Part 1 : Innovative Infusions: How Unique Chinese Ingredients Shape Local Craft Beer in China [Part 1 of 2]
In response to the overwhelming interest and inquiries from my previous blogs, I've compiled a comprehensive list of Chinese craft beers that feature unique local ingredients or draw inspiration from traditional Chinese cuisine. Due to the sheer abundance of remarkable beers, I've divided this collection into two captivating parts, each deserving its own spotlight.
Part 1 of this series will immerse you in an enchanting exploration of Chinese craft beers that exemplify the country's rich craft beer culture. These brews demonstrate a deep appreciation for local flavors, incorporating everything from beloved dishes to rare fruits and herbs. With each sip, you'll witness the remarkable fusion of tradition and innovation that defines the craft beer scene in China.
Prepare yourself for an extraordinary journey as we delve into the first twelve beers, each with its own captivating story and flavor profile. From the intriguing Hot Dry Noodle Stout inspired by Wuhan's popular dish to the bold Durian Porter that fearlessly embraces the notorious "smelly fruit," these beers showcase the audacity and ingenuity of Chinese brewers. Along the way, we'll encounter brews infused with Buddha's Hand, Suan La Tang, Kumquat, Dragonfruit, and more, each a testament to the creative mastery of Chinese brewing.
Join me in celebrating the harmonious marriage of centuries-old traditions, local flavors, and limitless imagination as we embark on this sensory adventure through Chinese craft beer. Stay tuned for Part 2, where we'll continue our exploration with twelve more groundbreaking beers that push the boundaries of taste and inspire the ever-evolving craft beer landscape in China.
This beer from Devils' Brewery in Wuhan captures the essence of a popular local dish in liquid form, règānmiàn (热干面). The beer is blonde stout that defies expectations with its unique flavor profile. Instead of using roasted malts, it's brewed with steeped cacao and coffee beans to achieve the rich, roasty notes, similar as the roasty flavor in the noodle dish. They also add secret ingredients like chili and peanut to mimic the flavors of the local noodle dish sauce.
Devils' Brewery, located in Wuhan, is a must-visit when you're in the area. They have a range of restaurants and bars throughout the city, offering not only exceptional beers but also mouthwatering burgers and smoked meats. Their dedication to quality and innovation has made them a prominent figure in Wuhan's food and beverage scene.
Durian, the infamous "love it or hate it" fruit, takes center stage in this intriguing beer crafted by Mingri Brewing. With a robust durian aroma that hits you right away, the flavor unfolds with a delightful roastiness upfront, gradually revealing the distinct durian notes that linger on your palate. While durian is a beloved fruit in China and other parts of Asia, it has gained a reputation as the "smelly fruit" in Europe and the US. Personally, being a fan of durian, I found this beer to be an immensely enjoyable experience.
Mingri Brewing, known for their innovation and craftsmanship, operates a popular bar located in downtown Shanghai, showcasing their dedication to quality. Their brewing facilities just outside of Shanghai ensure that their beers consistently meet the highest standards.
If you find yourself in Shanghai, I highly recommend a visit to Mingri Brewing's bar to experience their remarkable range of brews firsthand.
This extraordinary beer draws inspiration from the captivating Buddha's Hand fruit, a variety of citron known for its distinctive finger-like shape. Originally hailing from Northeastern India or China, this citrus fruit has found its way into various culinary traditions across Asia.
In the culturally rich city of Shangri-La, where Tibetan Buddhism holds great significance, the inclusion of Buddha's Hand fruit in this NEIPA carries a deeper symbolism. It pays homage to the spiritual traditions that have shaped the region, offering a harmonious fusion of flavors that evoke both serenity and delight.
What sets Shangri-La Beer Highland Craft Brewery apart is not just their commitment to brewing excellence, but also their dedication to the local community. Many employees come from a nearby orphanage, adding a heartwarming element to the brewing process.
Nestled in the awe-inspiring Tibetan plateau, Shangri-La Highland Craft Brewery embraces the spirit of Buddhism and the enchantment of its surroundings. At an elevation of 3300 meters above sea level in the city of Shangri-La, this brewery crafts exceptional brews that honor the cultural heritage of the land. I had the incredible opportunity to visit Shangri-La Highland Craft Brewery and experience their beer firsthand. I encourage you to seize the chance to explore their offerings as well.
Indulge in the refreshing allure of Wild West Brewing Company China White, a captivating beer with a 5.4% ABV that embodies the essence of the Sichuan region. This light-bodied wheat beer embraces a unique twist by infusing Sichuan pepper, an iconic ingredient from the heart of Sichuan cuisine, known for its super spicy hotpots, where Wild West Brewing finds its roots.
Sichuan pepper, also known as Szechuan pepper or Chinese prickly ash, lends a distinctive flavor profile to this Witbier. Known for its tingling and numbing effect when consumed, it creates a sensory journey that transforms the overall taste experience. Sichuan pepper is often added together with chili peppers to create a flavor known as málà (Chinese: 麻辣; 'numb-spiciness'), là being the spicy hotness, and má the numbing effect.
Located in Qionglai, near Chengdu in the heart of the Sichuan province, Wild West Brewing is the brainchild of a delightful couple, Scott and Carol. Their passion for Chinese craft beer shines through in every sip. Scott, in particular, has gained recognition for his exceptional IPAs, which have garnered praise both nationally and internationally. Scott and Carol's devotion to Chinese craft beer and their use of unique local ingredients make Wild West Brewing a standout in the industry. With each sip, you'll experience the passion and expertise that defines their beers.
Prepare your taste buds for a thrilling adventure with Suan La Tang, a bold creation by Jing-A (京A) Brewing Co. This sour and spicy gose showcases a perfect balance of flavors, achieved through the careful infusion of chili peppers, fresh ginger, and a pinch of sea salt. From the moment it touches your lips, you'll be greeted by tantalizing tart aromas of citrus and ginger, setting the stage for the spicy twist that awaits. The beer culminates in a crisp and dry finish, leaving you yearning for another sip.
Drawing inspiration from the beloved Hot and Sour Soup, "Suan La Tang" in Chinese, this gose pays homage to the spicy Chinese soup that has captured the hearts and palates of many across the country, particularly during cold winters. Jing A Brewing Co. has masterfully translated these rich flavors into a refreshing and innovative beer experience.
While Jing A Brewing Co. was initially recognized mainly in Beijing, their recent expansion has propelled them into the spotlight across various tier 1 cities in China. With over 8 locations, their presence and influence continue to grow, captivating beer enthusiasts throughout the nation.
This blonde rye beer showcases a harmonious fusion of flavors, courtesy of two unique Chinese ingredients: Chashugu (茶树菇) and Ganbajun (干巴菌) mushrooms.
Chashugu (茶树菇), known as "tea tree mushrooms" in English, exude a strong, earthy flavor that adds depth to the beer. These mushrooms bring a captivating essence to the brew, infusing it with a distinctive character. Complementing this, the inclusion of Ganbajun (干巴菌) mushrooms, also known as "plate mushrooms", adds a touch of Yunnan cuisine's culinary prowess. These mushrooms are revered for their rich umami flavor, making them a delicacy in the region.
Chaba brewing is situated in Kunming, Yunnan, has rapidly emerged as an exciting player in the Chinese craft beer scene since its establishment in 2020. Founded by Teddy, Tim, and Kevin, Chaba Brewing embarked on a mission to showcase the vibrant flavors of Dai cuisine. Their vision extends beyond beer, as they craft brews infused with Dai "flavors", offering a unique and immersive experience. As a new entrant in the craft beer community, Chaba Brewing is making waves with their innovative approach and commitment to local ingredients.
At first sip, it appears to be a typical Witbier, but then the delightful burst of fresh lemongrass flavor took me by surprise, elevating it to a whole new level. With a moderate 5% ABV and 28 IBU, this Witbier boasts a distinctive infusion of lemongrass, complemented by the brewery's house-roasted coriander. While lemongrass isn't exclusive to China alone, its popularity in various Asian countries cannot be overlooked. The masterful combination of flavors in this beer is truly a standout on any craft beer lovers list. When it comes to craft brewing in China, Slow Boat Brewery stands tall as one of the original pioneers, particularly in the vibrant city of Beijing. Over the years, they have consistently expanded their presence, establishing two brewpubs in downtown Beijing, two taprooms, and most recently, a full-fledged production brewery located just outside the city. For me, Slowboat has always been synonymous with outstanding beer; the brewery's commitment to quality and innovation never fails to impress. However, many locals primarily associate Slowboat with their mouthwatering hamburgers. Their culinary expertise has earned them countless "Best Burger in Beijing" awards, a testament to their unwavering pursuit of excellence. So, the next time you find yourself in Beijing, I highly recommend indulging in the perfect pairing of a delicious burger and one of Slowboat's exceptional beers. Whether you're a craft beer enthusiast or simply seeking an unforgettable dining experience, Slowboat Brewery promises to deliver on both fronts.
This golden stout collaboration between Fluffy Monsters and Chaba Brewing. With a robust 7.9% ABV, this beer ventures into uncharted territory, pushing the boundaries of flavor exploration.
At the heart of this enchanting brew lies the iconic White Rabbit candy, a beloved Chinese confectionary that originated in Shanghai during the 1940s. This milk-based candy, renowned for its distinctive chewy texture, serves as the muse for this unique creation. Encased in a delicate rice paper wrapper that dissolves effortlessly, the candy offers a sweet and creamy flavor reminiscent of vanilla or milk. The integration of this cherished candy into the brewing process represents a remarkable fusion of tradition and innovation.
Fluffy Monsters, the brainchild of brothers Sean Brady and Daniel Brady, has become a prominent name in Shanghai's craft beer scene. Their creations include many hazy IPA’s, can be savored in numerous craft beer bars across the city. With an unwavering commitment to quality and creativity, Fluffy Monsters continues to captivate beer enthusiasts with their imaginative brews.
This bright colored and captivating fruited IPA has an 6.8% ABV. This brew artfully combines the flavors of fresh Waxberry (Yangmei) and Grape Juice, resulting in a unique and tantalizing taste experience.
Trip Smith, based in Guiyang, expertly blends the traditions of their hometown with modern brewing techniques. By utilizing local ingredients such as the cherished Waxberry, also known as Yangmei, and wild Guizhou yeast, they create exceptional brews that stand out in the industry.
Nestled in a hidden alleyway off Qianling Dong Lu, Trip Smith's original taproom was once a well-kept secret, cherished by beer enthusiasts. However, its reputation for outstanding beers and delectable cuisine quickly spread, making it one of Guiyang's most popular destinations.
With an ever-changing lineup of brews, including delightful seasonal offerings, Trip Smith continuously surprises and delights patrons. The raw and authentic ambiance of their original location adds to the overall experience, creating an unparalleled atmosphere.
As someone who has had the pleasure of visiting Trip Smith multiple times over the years, I can personally vouch for the unforgettable experiences they offer. If you find yourself in Guiyang, a city worth exploring, make sure to prioritize a visit to Trip Smith. Indulge in the vibrant flavors and warm hospitality that await you at this remarkable brewery.
This Farmhouse Ale - Saison, with a 4.8% ABV and 15 IBU, offers a delightful and well-balanced drinking experience. What truly sets it apart is the infusion of sour plum and hawthorn, resulting in a subtly sweet flavor profile that captivates the senses. The inclusion of sour plum, or suanmei, a versatile ingredient in Chinese cuisine and traditional medicine, brings a unique tanginess and delicate sweetness to the beer.
Suanmeitang, a renowned Chinese beverage made from sour dried plums, rock sugar, and other delightful elements like sweet osmanthus, serves as the inspiration behind this brew. Traditionally believed to have cooling properties and aid digestion, Suanmeitang holds a special place in Chinese culture.
This beer pays homage to the beloved flavors of Suanmeitang while offering a refreshing twist in a Farmhouse Ale - Saison. The combination of sour plum and hawthorn creates a harmonious blend that tantalizes the taste buds with its subtle sweetness and tangy undertones.
For more information on Slow Boat Brewery and their commitment to crafting exceptional beers, please scroll up a bit, where I explain more about their must-visit locations in Beijing.
Thus is a Sour - Fruited Gose boasting a 4.2% ABV. This triple fruited gose showcases a harmonious blend of guava, mango, and passion fruit. The star of the show is the guava, a tropical fruit adored for its sweet and slightly tangy taste. Found abundantly in various parts of Asia, including China, guava offers a delightful combination of flavors reminiscent of strawberry, pear, and even mango. Ripe guavas reward the palate with their luscious sweetness, while unripe ones tantalize with a sweet-sour taste on the outer skin. The fruit's versatility shines through, with some varieties boasting a unique fusion of grapefruit and pear notes.
Bubble Lab Brewery, founded in 2015 by beer enthusiast Marco Chao, has been a consistent purveyor of excellence in the craft beer scene. While the brewery may have changed locations over the years, from Wuhan to Beijing, and now in Changzhou, one thing remains constant: the unwavering commitment to producing top-notch brews.
During my visit to Bubble Lab's Beijing location, I was fortunate enough to experience the impeccable craftsmanship that goes into their beers (and food). Unfortunately, I haven't had the opportunity to visit their current location, I hope to go soon!
This Pale Wheat style beer with a 5.4% ABV that takes inspiration from one of China's most enchanting flowers. This brew showcases the incorporation of Osmanthus, a unique ingredient that adds a delightful twist to the beer's flavor profile. Osmanthus, known for its fragrant aroma reminiscent of peaches, is a small tree or shrub often utilized in Chinese cuisine. The name itself is derived from the Greek words 'osma' meaning smell or fragrance, and 'anthos' meaning flower, perfectly encapsulating its essence.
Taste Room, a burgeoning craft beer brand, was established in Hangzhou, China by a group of passionate designers and artists who share an unwavering love for beer. Their Osmanthus Wheat Ale stands out amidst the vast array of choices in the Jiangzhehu area, encompassing Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Shanghai. While Osmanthus Wheat is a popular style across China, Taste Room has garnered recognition and acclaim for their meticulous craftsmanship and attention to detail.
This captivating Lager with a 4% ABV that takes your taste buds on a journey through the vibrant flavors of locally grown Kumquats from Guiyang, a city in southwestern China known for its lush landscapes and rich agricultural heritage.