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Tai Wai Beer

屬於大圍的啤酒 大圍啤

Does Tai Wai Beer taste best in Tai Wai district? That is a joke of Henry and Wendy, the couple behind the Hong Kong craft brewery. They have a special feeling of the Tai Wai district they live in. In a Cantonese pun, Tai Wai also means a large group of friends getting together, the brand is launch with a vision to create a beer to be enjoyed with “Tai Wai (all of us).”

Another addition to the army of local craft brewery, Tai Wai Beer began its life early this year, with the first brew in the market as late as May. All this was a result of an unintentional decision. “Two years ago we’re supposed to make whisky at home, the wood cask was only a click away from online shopping site! Then we took a step back and thought we did not have patience to wait three years (of aging), but since the equipment were there, we decided to buy a fermenting jar and brewed beer instead,” recalled Henry. The result was highly regarded among his friends, and that motivated him to constantly improve it and ultimately became a business.

A mixologist by profession, Henry took heed from the beginning to infuse different tastes into the beer. His choice is various western tea and flowers and herbs, “They give distinctive tastes to beer, and there haven’t been similar efforts in Hong Kong. I’ve been experimenting tea with beer since the beginning.” Up to now there are four styles under the brand, named in numbers. “No. 1” is pilsner infused with camomile, “No. 2” being earl grey flavoured amber ale, “No.3” is verbena flavour saison, while “No. 4” is pale ale brewed with blackcurrant and roselle hibiscus.

All these tea flavours are the favourite for Hong Kongers, especially ladies. But Henry did not choose this to accommodate local taste: “basically I chose the flavours to best match the beer style. For example, a crisp pilsner goes well with the mellowness of chamomile, while the “countryside” saison matches with the grassy and lemony verbena.”

Inconsistency is the common problem among small breweries. The way Henry address this is stricter quality control. “For every 20 bottles, I will have a small glass to check if it has the right taste. If it doesn’t taste right, I’ll take the whole cask home to finish it myself. Costs are high, but money can’t buy prestige.”

大圍啤是否在大圍喝最好喝?大圍啤的創辦人 Henry 和 Wendy 兩夫婦笑說,住在大圍的他們對大圍有深厚感情,但大圍同時有「一班朋友聚在一起」的意思,他們希望這是一款能為「大圍(大家)」帶來快樂的啤酒。

大圍啤是本地自釀品牌的又一新成員,品牌於今年初策劃,今年五月才推出市場,而一切,源於兩年前一個無心插柳的決定,「其實兩年前,原本想在家裡自釀威士忌,差點就從購物網站訂木桶了!後來覺得自己真的沒有耐性等三年(威士忌陳釀),但器材已在手上,於是就多買一個發酵瓶,改成釀啤酒。」Henry 笑說。然後,他釀的啤酒得到朋友的欣賞,於是他就一直改良,直至有一天,就下決心將興趣變成事業了。

Henry本身是一個調酒師,這個背景令他一開始釀啤酒時,已經想將不同的味道融入啤酒中,他選定的就是各種西洋茶款和花草茶。「我覺得以茶融入啤酒口味較獨特,而且香港暫時未有。其實我一開始自釀啤酒時,就已經是試不同的西洋茶入啤酒。」大圍啤暫時有四款,名為壹號、貳號、叄號和肆號。壹號是洋甘菊口味Pilsner,貳號是伯爵茶味Amber Ale、叄號是馬鞭草味Saison,而肆號就是黑加侖子搭洛神花的Pale Ale。

這幾款啤酒,一聽就覺得很切合港人口味,尤其是女士!不過Henry原本的考慮並不是這樣的,「基本都是按酒款來考慮添加甚麼茶。例如較清爽的Pilsner,我就覺得與味道溫和的洋甘菊最配。又例如Saison是農村啤酒,與味道較草青、並有清新檸檬香的馬鞭草感覺最夾。」為香港人設想的反而是味道和酒精道上的考慮,「因為想走大眾化路線,我特地不加太重的啤酒花,令口味較溫和,即使初飲的朋友也較易接受,酒精度約5度,也令人易接受。」暫時最好賣的是貳號伯爵茶Amber Ale。觀乎香港人對伯爵茶口味甜品的愛戴程度,這款跑出亦相當合理!

小規模啤酒廠往往面對一個困難,就是質素不穩定。Henry克服這個問題的辦法就是勤做品質檢定,「每為20瓶啤酒入瓶,我自己就會飲一小杯,看看是否對味。若真試到不行的,便全桶拿回家,自己喝掉它算了。雖然成本高,但聲譽是錢也買不到的。」Henry解釋說。