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The Craft Beer - Pioneer of Hong Kong

香港手工啤的先行者

 People rarely would try to step out of comfort zone, because out there, it’s all adventure. But the truth is, sailing to uncharted waters get one’s brain and body moving, triggering one’s potentials. So as long as you can pluck up your courage, things rarely fail. And this is what Simon Pesch, chief brewer at Hong Kong Beer Co did. 

All by himself and two bags, Simon flew to Hong Kong from California four years ago to take on a rare opportunity in his career. A few months back, the brewery in which he worked for was acquired, and he became redundant. It was inevitable even though he had 20 years of solid brewing experience. It didn’t take long to find out there were just no suitable jobs, and whether he would need to leave his hometown. Fortune has brought him to learn that in Hong Kong, a beer startup, led by an entrepreneur also seasoned for beer, was building up a team. There had been little hesitation before he decided to buy the ticket, “America is mature, and by taking this opportunity I could be a pioneer of China and even Southeast Asia.” He was pushed out of his comfort zone, but has naturally accepted this new challenge. 

“At that time I was the only employee!” Simon recalled with laugh. But his most incredible problem initially was the ingredients weren’t at all available! “In America, you can easily get everything from malt and hops, but in Hong Kong, there’s nothing. I have to call to all the suppliers that I know!” The malt comes from Europe, hops from Australia, and even bottles had to be shipped from China. “I built this team all by myself. They never had any experience in beer making, some had office jobs, and some were even taxi drivers!” It isn’t a team with strong background, but nonetheless has room for imagination. 

The products of Hong Kong Beer Co naturally get tied with Simon’s American background, “Many of the Hong Kong craft beers are made to the European fashion, but we stay focused to the American style. That is strong hops, bitter, strong alcohol and rich is aroma.” Because the market is new, people’s tastes are open, they keep rolling out small batch limited editions called New Territories Series, including Hazy Daze made for last years Beertopia. With the popular New Zealand hop Rakau and a number of American hops, and brewed with oat and wheat, this New England Pale Ale has a long ingredients list with bursting aromas. Despite its really hazy look, it won the heart of many drinkers. 

 

Speaking of future plans, Simon said the only thing is to growth further this brewery he brought up single-handedly. “We are about the expand brewing facilities, so yearly capacity will go up 40 per cent from the current 600,000 litres.” He must work extra hard by then! 

跳出安全區,感覺好像很冒險,所大部份人也不願意試。但事實是,因為要跳出安全區,向陌生和未知進發,腦袋和身體就會積極動起來,將潛能引發出來。只要凝聚到一份放手一搏的勇氣,很少會失敗。Hong Kong beer Co首席釀酒師Simon Pesch,就這樣做到了。

四年前,Simon帶著兩袋行李,隻身從加州飛來香港,去捕捉一個職業生涯中的難得機會。將時間推前數個月,當時他因為工作的啤酒廠被併購,即使具有20年的豐富釀啤酒經驗,也難逃被裁的命運。然後坐在家裡,發現市場上根本沒有適合他的職業和機會,他開始思考是否要離開他的家鄉加州,去尋求機會。後來發現香港這邊,有一家由零開始、但老闆本身具釀造及推廣手工啤經驗的酒廠恰好要人,他考慮了沒有多久就決定出發,「美國已經發展得很成熟,但若接受這個機會,就可以成為中國以至東南亞的先行者。」被逼離開安全區的他,順勢就接受了這個新挑戰。

「當時整個酒廠只有我一個員工!」Simon笑說。一開始,他遇最意想不到的困難,就是找不到材料!「在美國,無論是麥芽還是啤酒花,全部都隨便就能買到,但在香港,甚麼都沒有。我要給所有我認識的供應商打電話!」結果麥芽要從歐洲訂來,啤酒花可能來自澳洲,連酒樽都要跟中國訂。人當然也沒有,「今天這個工作隊伍由我一手訓練出來,他們基本從未接觸過啤酒釀造,部份人之前打辦公室工,更有人之前是的士司機!」雖說拉雜成軍,但就富活力。

說到Hong Kong beer Co的定位,自然與他的美國背景有關,「很多香港的手工啤以歐洲風格為主,但我們集中做美國風格。即是重啤酒花、重苦味、重酒精和濃香的。」因為市場新,對口味接受度很高,在恒常的酒款以外,他們也持續做一些小批生產的特別味道限量版New Territories Series,例如去年特別在Beertopia期間釀造的Hazy Daze。裡面不單加了當紅的紐西蘭啤酒花Rakau,以及不少美國啤酒花,又加了燕麥和小麥等,這款New England Pale Ale 材料豐富、香氣爆發,看起來非常混濁,但很得顧客歡心。

說到未來目標,Simon坦言就是繼續發展這家由他一手湊大的釀造廠,「我們即將擴充釀造設施,由目前的年產量60萬升,再增加四成。」那未來真夠他忙了!