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Some of our favourite craft beer spots and microbreweries to visit in 2020

27 Jan 2020 by Michael Allen
Blue Supreme / photo courtesy of Blue Supreme

Settling in for a round of beers after a long day of meetings at your business travel destination is a favourite ritual of some readers of this publication. While many will be satisfied with one of Asia’s more popular beers, such as Asahi (Japan), Tiger Beer (Singapore) or Saigon Beer (Vietnam), there is a growing interest in craft beer.

According to The Atlantic, between 2007 and 2016, shipments from five major brewers – Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, Heineken, Pabst, and Diageo, which owns Guinness – fell by 14 per cent. At the same time, craft breweries were – and still are – thriving.

The US and the UK have arguably been leading the so-called craft beer revolution, but Asia is quickly catching up and travellers to this region now have many establishments to choose from where they can quaff a more full-bodied brew.

“The microbrewery scene is exploding across Asia, which is good news for me as I grew out of disco beers when shaving started to become an annoyance rather than a boast of impending manhood,” says BT Forum member “stevescoots”.

An overview of Asia’s craft brew industry is beyond the scope of this article, but listed below are a few top recommendations for craft beer spots to try during your Asia travels. Your correspondent has sampled and can vouch for the quality of all of them (besides Gorilla Brewing, which he has not had a chance to visit, though good sources have attested to its being worthy of a visit).

We’ll start in Hong Kong, the home city of Business Traveller Asia-Pacific, before moving around the region, then finally taking a long-haul flight to California to sample one of LA’s microbreweries.

At home

Blue Supreme, Hong Kong

Located in Hong Kong’s trendy Sheung Wan district, Blue Supreme offers a great selection of both imported Belgian beers and Hong Kong beers. The restaurant’s “concise” beer list contains 14 beers on tap and 60 bottled sold on a rotation basis.

The self imported beer offering is focused on lambic, wild sour and farmhouse ales, according to Blue Supreme’s director Ted Lai.

“All our beers are shipped and stored cold. Also, we serve our bottled and draft beers from three temperature zones as well. Full flavoured and bodied beers call for a warmer serving temperature, say eight to nine degrees Celsius – you wouldn’t drink a bottle of oaked Napa chardonnay straight out of the fridge either,” he says.

Blue Supreme / photo courtesy of Blue Supreme
Blue Supreme specialises in so-called “live beers”.
“Live beers are beers bottled/kegged with live yeast and bacteria that cause a re-fermentation in bottle; a process also known as bottle conditioning,” Lai says.
“The bottle conditioning allows beer to be naturally carbonated, resulting in fine and livery perlage. Also, it increases age-ability and allows flavours to evolve over time (lambics have a 30 year shelf life). Essentially it’s a live product.”

The food here is also excellent and the restaurant says it “carries the same complexity and artisanal values as our selection of craft beers”. Try the duck confit burger (see below image) along with the moreish Provençal fries with herbs and lemon parmesan aioli.

Duck Confit Burger, runny duck egg, pomegranate salad

Around the region

Gorilla Brewing, Busan 

Established by British expat Paul Edwards and his business partner and fellow Brit Andy Green in 2015, Gorilla Brewing is a craft beer brewery and bar in Busan’s Gwangnam-ro. Gorilla aims to bring the best craft beer to its customers by “brewing Korea’s most exciting craft beers and pairing them with innovative Korean cuisine”. The brewery wants to be at the forefront of creating a craft beer culture in South Korea.

While guzzling beer is often associated with laziness and beer bellies, Gorilla Brewing offers fitness activities such as Gorilla Running Club, as well as yoga classes (with one beer included).

Some of Gorilla’s signature beers include its Busan Pale Ale and Gorilla IPA.

Gorilla Brewing / photo courtesy of Gorilla Brewing

Beer Bee, Kaohsiung

Part bottle shop, part bar, Beer Bee offers an impressive selection of bottled Taiwanese and imported craft beers. There are also several beers on tap, including usually a local beer. Make sure to try the offerings from Taiwanese brewery Taiwan Head Brewers, which offers some unique flavours including Taiwan Tea Ale and Taiwan Winter Melon Ale, as well as its Taiwan Sour Fruit series.

Beer Bee in Kaohsiung / photo courtesy of Beer Bee

You can either take away, or for a small additional fee drink the beers inside the shop. Light snacks are also available.

Beer Bee in Kaohsiung / photo courtesy of Beer Bee

Beer Talk Café & Bar, Tainan

Another offering from Taiwan, this time focusing exclusively on Belgian beers. Beer Talk Café & Bar, Tainan is situated inside a shopping mall, which perhaps doesn’t give it any favours for atmosphere, but you’ll be pleased with the wide variety of Belgian beers on tap, as well as bottled beers. Staff are friendly and are more than happy to let you sample a few beers before deciding on which one you like.

They also have branches in Taipei and Kaohsiung.

Beer Talk Cafe and Bar Tainan

Long-haul 

Frogtown Brewery, Los Angeles

This independent craft brewery and taproom along the LA river is nestled between the trendy Los Feliz, Atwater Village and Silver Lake districts. Frogtown – which got its name in the 1930s when thousands of frogs (though, in hindsight these may in fact have been small western toads) would come up out of the LA River and cover the streets like a blanket – is less well known than these three areas, but is worth a visit for this brewery alone.

You can check what they are serving on any given day here.

Frogtown Brewery / photo courtesy of Frogtown Brewery

The brewery even has a Frog Society loyalty programme for its 100 most loyal customers. 

Frogtown Brewery / photo courtesy of Frogtown Brewery

While the brewery itself doesn’t serve any food, there are often food trucks outside and you can check their schedule here. The brewery also regularly has live music nights.

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