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    Beijing sips and savors craft beer from around the world

    By LI YINGXUE | China Daily | Updated: 2019-04-12 08:22
    Craft beer fans talk with a brewer at the fifth Beijing Invitational Craft Beer Festival. [Photo provided to China Daily]

    Recently, brewer Marcelo Reggio was pouring blueberry sour beer for guests at the fifth Beijing Invitational Craft Beer Festival. And he was surprised by how many Chinese like to drink the stuff.

    Reggio, who is from Argentina, is the brewer of Penon del Aguila, a brewery founded in 2011 that was the first to package craft beer in cans in Argentina.

    Reggio took two days to fly to Beijing with his beer.

    "We join beer festivals in Argentina all the time, but this is the first time we are taking part in a festival outside our country," Reggio says.

    Reggio says he is amazed at how much Chinese customers at the beer festival know about beer.

    "They know what they are going to drink, and they take notes. They choose all types of beers."

    The festival, which was held at TRB Copper from March 29 to 31, highlighted international breweries and their craft beers. Guests could sample free-flowing beer as well as snacks during a three-hour or four-hour session.

    The event was started by Great Leap Brewing in Beijing five years ago, because its owner, Carl Setzer, and his team thought that a lot of the imported craft beer in Beijing or in China were not actually top grade.

    "So, we thought we would try to change that by bringing in the best from around the world and letting Chinese drinkers try them," says Setzer.

    This year, the festival brought over 280 beers of more than 100 styles from 46 breweries in 15 countries and regions, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Japan.

    "Since its inception in 2014, we've seen it grow from 15 breweries from eight countries and regions to a projected 40-plus breweries this year, including breweries from continents that we've never had represented before," Setzer says.

    According to Setzer, 19 of the breweries have come to China for their first time, and other breweries have joined the festival for the second, third, fourth and even fifth time.

    "So, we have a lot of breweries that came five years ago, and it was their first introduction to China. Now they have distribution all over the country," says Setzer.

    Setzer says breweries come back because "Chinese consumers are some of the most thoughtful, interesting and educated in the world".

    He also says that the amount of information Chinese have access to now is huge, especially online. And as they have been traveling around the world for the past 20 years, they don't have to rely on foreigners or middlemen to tell them what's good.

    Anders Kleinstrup, managing director of Lervig As from Norway, attended the festival for the second time this year, and it is the third time that his brewery has participated in the event.

    "We're always fighting to decide who should come here as everybody wants to visit Beijing because it's one of those festivals where people stay a little longer and so you bond with them," Kleinstrup says.

    Kleinstrup thinks people come to the event to train their palates and taste new beers. And as Asia is the next big market for craft beer, breweries from around the world want to come and meet customers face-to-face.

    He also says he has noticed people are starting to drink more hops and pale ales. "Last time I was here, it was more Europeans, but now it's more Chinese," he says.

    Kathryn Brankin, a brewer at Pipeworks in Chicago, brought four of the company's signature craft beers to the festival this year. The cans feature colorful drawings by local artists.

    Brankin is here for the second time as she thinks it is a good opportunity to meet brewers from all over the world.

    "People come to us and ask specific questions so they can make educated choices about what they are consuming," she says.

    John Herrington, a self-taught American brewer who has been running Strong Ale Works in Qingdao, Shandong province, for the past eight years, attended the festival for the fourth time.

    "We are a small company, so we are a bit picky when joining beer festivals," he says.

    "But it seems the best choice for us because most of the breweries here are world-class."

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