At The Bottle Shop, we select our craft beers based on their flavours. When we started our import and distribution service in 2012, craft beers were defined by the volume breweries produced annually. The definition of craft beer has changed over the past two decades, and the term has gotten murkier as smaller breweries are acquired by large beer companies. Craft beer in Hong Kong has come a long way. New world varieties were scarce, and most craft beers in Hong Kong were English bitters and Belgium sweet fruit beers. Nowadays, one can find beers from all over the world.
Our store focuses on award winning beers, both local craft beers, and those imported internationally.
Below are a few types of craft beer that are popular in Hong Kong:
Commercial beers certainly have their place in the market. At (rare) times we enjoy a commercial lager as much as the next person. But even within the selection of craft beer in Hong Kong, not all commercial ones are created equal. Some beers can be mistreated during its transportation and storage, and suffer from oxidation, UV light, over-heating, and the list goes on. Some beers have an overwhelming amount of esters that contribute to banana flavours, which isn't really pleasant.
Synonymous with craft beers are Pale Ale, and Indian Pale Ale (or IPA). From these two styles come variations, including Extra Pale Ale (XPA), American Pale Ale (APA), Imperial IPA (IIPA), Double IPA (DIPA), Double Dry-Hopped IPA (DDH IPA), Triple IPA (TIPA), Hazy Pale Ale, Hazy IPA, Milkshake IPA, Black IPA, and the list goes on. What sets them apart are mostly the malt bill (the level and character of sweetness), and the hop bill (the amount and variety of hops). Traditionally, craft beers have higher levels of bitterness because the more hops are in the beers, the more bitterness there is. Recent IPA trend is less bitterness and more hop fruitiness (think Sauvignon Blanc but in beers). Local craft beers in Hong Kong are also hoppy forward, with low bitterness.
Since The Bottle Shop began operation ten plus years ago, the number of local craft beer brands has gone from zero to close to twenty - all thanks to hop forward IPAs.
Sour beers have been one of the biggest trends in the craft beer Hong Kong movement, especially ones with very big fruit dominant milkshake style sours. Sour craft beers are much like sourdough bread, it's a re-conceptualisation of old techniques popularised by Belgium naturally fermented beers. Contemporary sour beers are deliberately spiked with lactobacillus to lower their pH.
The most popular styles of sour craft beers include Berliner Weisse, Gose, Flanders, Lambics, and Geuze. Many contemporary Gose or Berliner Weisse have loads of fruits added to them, along with other adjuncts like lactose or salt. Sour beers are great for summer sweltering weather for refreshment, but they're also amazing as companions to a meal, or even with vanilla ice-cream.
Dark beers include Porter, Stout, Brown Ale, and so on. Dark beers are dark because brewers add heavily roasted barley in the brew, imparting roasted barley notes, coffee notes, chocolate, and nutty flavours. Craft beers that are dark doesn't necessarily mean they're bitter. Contemporary dark beers can in fact be sweet. You may have heard of pastry stouts, mud-cake stouts? These craft beers can have weird and wonderful adjunct ingredients, with equally exotic names, like imperial Porter brewed with Toasted Coconut and Maple Syrup, or Blueberry Hazelnut Coffee Cheesecake Stout. I guess you can't say craft beer is boring!!
The craft beer Hong Kong scene has been a dynamic and ever-changing environment. From its anemic beginning, to now an international hub of choices and an incredible array of local craft beers and breweries. Let us know if you can't find a craft beer you're looking for.