Craft Brew Aficionado Chris Foste Chats with the Founder of Shanghai LOVE

By Chris Foste, April 10, 2019

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201804/foste.pngThat's columnist Chris Foste is a bearded beer fanatic whose frothy pint glass of knowledge flows over with wisdom on the wetting of one's whistle. 

The craft beer industry is known for engaging in its surrounding community and supporting and reinforcing what makes its consumers great. Regular charity events help raise awareness and accrue funds for local not-for-profit organizations that bring craft enthusiasts and social philanthropists together. You could say, it's all about the LOVE.

Shanghai LOVE is a craft beer brand that breathes life into the all-for-the-community sentiment. Their annual Brew For Love Beer Festival helps raise money for local charities and brings together happy beer drinkers from all around Shanghai. I had a chance to sit down with the founder of Shanghai LOVE, Kia Parsai and ask him about how he found his drive to brew craft in the Middle Kingdom.

Hey Kia. Thanks for taking the time to sit down with me. The craft beer industry is getting larger by the month here and we are always interested in understanding how these new and different brands got started. First off, tell me a little about yourself and what brought you to China.
SH❤️: I was actually living in Salvador, Brazil, before coming to China. I was working on a project with a friend that led me to Shanghai to do a bit of research. After a few months, we decided not to follow through with the project. I had already fallen in love with this city so I decided to stay.

Everyone always has an interesting story of their Shanghai beginnings. But, what inspired you to get into craft beer?
SH❤️: I’ve been a beer drinker all my life and have a lot of experience selling beer on the retail side from our family business. After selling my first restaurant in China, I wanted to stay in F&B. The opportunity came up to get into craft beer and I jumped at it, eventually forming my own craft brewing company.

How could you not take hold of an opportunity like that?! So, from when you first began brewing, how would you describe the craft beer scene in China?
SH❤️: The scene here is evolving rapidly, in a very unique way. The US market that I grew up in had decades to evolve, with lots of refinement along the way. China has had a sudden explosion over the last few years. The enthusiasm is great, with many beer fans following global trends and searching for rare styles. But, as far as the overall commercial outreach goes, there is still a long way to go before craft beer becomes ubiquitous in this society.

Yup, the first tier cities got it but still have a few hundred million people that have no idea what craft beer is. With that in mind, what are some of the difficulties you have found when brewing in China? What is different from other countries you know about brewing?
SH❤️: I’ve been brewing here for four years now, I can say it was much more difficult in the first couple of years. Nowadays ingredients are easier to find and overall we have been able to adjust and grow with experience. We don’t have the variety of brewing products that you would find in more refined markets, but in a way that forces us to just be more creative, so it’s quite fun. 

Good ingredients used to be hard to come by, now they are fairly easy to get ahold of here. So, when developing your recipes, where do you draw your inspiration from?
SH❤️: Inspiration can crop up from anywhere. Sometimes you taste another beer in your travels and want to do something similar, sometimes you want to just push the boundaries just to see what happens, and sometimes it can even come from a song, movie or video game. The stranger the source of inspiration, the more exciting it is to try and make a beer match that vision.

Anything can be your muse if you know what to look for! Speaking of inspiration, what are some breweries that influenced you to get into craft beer and help with your brand image?
SH❤️: For me, it all started with the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. That was the first time I had anything like that. When I was a teenager I would just drink some Belgian beers or maybe a Guinness and feel like that was special and different. But Sierra Nevada changed everything. Since then as I’ve grown to appreciate many of the local west coast breweries from my home state of California, and drawn most of my influence from many of the legendary breweries out there. With regard to the image, just going back to what I grew up with, the '80s and '90s, video games, music… just an overall retro vibe.

Couldn't agree more. Growing up in the '90s was a golden era. Now, how about describing some of your favorite brews or a brew that was memorable for you?
SH❤️: Aside from the original Sierra Nevada Pale Ale I mentioned earlier, I definitely love a classic west coast IPA and double IPA, and have always been a fan of Russian River’s Pliny the Elder. It’s been my go-to back home for many years now. As far as sour beers being all the rage these days, I would say my hands down favorite is Duck Duck Gooze by the Lost Abbey.

Those are some fantastic beers and I definitely wish that barrel-aged sours would be a thing that catches on here in China. So beyond your favorite beers, where is your favorite place in China to grab a pint of Shanghai LOVE?
SH❤️: Oh no, it’s so hard to choose a favorite as we are selling in over 70 places in town now and in many of my favorite restaurants, hotels and bars in town. But as you know I tend to do most of my beer drinking early in the day and spend many early afternoons enjoying a casual pint at Funkadeli and The Rooster. There’s nothing like having a cold beer when you're outdoors.

Agreed. If you don't like drinking outside on a sunny day, what kind of sick upbringing did you have as a child? Back to our current country of residence, how do you view the future of craft beer in China?
SH❤️: The future is bright! We are going through a funny phase now, many people are trying to get involved, and honestly there’s a lot of crap out there. But, I’ve had a few gems and I believe the weaker players will fade away quickly and the creativity of the more dedicated brewers will shine. We have a lot of local elements to draw influence from in China and I anticipate this becoming one of the most exciting craft beer communities in the world in the years to come.

That's the spirit! The Beer Frontier has moved so far west, that it's gone east! Now explain that phenomenon flat earthers! Well, I appreciate the time you took to sit down with me and give me your view on Chinese craft beer and a little history of Shanghai LOVE! Last question, if there was one person you could share a pint with, who would that be?
SH❤️: Louis CK.

Huh? Any Reason?
SH❤️: He's the funniest man in the world.

Huge shout out to Shanghai LOVE for persevering through the trials of not only starting a business in China but starting in a relatively young industry!

Follow Chris Foste (aka Bearded Bear) for more beer news and the latest craft beer events!

[All images courtesy of Shanghai LOVE]

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