From November 16-18, 2018, thirty-six independent Chinese craft breweries came together and held the first Craft Brewer’s Association of China beer festival in Beijing. There have been plenty of other beer festivals with similar compositions over the last couple of years. Some are attached to larger events, some highlight Chinese craft alongside imported beers from around the world. What made the CBAC fest different was that it was the first time that a 100% China craft beer festival was held by China craft to raise awareness and a budget to support independent China craft’s continual growth and education.
Great Leap Brewing was proud to be a small part of the festival. Approximately 25 media outlets covered this beer festival, which was a showcase of the future of China craft beer. Overall the numbers for this fest, 755 door-ticketed guests, in its first year already surpassed the numbers for the third annual Beijing Invitational Craft Beer Festival (737 guests) held in 2017. The fest was attended by enthusiastic local and foreign consumers, and the highlights are simply too long to list.
The question I liked asking of attendees was what they thought of the overall quality of the beers present. All feedback was positive, with many saying it surpassed their expectations and showed real growth compared to other festivals they had attended over the years. There were 142 unique beers served over three days and four sessions ranging from sours to barrel aged beer to New England style IPAs to uniquely Chinese-inspired styles made with teas, spices, and local yeasts. What we didn’t see was boredom or disappointment. It wasn’t a festival of yellow, black, and white beers or Bavarian retreads that we’re so prevalent three years ago.
Out of the 36 breweries to attend, all but eight sent founders or brewers to serve beers at three of the four sessions. At least twenty of the beers served have been awarded medals at international competitions from as far away as Europe and Australia and as close as Japan and Hong Kong. Industry peers were given an opportunity to not only try beers and break bread with brewers that they had never met before in person, but also learn about brands that they had previously not had the opportunity to try. Overall, it was a great weekend for Chinese craft beer that could have only happened after we started to work together and trust each other. Those that came willing to begin that process walked away with just a little bit more faith in the future of our industry. Those that missed the chance to take part will regret it until we come together again. This is only the beginning.
For 2019, we plan to add another festival in the south or west of China in the spring and hopefully to gather this time next year in Beijing for round two. Our goal this year was to have 30 breweries come out in support. For next year’s Beijing edition, let’s make it 100.