Corporate =/= Craft!
This post has been in the making for a very long time, as corporate beer has begun trying to horn in on the craft beer scene, but what finally pushed us past the limit was an incredibly frustrating read in Malt & Spirits concerning the entry of Carlsberg-owned Hong Kong Yau into the local craft beer market (https://www.maltandspiritsmagazine.com/201709-hongkong-yau). You can see throughout the piece exactly how corporate beer thinks about and approaches craft. They're bringing the corporate approach to making “craft” beer (because if there's one thing craft beer fans love, it's corporate-style beers). Well, good luck! The whole reason craft beer has exploded in recent years is because people were looking for something new, something unique, something specifically for them. Something not corporate, in other words.
Here are a few choice quotes from the article, and our reaction to them:
'The great advantage of Carlsberg is its being commercial – meaning it's responsive to what customers want.'
No. Being commercial means appealing to the broadest possible demographic, which means the product must be a jack of all trades, master of none, never venturing outside of the comfort zone of the lowest common denominator. Craft means that you're not trying to make a beer that appeals to everyone. You're trying to make the best possible beer you can, regardless of if it's not a huge hit with the masses. Fans of new beers, different styles, artistry and craft in their drink will find your beer.
'With years of sales experience it's cultivated solid consumer reach, backed by regular market research by external research firms for a thorough understanding of the market's taste. “We find that local breweries constantly launch new products with different ingredients, but Hong Kongers actually don't need such distinctive flavours, and body should be lighter for better market reception.”'
Lovely. Did you hear that, Hong Kong? You don't actually want flavour. The place with 87 Michelin Stars, with some of the most flavourful and delicious food in the world, doesn't want flavour. Admittedly our own “market research” methodology costs us much less than hiring research firms (in fact it consists entirely of talking about beer with people stopping by our Beer Shack on Lamma Island), but we've found it's a pretty great way of figuring out if people are enjoying the things we're making. But we do it after we make the beer, not before. Instead of chasing trends, we're content to make a product we love and believe in, something we enjoy ourselves, and then sharing it with people who enjoy it as well.
Instead of thinking of the market as an amorphous faceless thing that only wants one product with the broadest appeal possible, we try to make a variety of beers that will appeal to a wide range of tastes. Want something loaded with hops? Try our Hong Kong Bastard Imperial IPA. Don't like IPAs? No problem, try our Quit Your Job! Saison. Want something different, something you might have never even thought to try until you heard we made it? Try one of our Single Batch brews. The whole reason craft breweries have so many different varieties is that we're not trying to make one single beer with the widest market appeal, to sell to the most people. We're trying to make beers for fans of great beer, and that means making things that won't always appeal to absolutely everyone.
But that's the great thing about craft beer: discovering the beers that appeal to your specific taste. The beer or beers that are exactly what you want out of a beer. You've found your beer, not something designed to be as inoffensive as possible (and therefore unlikely to stand out in any way) in order to be sold to as many people as possible. It's a great feeling, and one of the things we love about making craft beer.
Why does this all matter? Because in order for craft beer to keep its integrity -- to stop the degradation and erosion of a beautiful ideal by Corporate breweries who are increasingly attaching their tentacles to craft breweries all around the world-- it is vital that we draw a line on the battleground of commercialism vs. craft. Big Business has realized that there's a quick buck to be made off of craft beer, (or something that looks like craft beer) and it's eroding the ideal of what craft is. Craft is not market-led. Craft is about individuality, about creating, about pushing the boundaries, making something new, not about latching on to the latest trend.
The logical conclusion of making market-led beer is bland, safe, boring, corporate. It's the antithesis of craft. Craft is art as well as science. When an artist creates art, we are invited to experience what the artist wanted to say; with craft beer we taste and experience what the brewer wanted to share.
Independence and creativity, making YOUR beer, is critical in defining real craft. Making a product that you believe in, that represents you as an individual, is real craft. Only when a brewer is free to make the beer that he dreams of do we see real craft.
It's not possible to drink a mass produced product, dreamt up in a board room, created en mass to pander to “average” or “majority” tastes, and have that experience of understanding what the brewer wanted to create. The brewer didn't have a vision he wanted to express. A product was dictated to him, based on extensive “market research” and the brewer was simply the instrument. To him, it's just a job.
And there's nothing inherently wrong with that. Just as there is a place for fast food, there is a place for fine dining. A place for McDonald's and Michelin Stars. Mass produced and copied art, and one off masterpieces. There is a place for IKEA furniture and there is a place for the carpenter making hand-made furniture.
Beer is the same. We're not knocking corporate beer for being corporate. Sometimes a corporate-style beer is what you want to drink. There is space for mass produced beer and craft beer.
But the problem comes when one attempts to masquerade as the other. Don't sell us an IKEA flat pack and tell us it's the same as the arts and craft movement. Don't sell us a printed poster and tell us it's a masterpiece. Don't sell us mass produced beer that is not an expression of the brewer's individual style and tell us it's craft!
And, Corporate Beer, while you're at it, and regardless of what your market research says you can get away with selling, maybe consider not barging into the field of craft beer --a field that's been doing quite fine on its own-- and telling its brewers and its fans that they're doing it wrong, that they don't really want the things they think they want, that your way is the real way to go. For many of us, your way was the opposite of what we were looking for, so much so that it inspired us to start making and seeking out the beers we actually wanted to drink.
長久以來我們一直想談一談這個話題，工業釀造已經開始嘗試入侵手工啤酒領域，而最終令我們真正失望的是讀到“Malt & Spirits”提到的嘉士伯Carlsberg旗下的品牌Hong Kong Yau已經進入香港本地手工啤酒市場。(https://www.maltandspiritsmagazine.com/201709-hongkong-yau)。從這一篇文章你可以看到工業啤酒是如何看待和入侵手工啤酒的。他們將工業化引入手工啤酒的釀造（如果手工啤酒愛好者喜歡了，那其實就是喜歡他們的工業啤酒）。祝你好運！手工啤酒之所以近年受到越來越多的歡迎，是因為人們一直在尋找新的，特別的，非常私密感的東西，而不是工業化量產的東西。
“嘉士伯Carlsberg最大的優勢是他們的商業化 — 也就是市場導向。”
與其想著市場是一堆數字數據，只想著釀出迎合芸芸大眾的啤酒，我們更願意去創造更多種類更豐富口感的啤酒。想要滿滿啤酒花風味的啤酒？試試我們的Hong Kong Bastard帝國印式艾爾。不喜歡印式艾爾？沒關係，試試我們的Quit Your Job! 賽松啤酒。想試一下一些不同的聞所未聞的東西？品嚐一下我們充滿創意的一期一味的單批次的啤酒。手工啤酒廠之所以有那麼多種類，是因為我們並不想做一款適合整個市場能賣給大部分人的啤酒，我們想做的是給真正的啤酒愛好者釀製的最棒的啤酒，這意味著我們的啤酒並不總是能吸引每一個人。
- Yardley Brothers
Folk'n'Ale at the Brewery
Another great gig! The night started with a solo set by Ailee Slater, playing ukulele and singing obscene songs. Next up were The Pineapple Jam, who closed their set with an amazing A cappella version of "Leave her, Johnny, Leave her." Then came The Privateers, who kicked things off with a fantastic FLogging Molly Cover. Ballychunder played a great version of "Dirty Old Town" and closed out the night in their usual high energy, high tempo fashion.
But the party didn't stop there. Afterwards members of The Pineapple Jam and The Privateers gathered around the bar and sang folk tunes and shanties a cappella. We even managed a cèilidh dance.
All Photos by Gary Jones:
Another great Beertopia. We had 12 different beers to try -- the most out of any local brewery -- including The Beast, a 25% eisBock, the strongest beer in Asia, as well as our newly awarded Best Sour Beer Framboise and Best Session IPA Machine Men.
We also had a ton of great volunteers helping out serving and chatting beer with craft beer lovers. With Luke manning the Beer Geek stall, and Joseph behind the bar in our main stall, we must have talked to every craft beer aficionado in Hong Kong.
Hope to see everyone again next year!
We won Best Sour Beer for our Framboise collaboration with Little Creatures and Best Session IPA for our brand new Machine Men Pale Ale at the Hong Kong International Beer Awards!
We're very proud of both of these beers, and incredibly happy to be recognized for doing what we love: making great craft beer!
Punk Night at The Brewery:
Hong Kong street punk and Yardley Brothers beer go together like... punk music and beer, really. We got some of Hong Kong's best punk bands together for one night of loud, loud, LOUD punk music.
When the Yardley Brothers decide to do something, we go all out. Beertopia was our first major beer festival. Luke and Duncan were still putting the finishing touches on the Brewery (and still working their day jobs).
but we knew that thousands of thirsty craft beer fans who had never tried Yardley Brothers beer would be there, and we wanted them to know all about us, our beer, and what we believe in. So we decided to make as much noise as possible.
We set up the Yardley Brothers stage, and got some of Hong Kong's best bands together for a night of local music.
It was loud. People definitely noticed.
And so did the judges, who awarded our Hong Kong Bastard Imperial IPA two prizes: Best IPA and Best of Show.
Not too bad for our first major festival.
Sunday At THE SHACK
People from at least 8 different countries, having simultaneous conversations in three languages.
Lots and lots of Lamma Island IPA and Hong Kong Bastard on tap.
Just another Sunday afternoon at the beer shack.
Of course, it's not every day you have an 86 year old Hong Kong WWII veteran drop in to share some tales. Especially one who doesn't speak a lick of English. Luckily, between 8 people we had 10+ languages between us, so with the help of a few multi-linguals, we managed to make it work. We ended up with stories being told in one language, and translated on the fly into the nearest common languages by helpful amateur translators, until everyone understood, like an especially challenging game of telephone.
The coolest and most unexpected thing we've enjoyed about running the beer shack is seeing how love of great craft beer transcends things like cultural boundaries, age, and language, and brings together disparate groups of people --who otherwise might never have met-- for fascinating conversations.