“Beer with character” is the new trend sweeping Asia, following on the heels of the West’s obsessions with craft beer, says Campaign Asia. And while some typical, safe flavors like Bohemian Lager, Belgian Wit, and Summer and Irish Ales are navigating the market with ease, it’s the distinctly Asian concoctions that are making the biggest impression in China.
Beijing’s Great Leap Brewing has put forth a “sweet-yet-fiery” favorite, Honey Ma Gold. It is made with Sichuan peppercorns and honey from the owner’s apiary in the Shangdong Province. Great Leap Brewing is also the creator of Liu the Brave, which has a distinct peach and molasses flavor and was named for the owner’s father. “What makes a craft beer, well, craft, is the experimental flavor profile, word-of-mouth promotional strategy, and the brewer’s independent nature. Pricing tends to be at premium levels,” said Spiros Malandrakis, the senior industry analyst for alcoholic drinks at Euromonitor. In a China’s culture of consumption, where unique experiences and interesting story are becoming stronger currency than flashy branding alone, craft beer certainly suits the tastes of the day. Craft beer is not as well-tracked as are brands in the mainstream, but the growth is obvious when one considers the rising number of microbreweries.
The Journal of Marketing Management recently published an analysis of 1,000 craft beer labels around the globe. The study concluded that being local and using personal story telling was key to the branding of this kind of beer. In the case of Great Leap Brewing, the brand manager “did not want the marketing to scream about the beer, but the beer to sell itself.”
Malandrakis said that in the next couple of years, microbreweries in Asia may catch up with those in the United States and the United Kingdom. Not only that, but craft beer may be one Made in China product that the rest of the world will be anxious to buy. “There is room for growth as craft beer is still a very niche trend in Asia, so craft brewers have a first-mover advantage. Furthermore, per-capita consumption of beer in mature markets is already high,” he said. Japan is considered the largest craft beer market in Asia with an estimated 260 micro-brewers creating original beers there.
photo credit: great leap brewing