Wednesday, April 7 marks National Beer Day in the USA, a date commemorating the Cullen-Harrison Act in 1933 that took the first step towards ending Prohibition. This act – signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt – allowed people to brew and sell beer as long as it remained under 4% ABV.
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's
In the name of the vine, the cone and the holy hops, we are choosing to commemorate this sacred and joyous occasion by celebrating with our beer-drinking forefathers who were finally allowed to purchase and consume beer for the first time in 13 years.
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's
While everyone and their mother is brewing in the USA, the China craft market is much less saturated, allowing breweries to still make a name for themselves – assuming they are putting out high-quality products. We’ve rounded up a list of 12 of our favorite China craft breweries to get you ready for some brew sipping this spring (in no particular order).
Image courtesy of Maha Nine
Coming out of Hohhot, Maha Nine launched their brewing initiative in 2015, but really started to amp up distribution in the mid-2000s. As the first craft brewery coming out of Inner Mongolia, the brewers aim to showcase refreshing seasonal fruits that make this region so unique. Sour passion fruit, fresh strawberries, tart apricots and more make their hazy, juicy beers appealing to beer and non-beer drinkers alike. The Unregulated Sour NEIPA helped put Maha Nine on the map, with its pungent mango and passion fruit aroma that screams summertime day drinking.
Image courtesy of NBeer
After starting out in Beijing in 2013, NBeer quickly gained popularity both domestically and internationally. Since its inception, it has been awarded over 67 medals, including 2019 China Brewery of the Year by the New York International Beer Competition and World’s Best Gose at the 2020 World Beer Awards with their Beijing Modern Gose, a tropical fruit-forward creamy beer with a tart, crisp finish.
Image courtesy of DaoBrew
At the dawn of craft brewing in China, DaoBrew came to be (in 2009) in a tiny basement in Chengdu. Known for their fearless sense of experimentation, this brewery has worked on everything from IPAs for a theatrical drama to ales for one of Chengdu’s best rock bands. Their Stolen IPA is hazy and tropical, like an elevated version of an East Coast IPA, but their other funkier beers, like the Free-fall Lychee Gose, are the perfect balance of tart and salty.
Image courtesy of Side Hustle
One of the newbies on the scene, Side Hustle is making waves in Shanghai with expansion around the country coming soon. The Cabana Boy Coconut Cream Blonde Ale is what dreams are made of while Summer Haze Tropical IPA is like riding a flavor wave to vacation.
Wild West Brewing
Image courtesy of Wild West Brewing
Chengdu’s most well-known brewery, Wild West Brewing combines local flavors with traditional Western brewing methods. From IPAs to stouts, Wild West covers it all and is famous for doing collaborations with breweries around the world. Don’t be surprised to find a Sichuan peppercorn spiced IPA or a tequila-infused sour fruited gose as part of their creative beer lineup.
Image courtesy of JIng-A Brewing Co.
One of the OG players in China’s beer scene, Jing-A started brewing in 2012, fostering a sense of comradery throughout the China craft community with the launch of their famous 8x8 beer festival in 2017 – a collaborative brewing event to highlight both China craft and unique imported beers. From seasonal favorites to classic styles, Jing-A covers it all across their three taprooms in Beijing and wide distribution net. Word on the street is that they are currently scouting locations in Shanghai, ready to expand their beer empire.
No. 18 Brewery
Image courtesy of No. 18 Brewery
Riffing on Wuhan counter-culture and customs, No. 18 Brewery is a local institution known for their authentic brews. With widespread distribution, they are one of the first breweries out of this university-centric city. With a strong emphasis on hazies, No. 18 helped make that style popular in China. Now, they are expanding deeper into sours and fruit-forward ales, appealing to a wide array of palates.
Image courtesy of Shangri-la Brewery
Inspired by the natural beauty of their home, Shangri-la's beers use all-natural Tibetan mountain spring water coupled with heirloom qingke highland barley and imported German hops. As one of the first craft breweries in all of China, Shangri-La helped pave the way for many, inspiring the local community to brew. A refreshing light Soyala goes down easily in spring, while the unique grain sweetness in a Fat Dolma is hard to beat.
Image courtesy of Tripsmith
Coming out of Guiyang, Tripsmith is known for mixing their hometown’s traditional and modern elements into unique beers. Using local fresh fruits and Guizhou wild yeast, their brews stand out amongst the crowd. Tripsmith also launched their TS90 pop-up cans, making them more widely available throughout the country. The Red Balloon, a dragon fruit gose is as delicious as it is colorful.
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's
Hailing from Hangzhou, Hop Fan is all about the hazy IPAs. With can art that rivals some of the most artistic designs coming out of the West, their East Coast style IPAs can be found distributed around the country. Made in Heaven is a bold NEIPA that lives up to its name while packing a punch at 7.2% ABV, while Like a Kiss is a stout brewed with sesame, evoking a balanced roasty umami flavor that we have yet to find elsewhere.
Image courtesy of Devil's Brewery
Another Wuhan favorite is the up-and-coming Devil’s Brewery, sporting American-style craft with a touch of Chinese characteristics. Rocking a lineup of fruit-forward IPAs and bold sours, Devil’s Brewery is all about checking the boxes for classic yet creative styles. Rolling into spring, we recommend the Lychee Milkshake IPA – the ideal mix of sour fruit, creamy mouthfeel and bitter finish.
Image courtesy of Shanghai Love
Shanghai Love is all about the local community. From raising funds for local charities through their annual Brew for Love Beer Festival to serving up cold ones at almost every food and bev festival throughout the year, owner Kia Parsai is all about bringing the love back to craft beer. Expanding outside of traditional IPAs and lagers, Shanghai Love just launched an 8-month barrel aged brew called Cherry Pop Bourbon Stout. Bottles are limited, so make sure to snag one if you can get your hands on it.
[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]