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Drink And Be Merry: The Stand-Out Suds From Hong Kong’s Beertopia

Beertopia, Hong Kong’s largest annual craft festival, was once again a sudsy success, bringing together 500+ beers, food stands, live bands and DJs, and loads of beer-goggled fun.

Set near Pier 10 on the waterfront, the recent gathering saw some relief to the heat as crowds of beer lovers reveled during the weekend event.

There were endless options to delight the taste buds, but we found a few stand-outs, which should be sampled should you come across them on your next beer drinking adventure.

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Renaissance Brewing Company

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This is one of New Zealand’s preeminent craft beer producers. Based out of Marlborough, their goal is to produce beers that rival wines in the region — which is no surprise (as well as something at which they succeed) as both Roger Kerrison, the Company’s Development Director, and Andy Deuchars, the Head Brewer, started out as a winemakers.

The common mantra amongst winemakers is that “it takes a lot of beer to make great wine,” and this is what the starting point was for the founders of Renaissance.

Motivated by the quality local ingredients at their disposal and their love for beer, they produce brews that are ultra premium and showcase New Zealand hops and malt in a range of British, American and European styles.

We tasted through six of their beers, which were truly delicious:

  • Voyager IPA – This is made in a British style with pale ale malt from Canterbury, and is a rich, bitter hoppy beer, displaying good balance, texture and weight.
  • Paradox Pilsner – The inspiration for the name behind this is that it’s light and thirst quenching yet packed full of tropical flavors of passion fruit and citrus, with a racy finish and nice floral notes.
  • Odyssey Wit Beer – Move over Hoegarden… this is a crisper, spicier wit beer with the orange peel and coriander really coming through on the finish.
  • Clipper India Session Ale – This beer is all about big hops with a lower alcohol content of under 4%. Named after the clippers from the East India Co., this is a great beer option that is versatile, light and low in alcohol.
  • Little Ripa – In NZ speak, Little Ripa loosely translates to Little Beauty, which is a perfect description for this red IPA with its earthiness, fruit hop flavors, and chewy toffee and spicy undertones. It is also the first crowd-funded brew beer, this beauty having been crafted by all of the Renaissance shareholders.
  • Stonecutter – Made from 9 malts, this is an iconic Scotch ale that is smokey, chocolate-y, with a creamy caramel and raisin-like finish. This is a serious beer. Named as one of the Top 100 Beers in Beer Advocate, this rich Wee Heavy is not to be missed.

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Stiegl

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Stiegl is the largest family-owned brewery in Austria, with a history of over 500 years in one brewery, having been founded in 1492. All of the hops and barley used are farmed organically, which lends to the purity of taste that comes through so distinctively.

The water source is the pure spring water from a deep well at the foot of the local mountain in Salzburg. Stiegl supports initiatives that encourage sustainable management of raw resources and is deeply committed to this practice.

With the exception of their Radler, they continue to brew beer according to the Germanic Purity Beer Law, written in 1516 by Bavarian noblemen, that abides by four ingredients: water, hops, barley malt, and yeast (and, to be fair, the ingredient of yeast was added centuries later after scientists discovered the fermenting agent).

Stiegl’s main brews range from the Stiegl range, which consist of light lagers, known as Hellers, Hefeweizen, Pils, regional specialty brews and a Radler. They also produce limited creative specialties from their Steigl beer house, seasonal beers, specialty beers and vintage edition beers.

Our tasting included the following brews:

  • Zwickl – An unfiltered lager, this is a natural Salzburg specialty beer. Soft, accessible, with a slightly sweet citrus flavor, fine spicy undertones, and a velvety finish.
  • Goldbräu – This is a well-rounded, thirst-quenching golden lager with mellow hops and a slight edginess to balance out the body weight with a crisp finish.
  • Radler – Named for cyclists who wanted to enjoy a nice beer on their journey but still be able to cycle home. Made from 60% fresh grapefruit soda and 40% lager, this is a zippy, refreshing beer alternative on a hot day or when you don’t want to over-indulge.

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Gweilo Beers

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Created by two Gweilos from Hong Kong’s expat community, Gweilo beers are craft beers, inspired by the notable fact that there wasn’t a Hong Kong craft beer when they arrived.

The clever marketing behind the brand represents the transformation of the definition that the word Gweilo has undergone over the past several years, which is in symbiosis with a transformative beer market during the same time here in Hong Kong.

According to the company, it is an overview of the evolving dictionary definition of the word. They way they see it…

Gwei•lo 1. lit. Cantonese term meaning “ghost chap.” 2. hist. Cantonese slang term used to describe barbarian hedonistic invaders of Canton in the 16th Century. 3. mod. Slang term used by many in the first and third person to describe foreigners. 5. trademark. Used to denote exceptional craft beer brewed in Hong Kong with passion, flare and above all, modesty. phrase A chilled and full-bodied gweilo can be surprisingly sophisticated.

They have two beers in their range thus far, both of which are session ales:

  • Pale Ale – This British style pale ale displays hoppy bright citrus notes, with tropical fruit nuances and a light body. Made using English recipes, this is a crisp, easy-drinking beer.
  • IPA – Brewed with European malt and American hops, this is a bright beer laced with citrus hops, fruits of mango and passion fruit, and malty sweetness.

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Also not to be missed… the Australian craft beers and ciders imported by the Tai-Pan Beer Co, a NewsWhistle Ad Partner.

Check out our favorite importer’s Australian Brewery Extra Hoppy Ale, which was recently awarded the “Best Amber Ale” at the 2015 HK International Beer Awards!

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As a career sommelier, Kimberley Drake has overseen some of the finest wine programs and operations in America and Asia. Her accomplishments range from working as a sommelier at Jean Georges in NYC to opening Hong Kong’s Café Gray Deluxe as their chef sommelier.

Have a good wine or travel story? Contact Kimberley at Kimberley@NewsWhistle.com.

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Lead-In Image Courtesy of Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com