Especially when it comes to one of my favourite things - craft beer.
This doesn't sound like an exciting story, but it is...I met a chap a while back called Vinod.
I met loads of really lovely people from the Hong Kong craft beer scene whilst trying hard to erect Rotten Head Music and Craft Beer festival, and Vinod was one of them. He’s not a brewer, but a distributor of delicious tipples.
I met Vinod again a year later at a mutual friend’s birthday party, and once again we got chatting about craft beer and the challenges he faces trying to get the more interesting beers into Hong Kong’s bars and restaurants. But more on that later. What's exciting is the path Vinod is on now.
He’s working on a really cool venture to bring craft beers to Hong Kong from some of the most exciting new brewers in South East Asia. Through Brews Over Borders - brewsoverborders.boutir.com - Vinod aims to fill a hole in the market and provide consumers with quality beers from places as diverse and Laos, Cambodia and especially Vietnam, where the craft beer scene is kicking off in a BIG way. One of the more diverse Vietnamese breweries is Furbrew IG: @Furbrew - and whilst the name might conjure images of a cat, the excellent branding and packaging says otherwise.
Another excellent brewery is Lion Brewery Co., who specialise in creating craft beer with only the finest natural and sustainable ingredients. I'm told the New England Session IPA (session just means lower alcohol so you can drink more over a longer period 👀!) is well worth checking out. Especially as it's nearly park weather...
Brews Over Borders might sound a bit like Medicine Sans Frontier, and although Vinod doesn't work to treat people in need of medical assistance, he is passionate about helping people who are bored of the same old beer.
Hong Kong, like most places in the world, is dominated by the big corporations who have the cash to throw around. This is certainly the case when it comes to the bar and restaurant scene here in Hong Kong. How many times have you sat at a bar, perusing the drinks list excitedly and all that's available is Stella, Peroni, Asahi and at a push, Little Creatures? Every sodding time.
It's generic, soulless and uninspiring. I hate it. I don't blame the bars for serving such bland beer - they need the subsidies that the massive breweries offer just to keep the lights on. But that does leave people like my friend Vinod in a pickle.
In part it's up to us as consumers to demand more exciting beer, and be willing to part with a little extra cash for the privilege. Don't forget most of these brews are small batch, meaning higher brewing costs.
But there are other ways we can help - Go direct to the importer. Skip out the premium the restaurants add for rent, staffing and the rest, and instead grab it fresh off the boat.
A quick glance of Vinod's website shows only two breweries at present - The aforementioned Lion Brewery from Singapore and Furbrew, but Vinod assures me there are many more to come. Looking closer, there are actually 23 different beers to choose from on the site, from just the two breweries, which just goes to show the breadth of variation that craft beer offers. You don't get that with Carlsberg.
So the moral to this story? As long as the big breweries are handing out the cash, we're going to have boring beer in the bars. So shop local, direct from the distributor. Support smaller businesses and make your life and their lives better in the process. It's genuinely a win win.
Vinod very kindly offered a deal specific to The Islander and the Tung Chung Tower Community readers of 5% off their first order. Just use code TUNGCHUNG5 at the checkout.
Cheers to that, Vinod! 🍻