Brewer Matthew Jimenez on the Beast of the East Beer Revolution

By Sophie Steiner, November 4, 2020

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Founded in early 2019 by restauranteur Bryce Jenner, Beast of the East is a Shanghai-born craft beer brand that anyone who has ever been to a food or beer festival within the city in the last 18 months will be familiar with. And just as the craft beer scene has rapidly evolved across China in the last decade, so is Beast of the East, starting with hiring Matthew Jimenez (previously senior brewer of AB InBev – Goose Island and Boxing Cat), a seasoned head brewer who aims to give the entire brand – and most importantly their beers – a major facelift. Matthew joins as Chief Beast, brewmaster and partner. We sat down for a beer (ok, a few) with Jimenez to chat shop, and hear how he plans to set Beast of the East down a new path of craft beer stardom. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

But first, a little background: Beast of East is a brand that falls under True Legend Group, the owner of longstanding Shanghai F&B venues like Pistolera Mexican Cantina and Big Bamboo Sports Bars, two places where you can always find Beast of the East beers on tap. Beast of the East positions itself as the ideal choice situated between “commercially produced beer with no taste on one side and a whole range of over-flavored nonsense on the other.” The brand’s ethos is all about walking its own path, not conforming to trends and producing good, high quality beer. Just because it’s simply good. Okay, onto the interview...

Where are you from and how did you get into brewing?
I'm originally from New Hampshire. After college, I moved to Shanghai and worked as a teacher, not really sure what I wanted to do longer term. Around 2012, I was introduced to Teddy Gowan, then brew master of Dr. Beer and now the head brewer of Societe in San Diego. Through him, I learn some of the basics of brewing, but, most importantly, he introduced me to Mike Sherretz, My Home Brew Store owner, and a true legend in the brewing and craft spirits industry in China.

This 20+ year retired chemical engineer is beyond passionate about homebrewing and he helps and supports the China homebrewing community so much. For months, I spent my free time brewing with him, and learning as much as I could about craft beer – a far cry from the Keystone Light I drank back in the USA. 

After Teddy saw my progress with Mike, he offered me a role to support their team while they transitioned to a new head brewer in the summer of 2013 – my first stepping stone into microbrewing – and when I made my decision that I wanted to brew full time. 

I really got in at the right time. Nowadays, it’s quite hard to get into the more established brewing community in Asia, but back then I just happened to know the right people that were willing to take a chance on me.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Walk us through your brewing career.
After my short stint at Dr. Beer, I threw an ad on, and surprisingly heard from Michael Jordan (MJ), the Brew Master for Boxing Cat and a true pioneer of craft beer in Asia. I had a few other offers, but it was really no question. I started working under MJ, and he mentored me while simultaneously shaping China’s craft beer scene.

In 2017, Boxing Cat was bought by AB InBev. Being a part of the largest beer brand in the world gave me new opportunities. For example, I moved to Harbin to brew for Boxing Cat for a year in the end of 2017. 

Following that, I moved down to Putian and switched to the Goose Island Brewing team, where I helped design the Putian Goose Island Brewery, the winner of numerous awards.

Through this, the knowledge I gained about the local market was indispensable, not to mention the rigid SOPs and quality control measures we put in place there that really helps to ensure quality and consistency across large scale production. 

In February of 2020, I moved back to work for Goose Island Shanghai, but by September I was ready for a change, which is when I decided to make the transition to Beast of the East. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

What direction do you plan to take Beast of the East in? What is your strategy?
My strategy is tri-fold. First, I want to develop the core beer lineup and make the beers more sessionable. This means improving quality and honing in on the best possible recipes for each beer. I want people to be able to drink three beers and expand their palate while still being able to enjoy what they are experiencing. 

With our current flagship beers such as Never Quit IPA or My Way Cloudy IPA, I have tweaked the recipes and process to make the beers more appealing. Along those same lines, I’m introducing some newer beers, like a Porter for winter. It will be lower ABV (5.2%) and an easy drinking dark ale made for putting back a few. This nice medium body beer will have chocolate and roasted coffee notes with a silky mouthfeel. 

Next, I want to create more brand awareness and bring Beast of the East to the forefront of peoples’ minds when they think of true China craft. This means collaborating with more breweries, doing tap takeovers and getting the beer out to more cities across China, like Nanjing, Suzhou and Hangzhou. 

Finally, this year is all about improving standards, incorporating set processes into brewing and ensuring quality is the highest it can be. Then for 2021, the goal is to come out with a bang – I want to make noise and show China what Beast of the East really is as a brand to put us on the map!

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

What biggest challenges are you worried about in implementing these changes?
To be completely honest, I have no worries. For people that already know me and my commitment to brewing quality beers, I am excited to share this new journey with them. And for those that don’t know me, I’m excited to get to build that trust. If you see me in any of our venues, stop me for a chat about beer - it’s my favorite topic!

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Going forward, how do you see Beast of the East fitting into the rapidly expanding craft beer scene in China?
The crux of our beers is sessionability on a larger scale with more innovative beers coming soon. I want to see us truly live out our mission statement of choosing our own path and brewing beers that are damn good based on feedback we receive from customers and our local audience. 

The name of the game is quality. Craft is all about passion, and we want to showcase that passion in our unique beers and spread it to anyone who drinks them – from people who are new to beer to seasoned drinkers.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Beast of the East beers can be found at Pistolera, Big Bamboo, Co. Cheese, The Camel, El Santo, The Chair Club, The Crown Plaza, The Hop Project, SIP and a host of other venues around Shanghai and Suzhou. The Beast is soon to be unleashed all across the country as well. Learn more about Beast of the East by scanning the QR code below to follow their Official WeChat account.


[Cover image by Sophie Steiner]

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