Mar 4, 2017
By Brian Spencer.
Beijing’s Jing-A Brewing Co. traveled some 7,000 kilometers to Europe’s first sake brewery in Grimstad, Norway, for one of its most ambitious collaborations to date. Master Norwegian brewers Nøgne Ø added a little Scandinavian magic to Imperial Koji Saison, a massive, palate challenging 14-percent ale made with aged Chinese orange peel, fresh koji, and sake and saison yeasts. Their bold joint maneuver scored a bronze medal in Barcelona Beer Challenge 2016’s “Experimental” category. Meanwhile in London, a still-unnamed Flanders red ale, brewed with smoked sour plums Jing-A sourced in China, is currently aging in barrels at Beavertown Brewery. Jing-A hopes to unveil this transcontinental creation in Beijing by next summer.
“We wanted something reflective of Southeast Asia,” says Mike Wong, founder of Innocence Brewing of the easy-drinking Serai Halia pale ale, launched during Singapore Craft Beer Week in August. For its first-ever collaboration, the hotshot new kid in the booming local craft beer scene partnered with Smith Street Taps, an all-craft taps hawker stall in Chinatown. The pair spiked it with 10 kilograms of lemongrass and more than three kilos of ginger, then used ale and champagne yeasts for fermentation, creating a spicy, refreshing brew with a distinct sense of place.
When one of Saigon’s first serious microbreweries, Pasteur Street Brewing Company, joined forces with Vietnamese artisanal cacao masters, Marou Faiseurs du Chocolat, the result was a match made in beer heaven. The dark, toasty notes in the Imperial Chocolate Cyclo Stout come from Treasure Island, a small-batch chocolate made from Tan Phu Dong Island in the Mekong River. So successful was this 13-percent stout that it bagged a gold medal in the “Chocolate Beer” category of this May’s World Beer Cup.
4. HONG KONG
A sturdy oatmeal stout base balances out the bitterness in Young Master Ales Add Oil, made in tandem with a local third-wave café and roaster, 18 Grams Specialty Coffee. To fully infuse the flavors of 18 Grams’ custom blend, founder Rohit Dugar says YMA used a “double mash” method of first roasting the beans and malted barley together, then later adding a cold-brew coffee and a tincture of the same beans after fermentation. The creativity paid off—it won a bronze at the 2016 Australian International Beer Awards.
4 BEERS TO DRINK NOW
Even as the region’s local breweries amp up production, more foreign beers are hitting our shelves and taps. Here are four stellar imports worth hunting down.
GAMMA RAY: Beavertown Brewery’s signature beer, ripe with three malts including best pale, is probably the finest pale ale coming out of London. Clean, crisp and redolent of tropical citrus fruits, Gamma Ray is the perfect antidote for sweltering Southeast Asian afternoons. The can’s sci-fi inspired artwork is unmistakable. beavertownbrewery.co.uk.
SESSION IPA: Another London brewery (mostly) eschewing bottles for cans, Fourpure Brewing Co. packs five different hops into its highly drinkable Session IPA. It has all the flavor of a big, juicy American-style IPA but, at just 4.2-percent alcohol-byvolume, far less punch. For now, it’s available in Australia, Malaysia and Singapore. fourpure.com.
SPONTAN SERIES: Danish brewery Mikkeller produces this range of tart, refreshing ales by aging lambics in oak barrels with wild yeasts and adding a single fruit—gooseberries, cherries, Mandarin oranges—to each batch. Look for Spontans in craft bottle shops and on draft at Mikkeller bars in Bangkok, Singapore, Seoul and Taipei. mikkeller.dk.
VELVETS ARE BLUE: Like the Spontan ales, this spritzy saison from Denmark’s To Øl draws its sour funk from a wild yeast fermentation, while heaps of blueberries contribute a light, fruity backbone. Raspberries replace the blueberries in its sister beer, Roses Are Brett. To Øl is distributed in at least nine Asia-Pacific countries. to-ol.dk.