The Great Microbreweries Of China


Great Leap Brewing co-founder Carl Setzer explains how he’s cultivating a niche customer base in China, the world’s biggest beer market:

One of the … reasons why our product appeals to Chinese consumers on a base level is because it incorporates Chinese cultural elements in the beers themselves and also incorporates Chinese literature and historical references in the naming and branding of the beers. Two good examples of this would be our Iron Buddha Blonde Ale and our Little General IPA. The Iron Buddha Blonde uses tie guan yin wu long tea during the brewing process, which gives the beer a floral note at the end. The name “Iron Buddha” is one way to translate the tie guan yin (铁观音), or the iron goddess of mercy.

The Little General IPA, on the other hand, is a “purity law beer,” meaning it contains only malted barley, hops, yeast and water, but the name is unique because it is an homage to Zhang Xueliang (张学良), a patriotic hero for both mainland China and Taiwan. The nickname “Little General” is a reference to his father (张作霖), a notorious warlord in China’s Northeast region. Zhang Xueliang grew from a spoiled brat with an opium habit into a symbol of China’s future unity against the Japanese during the occupation when he kidnapped Chang Kai-Shek and convinced him to join the KMT’s strength with that of the Communist forces. Upon Chang Kai-Shek’s agreement with this plan, Zhang Xueliang immediately surrendered to Chang’s personal guard and spent the better part of his adult life under house arrest with Chang’s forces in both mainland China and Taiwan. He was released as an old man and relocated to Hawaii to live with relatives in peace. He died at 99 years old, never having returned to mainland China nor Taiwan after his release.

(Photo: Ryan McFarland)