Brewing Beer in Beijing, by Anthony Ryan

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Moving to Beijing is a daunting task for anybody, there are any number of small anxieties which can cause you to pause and consider the magnitude of the move you’re making. One such thought that I had, was the worry that in Beijing it would be more difficult, in fact almost impossible to continue my hobby. Most people’s hobbies are relatively straight forward, they like reading, hiking, painting etc. Mine is a little different; I like brewing. For the past number of years I have been brewing all manner of different beers, from dry Irish stouts to super hoppy double IPA’s and everything in between. The one constant during this time has been the steady supply of cheap good quality ingredients from my local homebrew supply shop; moving to Beijing would put an end to this.
I researched a lot online before I came, trawling through what felt like an endless stream of but of fleeting conversations which trailed off into nothingness before anybody successfully made a single beer. The signs were not encouraging but I still made the move, I figured that if I wanted it enough I would somehow work something out. I didn’t really think about brewing at all for the first few months. They were generally characterised by a haze of culture shock, wonder and pollution; well, at least that’s how I remember it. My mind didn’t really turn to brewing until November, about four months after I arrived in Beijing. The fast approach of Christmas reminded me that I should seek out the means to make a good Christmas stout. I again looked online and happily enough stumbled upon a meetup group calling themselves the Beijing Homebrewing Society and decided this was my best shot at finding some information and meeting some brewers in Beijing.celtic-man-1_Fotor

On a cold Tuesday in November I boarded the subway and rode it all the way to Sanlitun where the meetup would take place, I was a little nervous considering I was new to Beijing and had no real idea who these people were. My fears proved baseless however, and the meetup went fantastic, the guys inspired me to purchase my own stovetop brewing equipment and start the adventure in Beijing. I enlisted the help of a very good Chinese pal to trawl through the endless Taobao links the meetup had provided me with and managed to put together my own very crude setup. Fast forward a couple of weeks and everything had arrived; I was ready. Predictably enough, everything didn’t go according to plan and my crude equipment failed me. I wasn’t disheartened though and soon ordered more gear for a second try.
Since those early days, I have teamed up with a good friend of mine and we have continued to make a variety of different beers. We even entered our beer in some brewing competitions, if only for the chance to rub shoulders with some really talented brewers. The pastime has grown a lot too and the aforementioned “Beijing homebrewing society” now has both a Chinese and a foreign side. There are a number of regular meetups and competitions; along with beer festivals where you get a chance to flog some bottles. This whole experience has reinforced the feeling that I had when I first got to Beijing. The feeling that this is a city where anything can and does happen, you just have to be persistent.


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