traveling abroad I found myself in Korea for two weeks with no real agenda. So one evening I decided to take a friend’s advice and explore the city’s Apgujeong district, known as ‘Apgu’ for short. Apgu is known to be the city’s high end residential, fashion, and restaurant district. To my surprise, mixed in amongst Seoul’s numerous soju tents (quite an experience), trendy martini bars, clubs, and dives, I found two hidden gems. I was lucky enough to stumble upon not just one, but two microbreweries, and only blocks apart.

The first of the microbreweries was a bit of an eclectic establishment referred to, on their card at least, as Cafe, Pops Cool. The small staff consisting of a manager, a waitress, and a cook were all incredibly polite, and this was despite my lackluster Korean language skills. Communication at times was definitely a challenge, but all part of the local experience. Nevertheless, beer is a universal language, and once the staff recognized I was an advocate I was offered a tour of the premise, including the brewery. The brewery was quite small, but still impressive. That night they were serving two options a light beer and a black dunkel; I had both. The dunkel was definitely my preference, but both were vastly superior to the Korean mass-produced beer Hite or OB. Cafe, Pops Cool is definitely a good option for a quality brew from a friendly staff while touring Apgu.

Next on the list was Platinum Microbrewery also located in Apgu (there are apparently two in Seoul). This bar/restaurant was clearly designed to be more modern and high-end when compared to Cafe, Pops Cool’s, and this showed in the prices. It was a rather large dimly lit space that would be great for a date. The food and beer list was quite extensive with seven beers on tap. The food was decent, and the beer was satisfactory. However, I preferred the dark beer from Cafe, Pops Cool to any of Platinum’s selections. But, if you do find yourself visiting be sure to try the beer sampler, its the biggest bang for your Won. If my memory serves me correctly, then I believe Platinum’s Belgium White, at least to me, was the most impressive option.

If you liked this article then you would likely find this posting from seoulgirl discussing Seoul microbreweries, especially Platinum, an interesting read.

Also, I will soon be visiting the Seatlle area, and hope to do some beer related touring and tasting, so please email me or leave some comments to this post with any suggestions.

06/29/09

A Korean Beer Quest: Into the DMZ


This may sound cliché, but this is how it happened… One Sunday evening while I was touring a famous section of Seoul called Apgujeong; I stepped into an unassuming bar aptly named Rock and Roll Pub. There I sat drinking very reasonably priced Leffe Browns when I noticed another American. Being friendly as I am I went over and said hello. This quickly led to quite a drinking session for a Sunday night. The other American, who was named Adam, turned out to be quite the worldly character with an array of exciting stories from across the globe. But, one story particularly caught my attention. He told me that years ago when he was touring the DMZ between North and South Korea, there in a little shop he found North Korean beer. I was shocked and excited. Might I as well be able to try the forbidden brew? All I knew is that I needed to find out. I could only imagine Hogan’s reaction if I had to tell him I passed on this beer-related quest. The next day I booked my tour.

I was a little unnerved to discover my pickup was scheduled for 7:00AM knowing in all likelihood I would be at least slightly hung-over, but there was no way I was going to pass on the chance to explore the DMZ and maybe try some of North Korea’s finest. The guide arrives at my hotel; her name is Choi, and it turns out I am the only person on today’s tour, a private tour! Now I really can’t complain. After some general chit chat I decide to ask her the question really on my mind, “Will I be able to purchase North Korean beer on this tour.” Her response, “Can’t say I ever heard of that.” My heart sank, was Adam wrong?

We arrive and after watching a quick introductory film on the DMZ, which oddly gives the impression that the place is something akin to Disney Land, despite the 10 million landmines. We start off touring the 3rd infantry tunnel. This tunnel was secretly dug by the North Koreans to accommodate a potential sneak attack on Seoul, scary when you think about it. Hopefully one day these tensions ease and the tunnel can be used for something more worthwhile like beer running.

Outside the tunnel I notice a small gift shop; I start to wonder. However, as I walk through the door hope fades quickly. I immediately notice all the typical touristy wares: postcards, T-shirts, etc… One unique item was a small paperweight like object featuring a piece of barbed wire from the original DMZ. By this point I was sure even if there ever was North Korean brews sold in the DMZ they were long drank, it was time for me to just enjoy the day…

I called a last minute audible and decided to pickup some water before we left, so I headed over to the small fridge. My eyes lit up like Ponce de Leon discovering the fountain of youth; there it was… the prize, Taedonggang Maekju! I couldn’t believe it, there it sat unassumingly surrounded by bottled water and North Korean Soju. I immediately rejoiced and made the purchase. I didn’t however imbibe the beverage until I reunited with Hogan, so by this time it had become somewhat skunky, but was still rather refreshing; overall we both thought it would be a decent beer. But by this point it wasn’t about the taste it was about the journey.

Here is a great article from Reuters discussing the background of this beer in pretty good detail.