Beer enthusiasts at the 2017 Beijing Invitational Craft Beer Festival in Beijing recently Photo: Courtesy of Great Leap Brewing
At around 3 pm on Saturday, Jasmine Xu stepped into a factory-style restaurant and had around 20 cups of beer with an assortment of finger food. She drank until she couldn't tell one finger from two.
She is not an alcoholic, just an enthusiastic patron of a craft beer festival that was recently held in Beijing.
"It's like the annual marathon for running enthusiasts," Xu said. "It's my shrine. I have always liked tasting different kinds of alcoholic beverages, and the festival brings over 100 kinds of beers together. It's a dream come true."
Although sampling various kinds of beer is a major pull for Xu, she also sees it as an opportunity to bond and have fun with friends.
"The atmosphere is very relaxed," said Xu, who is from Beijing. "I asked several friends to go with me, and we all got drunk."
The event was the 2017 Beijing Invitational Craft Beer Festival which was organized by local brewer Great Leap Brewing and held at TRB Copper, a restaurant inside Nanfu Hutong, from March 10 to 12.
Two women sample craft beer during the three-day festival. Photo: Courtesy of Great Leap Brewing
The beer festival can be traced back to 2012. This year, 36 breweries participated, offering more than 100 different kinds of beer.
The event aims to bring more international craft beer brands to China and encourage the development of local craft beer in a market that is filled with similar tasting suitcase beers (beer sold by the case), according to Carl Setzer, the owner of Great Leap Brewing.
He appears to be onto something as the festival seems to have growing appeal among young Chinese. The amount of foot traffic at the event this year increased by 20 percent over 2016, and many of the patrons were in their 20s and 30s.
"I like craft beers over suitcase beers because they are more inventive in flavor and style," said Xu. "There is always something new to try, unlike with suitcase beers, which are always the same."
The first craft beer brewer to open shop in Beijing, Setzer has been in operation since 2010 and has witnessed the development of the sector firsthand. His establishment is now one of 16 craft breweries in the city, a significant increase given that there were none seven years ago.
"China is an emerging market in the world economy. This means that a lot of people are moving here, and new trends and styles will be quick to both emerge and permeate. In the last 10 years, tastes have changed dramatically, and craft beer is becoming much more popular among Chinese citizens," Setzer said.
Local commercial Chinese beer is generally very light in flavor, and early imports tended to be of the German variety, which was limited to flavor profiles stipulated under the German Beer Purity Law enacted in 1516. The law limited the ingredients used in beer brewing to barley, hops and water.
Now the situation is not the same, people are being introduced to a variety of new flavors, from hoppy Indian Pale Ale (IPA's) to sweeter, malt-balanced dark ales, and even sour ales, according to Setzer.
"Chinese consumers have some of the most complex palates when it comes to dining and consumption of local cuisines," said Setzer.
He hopes the festival will help develop the craft beer market in China and that more people will feel a personal connection to the global craft beer culture.
"I think this year's fest was exactly what we needed it to be, an opportunity for consumers to go directly to the brand creators and try beers and talk about opinions. It's immensely important for the future of China's craft beer growth to build trust and connectivity between brand and consumer," Setzer said.