Around the World with Craft Beer from Hong Kong, BrewDog Antics from the UK, and Labor & Politics from the US
Our second guest feature is a trip through Hong Kong beers; thoughts on unionization sparks from CBC and BrewDog latest; and tarot for collaboration.
We have another guest feature today and I’m psyched. Nam Cheah is a food and travel writer and blogger taking us through some Hong Kong craft beers, and this guide is fascinating. Every beer has evolved from roots historical to medicinal, resulting in beautifully complex flavor and aroma profiles. This definitely knocks Hong Kong higher on my beer travels list.
Hong Kong's Iconic Drinks Are Now Also Craft Beers
The craft beer scene has been blooming in Hong Kong over the last decade, and many local breweries have embraced the culture when creating their own flavors. There are many inspirations to draw from with a rich variety of drinks from both Traditional Chinese Medicine and the British colonial past.
If you’re interested in discovering Hong Kong’s culture through craft beer, here is a selection of local-inspired brews. From herbal teas to heritage drinks, these are a nod to the rich culture of the city, especially to the long-standing diners, Cha Chaan Teng.
Cha Chaan Teng Sour by Young Masters
Young Masters is one of the most popular local craft beer brands in Hong Kong with a long list of products. But their salted lime gose is one of their most popular because of its inspiration: the Salted Lime Sprite. Also known as Salted Lime 7-up, the drink consists of the tangy salted lime adding a nice kick to the otherwise sweet soda and is commonly found in the local diners known as Cha Chaan Teng. It’s also a popular drink for those suffering from sore throats.
The Cha Chaan Teng Sour is a gose with an alcohol content of 4% and an IBU of 10, soured with probiotic bacteria and matured with some salted lime. Although it won’t cure your sore throat, it certainly makes for a refreshing drink in the hot summer months.
24 Flavors by City Brew Hong Kong
24 Flavors is the name of the herbal tea that is one of the most commonly brewed ones in Hong Kong. These types of herbal drinks are known as Leung Cha, and 24 Flavors is named for using around 24 ingredients. The 24 ingredients are not set and are changed depending on the weather or what’s available. People usually drink it to reduce ‘yeet hey’, which translates to acidosis in western terms.
The 24 Flavors by City Brew is a craft beer that combines the bitterness of 24 Flavors into a 7.2% alcohol IPA. It might be a great way to try the traditional Leung Cha of Hong Kong without actually drinking the even more bitter herbal tea.
Cane & Imperatae Weizen Foam Beer Brewery
Another herbal drink that has been made into a beer is the sugar cane and imperatae drink. Also known as imperatae cane drink, it’s made by boiling sugar cane and imperatae together along with red carrots, sweet corns, and water chestnuts. Imperatae is also known as satintails, and it’s a genus of grass in tropical and subtropical climates that it’s known for its ability to reduce acidosis and humidity in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
People often drink the cane imperatae drink to soothe dryness and expel dampness, and it’s great for quenching thirst. The Foam Beer Brewery’s version uses a weizen for the base, creating a light, refreshing, and gentle craft beer that is good for the summer. The alcohol content is 5%.
‘Ying’ Milk Tea IPA by Foam Beer Brewery
The Hong Kong-style milk tea is known for its smoothness and strength, and is a relic of the city’s past as a British colony. The tea base is Ceylon, brought over by the British from Sri Lanka, and the milk used is evaporated and/or condensed milk, which are products made by the Hong Kong Dairy Company in the early colonial days to encourage consumption of milk to the general public. But the most iconic part of Hong Kong-style milk tea is the silky smoothness, which is achieved by draining it through stockings, hence why it’s often referred to as stocking milk tea.
Foam Beer Brewery translates the beloved drink into a uniquely fruity Milk Tea IPA for craft beer lovers in Hong Kong. The creation of this IPA was done with the help of Hong Kong milk tea experts, who came up with a blend of Ceylon tea that would best suit the purpose. Instead of the usual condensed milk or evaporated milk, oats and vanilla are added to create a silky oat milk texture.
‘Yuang’ Coffee IPL by Foam Beer Brewery
The perfect compliment to the ‘Ying’ Milk Tea IPA is the ‘Yuang’ Coffee IPL, also by Foam Beer Brewery. Together, the two beers are ‘Ying Yuang’, the famous milk tea mix coffee drink popular in Hong Kong. The drink itself is considered a cultural heritage, with two origin stories. One is that the dockworkers in the busy port of Hong Kong created it as an energy drink, using the bitterness to stay alert. Another is that a local dai pai dong—street food hawkers—created the drink in the early 20th century.
The ‘Yuang’ Coffee IPL is made with a pale lager base to accentuate the taste of the coffee, which is sourced from Ethiopia and roasted by Hong Kong coffee roasters. This creates a refreshing, hoppy, and fruity craft beer that marries the taste of coffee and beer.
But for your ultimate Ying Yuang experience, you have to mix the two! The typical ratio for the traditional drink is three parts coffee and seven parts milk tea. For the craft beer Ying Yuang, the brewery recommends 80% coffee and 20% milk tea.
Gold Monkfruit Chrysanthemum Beer by Foam Beer Brewery
Another one for the herbal tea wagon is the Gold Monkfruit Chrysanthemum Beer by the Foam Beer Brewery. The monkfruit chrysanthemum is another popular herbal tea drink to combat the humidity and heat of spring and summer, but it’s also suitable to drink in the winter as it clears the liver.
Monkfruit has long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and is great for the throat and liver. However, it has a high sugar level and is therefore not suitable for diabetics. The addition of the chrysanthemum counters it a little with the bittersweetness.
This craft beer uses pilsner as the base and threw mint and honey into the mix. This makes for a sweet and smooth drink that is appropriate year-round with fried food and hot pot. This is probably the best one to dip your toes into Hong Kong craft beer with, since it’s almost part medicine.
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A Little Craft Beer Touchbase
As you read this, I’m on the first day of a vacation in LA/Palm Springs/San Diego and trying really hard to actually, like, be on vacation. Expect LA and San Diego beer talk in the next issue! In the meantime, I thought I’d just round up some beer thoughts occupying the most brain space for me right now.
Hey, Maybe Don’t Play Newsmax in Your Bar
This past weekend in New Jersey, a bar I used to like visiting—for their great beer list and the fact they take seriously things like draft maintenance to serve those beers as the brewer intended—sadly moved onto my “guess I’m not going there anymore” list because they were playing Newsmax on four TVs like it was a big sportsball game. I don’t care what your politics are (I mean lol I obviously do) but, um, don’t do this? It couldn’t be more alienating. It’s obviously fanatical beliefs and stubborn hubris from ownership. No one expects to see news in a bar unless there’s, I don’t know, a high-speed police chase pursuing a celebrity-gone-murderer or something. You know what I do not need with my beer? Headlines like, “Cities Preparing for Attacks from Unhinged Left in Wake of Supreme Court Leak,” “Another Trump Hater Pretends to Be a Writer,” “Woke Generals Are Causing Loss of American Lives,” and “What’s Up with Kamala?” All of those, by the way, are real, and also fucking terribly written.
Is this a common thing I just had the good fortune of not encountering before? I think we all know much better these days than to assume there’s absolutely any set correlation between respecting the independent business and creativity aspects of craft beer and politics that aren’t founded on racism, misogyny, and homophobia—we’ve seen that crossover in action too consistently. But while we fight the stupid stance of, “it’s just beer, leave politics out of it” regarding the industry as a whole, I will say that here, in the physical bar setting, politics—especially extreme politics—don’t belong on the TV, where it alienates and offends staff and patrons alike. Or, you know, maybe it’s a good thing, so we know where not to spend our money anymore?
Was “Hold My Beer” Actually Invented By and/or For BrewDog?
Because the news. Just. Doesn’t. Stop. Last week, we talked about the profit-sharing measures BrewDog revealed as a blatant grasp at looking like a good guy, and how these effectively addressed precisely nothing since they have zilch to do with the need for a culture and leadership overhaul, taking accountability, having literally any respect for employees, etc., and because there’s no obvious way this profit-sharing would benefit in any manner former employees, who were greatly affected.
Now, we’ve learned that James Watt, personally, has brought a private prosecution against a woman he allegedly paid to collect information from present and past BrewDog employees. According to The Guardian, he had sought Emili Ziem’s help in essentially gathering evidence to support his claim that all of the reports about BrewDog amounted to a hostile, jealous conspiracy. But, the intel just emphasized the truth behind the reports, which is really inconvenient for Watt, who was obviously only seeking confirmation and not new information. The only thing a maniacal narcissist can do here, of course, is attack the person he manipulated and took advantage of in the press and in the courts, claiming that everything she found out was false, and driven by malice and her wanting to make some kind of gains for herself. What Ziem could possibly gain from this situation is anyone’s guess.
This kind of case and private prosecution demonstrates differences between US and UK laws, and those differences extend to how things like this get covered by the press—Good Beer Hunting has had to unpublish Kate Bernot’s reporting after receiving a cease-and-desist from Watt’s attorneys. But Brienne Allan has screengrabbed tons of information that you can read in her Instagram stories.
Will CBC Conversations Spark Any Future Unionization Efforts in Craft Beer?
Speaking of Good Beer Hunting and the inimitable Kate Bernot’s reporting—after reading Organizing Principle — Unionization is a National Story, But Labor Talk is a Whisper at Craft Brewers Conference, I’m really curious if we’ll start to see any examples of organizing in the industry following this year’s CBC. Apparently a lot of Covid has come from the conference, so it’d be cool to see a positive effect now? As Kate writes, Minneapolis has a strong presence of unionized labor. Craft beer is an industry in dire need of workers’ rights and protections. But the initial assumption of CBC taking place in this kind of leading city creating fertile ground for any formal unionization talk is immediately dashed when you remember most of the conference’s attendees are brewery ownership and management. That leaves potential union talk to more casual, and even clandestine, conversations among brewery employees in their own time. But, one wonders—and hopes—did at least getting to meet at CBC ignite any sparks for workers in this industry? Did any of those conversations happen, or will they? We’ll be watching.
This week, I pulled the Six of Pentacles.
Pentacles as a suit speaks to money, property, and achievement, and the Three of Pentacles to teamwork, collaboration, and learning.
Our characters here are a stonemason, um, stonemason-ing a church along with two consulting architects—you can tell by that one dude’s very official polka-dotted architect snood-snuggie. The implication is that all three are needed to get the job done, and all have their own unique expertise and opinions they bring to the table. And all three are on equal footing, with equal importance and equal say.
This card obviously comes up to remind us of the power of true, open-minded, well-intentioned collaboration—how that can serve people and create a finished result that is better for it. If you have an idea that you are struggling with actually implementing, think about who can help and what they’d contribute. When collaborating, remember to really hear other people, and that even when you don’t agree, having varying perspectives usually enriches any project. And even if just you are working on something, yourself, the Three of Pentacles suggests collaboration between your initial idea and the realities of what you need to get it done—there’s still an element of compromise and considering different sides even when working solo.
Craft beer is nothing if not full of collaborations. Just looking at very recent examples, lots of breweries have been releasing their Pink Boots Society beers, made with Yakima Chief’s Pink Boots Society Collaboration Brew Day hop blend. Case in point: these eight breweries in Pittsburgh, alone, raising money for the organization with their beers. And three breweries in the state of Washington are just the latest to join the growing number of American breweries collaborating on beers to support the relief effort in Ukraine.
This Week’s Boozy Media Rec
I’m so excited Stephanie Grant has relaunched her newsletter The Share. Stephanie is a beer journalist, content creator, consultant, podcast host, and great Instagram follow. The Share is “bi-weekly musings about beer, food, cocktails and the dope Black women behind them.” The first issue back is already full of great reading and music recs. So don’t miss out, and subscribe now!
Ex-BEER-ience of the Week
I was with family in New Jersey this week, and we hit one of my favorite go-to’s and also checked out a brand new spot. At both, I was excited to see an appreciation for German lagers and all things refreshing and easy-drinking was alive and well. That meant a zwickelbier at Alementary in Hackensack, and a kölsch-style beer and märzen at the just-opened Gearblock Brewing Company in Waldwick.
Until next week, enjoy a little Darby at Other Half in Domino Park.