China develops increasing taste for U.S. craft beer

Global Business

It’s defined as beer made by small, independent brewers using traditional ingredients. China is among the countries developing a taste for craft beer. And the editor of a Chinese craft beer magazine is trying to push that trend along.

“It’s the GABF, it’s the biggest craft beer festival,” Michelle Wang said recently. “Of course I have to be here.”

Wang had just flown from Shanghai to Denver to attend the Great American Beer Festival. GABF is billed as the premier U.S. beer festival and competition. The annual three-day craft beer celebration features more than 800 breweries and 3900 beers and attracts upwards of 60,000 people, including craft beer aficionados like Wang.

“Better quality, better taste, a lot of varieties,” said Wang as she prepared to step inside the beer hall. “Of course, I love it.”

Wang is editor of Beer Link, a Chinese craft beer magazine. She’s dedicated to getting her country to drink more of it. Epic Brewing Company is among the U.S. brewers now supplying the Chinese beer market.

“We started exporting to China last year, but it really picked up this year,” said Matthew Allred, Epic Brewing’s Communications Director. The company has already shipped 125 barrels of beer to China in 2017.

“The potential for growth in China especially as craft beer becomes more commonplace and people become more interested in it… it’s just going to be incredible,” he said.

Nebraska Brewing Company began exporting to China earlier this year.

“Well, they’ve got us into many of the chain stores in China already,” said Paul Kavulak, Nebraska Brewing’s co-founder. “They’re continuing to work, and they’re putting money behind marketing and getting us out there and making us aware and known to the Chinese public and population.”

One major challenge: keeping beer fresh on the journey from the U.S. to China. And big brands, from Germany and elsewhere, still dominate the Chinese beer market, said Daisy Dai with the Imbeer website.

“I would say there are a lot of challenges,” she said. “We have to face the truth.”

But Wang, who also provides technical services to brewers and advises them on how to break into the China market, saw possibilities at each of her GABF beer stops. She said craft beer is a social thing and links everyone.

“I love beer people,” she said. “It’s just so easy. I got so many friends now around the world.”

Next stop: a beer event in Brussels, Belgium. Her work, which is also her passion, is never done.

“It’s really a fun job,” she said. “You can keep drinking and eating all the time.”