Across China: China sees burgeoning craft beer industry

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BEIJING, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- Designer Mu Yang likes to occasionally grab a beer after work while hanging out with friends, but his taste has a special preference for good-quality craft beer. Therefore, he makes a conscious effort to pick out places offering such brews.

During a business trip in October, Mu visited Peking Machine, a well-known craft beer bar in Beijing. "My favorite is 'Stout,' with dense foam, roasted aroma, and a hint of chocolate," said Mu.

"Craft and mass-produced beers taste completely different," said Mu. "Contrary to mass-produced ones, craft beers taste fresh, and this is the striking attribute for most drinkers."

Compared with ordinary industrial beer, craft beer's fermentation process is more traditional, with fewer industrial additives and exquisite and diversified tastes. For example, craft brewers choose to ferment beer in wine and whisky barrels to generate a unique aroma.

China has always been a huge consumer of beer, but preferences are shifting away from industrial beers to more premium and craft flavors. As a result sales growth of cheaper beers has been on a decline in recent years, while demand for high-end beers is rising.

Li Wei, founder of Peking Machine and former president of Beijing Homebrewing Society, has witnessed the rapid growth of the Chinese craft beer market since he was engaged in the industry in 2012.

"When the association was established, there were only a dozen members. It was difficult to buy craft beer in the market and most were imported with a price as high as more than 200 yuan (30 U.S. dollars) a can," Li recalled.

"But now the association has more than 4,000 members, and the price of craft beer has dropped to tens of yuan a can," said Li.

According to statistics from the Beijing Homebrewing Society, Beijing had only 30-plus stores in 2013 that sold fine craft beer. The number had, however, increased to more than 90 in 2014. Currently, the city has more than 6,000 bars and restaurants selling craft beer.

The booming market for craft beer has spawned various beer festivals and exhibitions. Last year, several craft beer festivals were held in Chinese cities including Shanghai and Hefei. Beijing Brew 2020, held in September, attracted more than 8,000 visitors and over 120 industrial chain enterprises.

Zheng Miaohui has 15 years of experience in beer production equipment and technology. He is now the Asia-Pacific director of a company producing heat exchanger, which is mainly used for heating, cooling and sterilization of beer.

"In recent years, most of the increase in my company's orders came from China's craft beer industry," said Zheng. "Some big brewers have shut down their industrial beer factories and expanded their craft beer production lines or acquired craft beer brands."

As bars and restaurants in large Chinese cities like Shanghai and Beijing are experiencing an influx of customers, Zheng's team has started to provide them with a sales system for craft beer.

"Customers are not interested in regular can beers and craft beers are particularly popular," he said.

Craft beer accounted for 25 percent of total beer sales in the United States in 2019, statistics from the U.S. Brewers Association showed. However, China's craft beer sales accounted for only 2.4 percent of the overall beer market, according to the Qianzhan industry research institute, a Chinese think tank.

Compared with the U.S. market, China's craft beer has great room for growth, the think tank said.

"The popularity of craft beer isn't a short-term fashion, but an essential consumption upgrade," said Li. "People are eager to pursue the classic taste of beer and their taste for premium beer is growing." Enditem

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