CHINA - Hops warriors are drawing frontlines for the fight to conquer China's craft beer market. Matt Hodges pores over the pours.
Foreigners have been flying the flag for craft beer in China. But as it gains traction among locals in top-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai - on both the production and consumption sides - a series of potential turf wars may lie ahead.
By the time the sun set on the revelers, barbecues and beer stalls of the 14 microbrewers from around the country that assembled at the Kerry Center Craft Beer Festival in Shanghai's Pudong last month, its days as a mostly foreign affair seemed numbered.
The same goes for China's emerging craft beer market.
There was the Chinese man nosing beakers of craft beer like a professional sommelier. Then there was the flamboyantly displayed tattoo of a Terracotta Warrior on the forearm of a local as he pulled drafts of Hop Warrior, specially made by a foreign brew master and featuring tropically scented hops. The body art suggested a spirit of fearlessness in the face of battle.
But towering over it all was the Buddha-like serenity radiating from Gao Yan, who stood at the other end of the festival on Sept 14, surrounded by fawning acolytes. Gao authored Get Your Own Brew, the first Chinese book on home brewing.
"The Chinese are definitely going to take over the market," Gao says, pulling a pair of spectacles from his shirt pocket.
"There are already more than 150 home brewers in Shanghai. Maybe in five years we'll see more of them turn into real microbrewers."