A friend recently returned from a vacation in Hong Kong and was kind enough to bring me a couple of bottles of a rather unusual beer from the Hong Kong S.A.R. Brewing Company. This is Hong Kong’s only microbrewery, and produces several interesting brews. SAR stands for Special Administrative Region – which is what the protectorate of Hong Kong became after the British handed control of Hong Kong back to the Chinese in 1997.
The Hong Kong Brewing Company was formerly the South China Brewing Company, Asia’s first microbrewery, founded in 1995 in the district of Aberdeen, on Hong Kong island. Carlsberg, Guinness, San Miguel and Tsing Tao all have mega breweries in Hong Kong, but this is, to my knowledge still the only micro.
I was fortunate enough to visit South China Brewing on a trip to Hong Kong with some friends back in 1996. At that time the brewery’s brews included ‘Stonecutter Lager’ and ‘Dragonback Stout’ while their total range at that time comprised about seven brews – including some Irish style ales for sale in Hong Kong’s Irish bars. My friends and I then went on a very pleasant day’s mission around the bars of Hong Kong to sample each of their brews – concluding in ‘Delaney’s Bar in Kowloon late into the night.
These days the brewery tours are more formalised, and if you’re ever visiting Hong Kong, it’s an interesting way to spend an hour.
South China Brewing was taken over in 1998 and became the Hong Kong Brewing Company, the brewery’s capacity was enlarged, the brews rebranded, and a commitment made to brew to the Reinheitsgebot. Stonecutter Lager became Hong Kong Gold and then ‘Hong Kong Beer’ while Dragon’s Back (the original Chinese name for Hong Kong island) is the name given to their ‘English Style Ale’.
It is the Hong Kong Beer that Tom brought me, a pale pilsner style lager brewed with Hallertau hops and yeast from the Weihenstephan brewery in Bavaria.
As you will observe, it pours with a sparse white head and very little nose. So we’re in true German lager territory here, no sign of the distinctive Saaz nose of a a Pilsner here.
The first sip confirms this. It’s dry and crisp as a ‘Munich’ lager should be.
And to me that’s a shame, the influence of ‘that’ German purity law prevents the addition of rice that imbues other Chinese beers (including Tsing Tao and Harbin) with their characteristic mellowness.
That’s not to say that the brew’s wrong… it’s just that other Chinese and Hong Kong beers offer something a little more special.
I’ll happily give this three stars… it’s good but not great.
Bob the Brit