Standing beside a stainless-steel fermentation tank, Rohit Dugar explained the concept behind his latest beer, Young Master Classic.
'It's a hoppy pale ale, but not too bitter,' he said, pouring a small amount into a glass. It smelled of citrus zest and passion fruit.
'That's from the Australian Galaxy hops we use in the dry-hopping,' Mr. Dugar explained.
It was a scene familiar to any fan of small-batch, artisanal craft beer: the gleaming brewing equipment, the bready smell, the bulging sacks of malted barley. The setting, however, was remarkable: the sun-filled but cramped fourth floor of a factory building overlooking Hong Kong's East Lamma Channel, container ships passing just a few hundred meters in the distance.
Mr. Dugar hopes his brewery, Young Master Ales, will revolutionize the drinking scene in a city where beer has long meant indistinguishable industrial lagers. And he isn't alone. This month, Young Master will be joined by three more Hong Kong breweries making their debut at Beertopia, a craft-beer festival now in its third year.
'After the first Beertopia [in 2012], craft beer just exploded,' said Chris Wong, who runs HK Brewcraft, a home-brew shop in Central. 'Hong Kong people love trying something new. This is known as a food heaven, so that bodes well for beer.'
In the U.S., craft-beer sales have boomed even as the overall beer market stagnates. The Brewers Association now counts 2,483 craft breweries, defined as independently owned operations that produce less than six million barrels of beer a year. (By comparison, AB-InBev, the world's largest beer company, produces a total of 339 million barrels of beer a year.) Hong Kong's craft-beer market is still marginal, but Mr. Wong sees a recent surge of interest in home-brewing as a leading indicator.
'Home-brewing is the backbone of the brewing scene in any city,' he said.
Mr. Dugar won last year's inaugural Hong Kong Homebrew Competition with his Hong Kong Black Ale, a roasty but light-bodied brew with hints of coffee and chocolate.
'I got more serious about home-brewing after I came to Hong Kong because, until a few years ago, if you wanted good beer, you had to make it yourself,' he said.
Born in New Delhi, 34-year-old Mr. Dugar studied business at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire-where he also had his first taste of craft beer.
'The first one I actually remember is Old Brown Dog,' a hoppy brown ale by New Hampshire's Smuttynose Brewing Company. His interest blossomed after he moved to New York, where he worked as an investment banker, and it followed him to Hong Kong when he took a job with Goldman Sachs in 2011.
His plan for Young Master was hatched not long after, when the sudden popularity of imported craft beer made Mr. Dugar decide there is a market in Hong Kong for local brews. 'I want to use the best ingredients, never compromise-no filters, no pasteurization, no stabilizers, natural carbonation,' he said.
Working with Ulrich Altbauer, a German-born brewmaster, Mr. Dugar dipped into his savings and rented three factory units in the seaside industrial district of Ap Lei Chau. After obtaining a food-factory license-a novel experience, since the government's Food and Environmental Hygiene Department had never licensed such a small brewery before-he had brewing equipment custom-made to fit the low ceilings and tight quarters of Hong Kong's concrete industrial blocks.
The next step was to make the beer, an evolving process as Mr. Dugar refines his recipes, which include the potent 1842 Imperial IPA; the Rye Old Fashioned, a rye beer matured with wood chips tossed in the fermenter, which gives it an oaky taste; and the Cha Cha Soba Ale, a light, dry beer made with unmalted Chinese buckwheat and matcha green-tea powder, meant to evoke the crispness of Japanese soba noodles. Mr. Dugar is brewing a high-proof version of the rye beer that will be aged for several months in barrels previously used to age rye whiskey, which Dugar hopes will lend it some of the spirit's sweet, spicy character.
Two kilometers to the east, another brewing venture is taking shape in Wong Chuk Hang, a strip of rusty old factories. New Empire Brewery will unveil its first beers-two pale ales, a stout and a series of one-off fruit beers-at Beertopia this month. Founded by 23-year-old Dan Rybinski, a former chef in the British Navy who 'came to Hong Kong for a bit of holiday and never went back,' and local partner Troy Woo, New Empire aims to produce a line of ales somewhere between the hop-driven American approach and the malt-forward British sensibility.
'There's a lot of people who jumped on the craft-beer bandwagon and go extreme, with these very hoppy or high-alcohol beers. Maybe because I'm British, I don't like that-I like balance,' said Mr. Rybinski, who has been home-brewing with his father since he was a teenager.
Another brewing venture, Nine Dragons Brewery, is being launched by German expat Simon Siemsgluess, who has brewed previously at Bavarian wheat-beer giant Paulaner's operations in Germany and mainland China. Though he is still hunting for a suitable brewing space, Siemsgluess has already started producing a pale ale and pilsner in Hamburg for export to Hong Kong.
'The sooner I can start up in Hong Kong the better,' he said. 'After all, why would a city like Hong Kong not be able to sustain a number of microbreweries and brewpubs, seeing that Singapore, Beijing and Shanghai can?'
Compared with New Empire, Nine Dragons and Young Master, the Hong Kong Beer Co. is big business, though its projected yearly output of 5,000 barrels-about 587,000 liters-is tiny by international craft-beer standards. (Young Master's annual capacity is 1,500 barrels; New Empire's is 266 barrels.) Originally founded in 1995, the brewery was eventually shut down, and the brand and equipment were recently purchased by the founders of Singapore's successful Brewerkz brewpub, who tapped veteran American brewmaster Simon Pesch to head up their Hong Kong operation.
'We want to make a big impression right off the bat,' said Mr. Pesch, former head brewer at Pyramid Breweries, one of the largest producers of craft beer in the U.S. He arrived in Hong Kong in January with plans to produce a line of five American-style brews-a golden ale, pale ale, India Pale Ale, amber lager and oatmeal stout-that emphasize hop aroma over bitterness.
'The big challenge is breaking the dominance of the macrobreweries in Hong Kong and carving out a niche for ourselves-so many of the taplines in this city are controlled by the major players,' said Jeff Boda, co-founder of Hop Leaf, which imports and distributes craft beer in Hong Kong. Though more Hong Kong restaurants and bars are offering craft beer on tap, Mr. Boda says many are restricted by exclusivity agreements with mass-market brewers, which often pay for the installation and maintenance of draft systems.
'The market is out there, it's just getting the product to them,' he said.
Local brews can be sure of a spot at Tipping Point, a brewpub opened last month by American-born chef Que Vinh Dang that will dedicate 10 of its taps to craft beer. Three others will be connected directly to the bar's own brewing tanks, squeezed into a small back room on the ground floor of the pub's Wyndham Street space.
'There are so many possibilities in terms of flavor profiles,' said Mr. Dang, an avid home-brewer whose previous creations have included a coffee and caramel porter, a honey rye IPA and a sticky-rice lemongrass beer with Citra hops that 'came out smelling like litchi.'
If the reaction to Mr. Dugar's beer is an indication, experimental brews could be an easy sell. 'I drink a lot of wine and I don't normally like beer-but I like this a lot,' said Kathy Wong, an education worker who visited Young Master's brewery after her friend Ashley Ho read about it online. Sitting in the brewery's tasting room, she took a sip of the Hong Kong Black. 'This one is my favorite. It's not very strong on the first taste, but the aftertaste is very complex.'
Ms. Ho was partial to the 1842 Imperial IPA-so partial, in fact, that she bought a two-liter growler to take home with her. Later, the pair paid a visit to the Globe, a Central pub, to try different kinds of craft beer.
'And we just bought tickets to Beertopia,' said Ms. Wong. 'I think these beers are very special. I've never tasted anything like this before.'
'There definitely is an appetite for craft beer and if it's locally made, people are willing to pay a bit of a premium,' said Stuart Bailey, general manager of Diversified Events, which runs the Restaurant & Bar Hong Kong trade show and the annual Hong Kong International Beer Awards. 'I'm feeling a bit smug at the moment because I predicted this five years ago and nobody quite believed me.'
The first Beertopia event, created by Jonathan So to introduce craft beer to Hong Kong, drew more than 1,000 people to the historic Western Market in 2012. The next year, Mr. So moved the festival outdoors, to the West Kowloon waterfront.
'We spread it across a whole day, with room for 6,000 people, and we still sold out of tickets,' he said.
This year's edition will span three days, March 13 to 15, and offer more than 400 beers from around the world, including unusual offerings like tea-flavored beer from Beijing's Great Leap Brewery, a Belgian quadrupel aged in red-wine barrels by Denmark's Mikkeller and a beer made with mikan, a citrus fruit, by Japan's Baird Brewing.
Beyond the festival, craft beer is available at more and more bars, including the Roundhouse, which boasts 24 taps, and the Globe, which has installed a new 18-tap system to complement its extensive selection of bottles. Other standbys include Stone's, a Tai Hang bar with a rotating selection of draft beers, the Beer Bay, which specializes in bottled British ales, and Dickens Bar, which has recently expanded its selection of craft beer on tap and in bottles. There's a growing array of retail shops, including the Bottle Shop, Craftissimo and Sips, that specialize in bottled craft beer. HK Brewcraft offers both bottles and takeaway draft beer. Importers Hop Leaf and Americraft both maintain extensive online shops, with home delivery.
You may know that beer is a fermented malt beverage flavored with hops. But what exactly is 'malt'? Or 'hops'? A quick guide:
Ale: Beer made with a yeast that thrives at warmer temperatures, producing complex fruity flavors.
Barrel-aging: Storing beer in barrels for several months to impart a woody character. Used wine or whiskey barrels are popular as these can add complexity to the beer's flavor.
Fermentation: The conversion of sugars into alcohol by yeast, added to the wort after boiling.
Hops: Flowers added to boiling wort to add flavor, aroma and bitterness to offset the sweetness of malt. There are more than 80 varieties, many with very distinct flavors.
Imperial: Adjective attached to high-alcohol versions of ordinary beer styles, traced back to extra-strong English stouts made for export to the Russian imperial court.
India Pale Ale: Strong, hoppy beer originally brewed to survive the long voyage from England to India, but reinvented by American brewers who added citrusy, fruity or piney West Coast hops.
Lager: Beer made with a bottom-fermenting yeast that can withstand cold temperatures, creating beer that is crisper and clearer than ale.
Malt: Malted barley or wheat, the basis of beer. Other starches such as rye, rice, buckwheat or potato may be used, usually in addition to malted barley or wheat.
Malting: Soaking grain in water and then drying it with hot air, creating enzymes that allow its starches to be converted into fermentable sugars.
Pilsener: Light-colored lager made with noble hops, which have low bitterness.
Quadrupel: A style of beer that achieves a rich, raisiny flavor and high alcohol content thanks to four times the usual amount of malt and the addition of 'candi sugar,' which makes fermentation easier. Dubbel and tripel are related Belgian styles.
Stout: Ale with dark, roasted malts.
Witbier: Belgian-style wheat beer defined by added ingredients such as coriander and orange peel. Not to be confused with German weissbier, also known as hefeweizen, which contains no additives.
Wort: Beer before fermentation-a sweet liquid produced by steeping malt in boiling water.
Yeast: Microorganisms that convert sugar into alcohol; different strains can produce markedly different flavors.
Hong Kong brewers
Young Master Ales
Hong Kong Beer Company
New Empire Brewery
Nine Dragons Brewery
Tipping Point Brewing Company
罗希特·杜加尔(Rohit Dugar)站在不锈钢发酵罐旁介绍他最新推出的啤酒少爷经典(Young Master Classic)背后的理念。
Darren Hayward/The Wall Street Journal图片：在香港品尝手工精酿啤酒杜加尔解释说：“那种味道来自我们在‘冷泡啤酒花’工艺过程中（即在啤酒发酵完成后添加啤酒花浸泡）使用的澳大利亚Galaxy啤酒花。”
喜欢小规模手工精酿啤酒的人应该很熟悉这种场景：闪闪发光的酿酒设备，酵母发酵的气味，大袋大袋的大麦麦芽。环境却是很不错：在一座工厂建筑的四层，阳光灿烂但略显拥挤，可俯瞰香港东博寮海峡(East Lamma Channel)，集装箱运货船就在远处几百米的地方驶过。
杜加尔希望自己的少爷麦啤 (Young Master Ales)酿酒厂能彻底改变香港的啤酒格局。在这个城市，啤酒向来意味着毫无辨识度的产业化拉格啤酒(lagers)。他并不是孤军奋战。这个月，少爷麦啤将和香港另外三家酿酒厂共同在Beertopia手工啤酒节首次亮相。该啤酒节已经举行过两届。
Chris Wong在香港中环经营着一家名为HK Brewcraft的自酿啤酒店。他说：“2012年首届Beertopia啤酒节举行后，手工啤酒一下子火了。香港人喜欢尝试新东西。这里是有名的美食天堂，所以对啤酒来说是个好兆头。”
去年，杜加尔凭借自己的香港黑麦啤(Hong Kong Black Ale)获得了香港首届自酿啤酒大赛(Hong Kong Homebrew Competition)的冠军。这款啤酒味道浓郁但酒体轻盈，有一丝咖啡和巧克力的味道。
Darren Hayward/The Wall Street Journal少爷麦啤酿酒厂老板罗希特•杜加尔(Rohit Dugar)。
他说：“我记忆中第一次喝的是Old Brown Dog。”这是一种有啤酒花苦味的棕色麦啤，由新罕布什尔州的Smuttynose酿酒厂生产。他搬到纽约后对手工精酿啤酒的兴趣大增，那时他从事投资银行工作。这种兴趣一直伴随他在2011年接受高盛(Goldman Sachs)的工作来到香港。
和德国酿酒大师乌尔里希·阿尔特鲍尔(Ulrich Altbauer)一起，杜加尔拿出自己的积蓄在鸭?洲(Ap Lei Chau)滨海工业区租了三间厂房。他还为酿酒厂领到了食品加工厂许可证，这件事挺新鲜的，因为香港食物环境卫生署(Food and Environmental Hygiene Department)以前从来没有给这么小的酿酒厂发过许可证。由于香港的混凝土工业区楼层很低，空间狭小，所以他专门定制了酿酒设备。
下一步就是酿制啤酒。这是一个不断演进的过程，因为杜加尔总是在改进配方。其中包括了酒力强劲的1842 Imperial IPA；黑麦古典(Rye Old Fashioned)，这是一种在发酵过程中加入了木屑酿制而成的黑麦啤酒，因此给它添加了些许橡木味道；Cha Cha Soba Ale则是一种淡干啤，由不发芽的荞麦以及日本抹茶绿茶粉制成，用这些原料是为了激发日本荞麦面的那种爽口感。杜加尔正在酿造酒精含量较高的黑麦啤酒，要在之前用于陈化黑麦威士忌的酒桶里进行数月的陈化。杜加尔希望能把威士忌的甜味和辣味传递给啤酒。
Darren Hayward/The Wall Street Journal越来越多的酒吧开始供应手工精酿啤酒，Roundhouse就是其中之一。
从德国来的西蒙·西姆斯格莱斯(Simon Siemsgluess)也开设了一家名叫九龙啤酒(Nine Dragons Brewery)的酿酒坊。他曾经在巴伐利亚小麦啤酒巨头柏龙啤酒(Paulaner)在德国和中国内地的分公司负责酿酒。虽然仍然在寻找合适的酿酒场所，但他已经开始在德国汉堡生产一款淡色麦啤和比尔森啤酒，用于出口香港。
与New Empire Brewery、九龙啤酒和少爷麦啤相比，香港啤酒有限公司(Hong Kong Beer Co.)做的是大生意，不过每年计划产量也只有5,000桶，约58.7万升，按国际手工啤酒标准来看工厂规模很小。（少年麦啤的年产能为1,500桶，New Empire Brewery是266桶。）香港啤酒有限公司始建于1995年，后来倒闭了，其品牌和设备最近被新加坡成功的Brewerkz自酿啤酒吧创始人收购，他们聘请美国经验丰富的酿酒大师西蒙·佩施(Simon Pesch)负责在香港的业务。
香港手工啤酒进口和经销公司Hop Leaf联合创始人杰夫·博达(Jeff Boda)说：“我们面临的一大挑战是打破大酒厂在香港的主导地位，为我们自己挖掘出一个细分市场——香港由大厂控制的啤酒管道太多了。”虽然越来越多的香港餐厅和酒吧提供桶装手工啤酒，但博达说很多餐厅都受到与大众市场酿酒厂专属协议的限制。啤酒机的安装和维护通常都是由这些大公司出钱。
本地酿酒厂在Tipping Point啤酒吧肯定有一席之地。这家啤酒吧上个月刚开业，位于云咸街(Wyndham Street)，老板是出生于美国的大厨Que Vinh Dang。店里会有10个龙头提供手工精酿啤酒，另外三个龙头则直接连在了店里自己的酿制容器中，这些容器放置在后面的一个小房间里。
如果人们对杜加尔所酿啤酒的反应能说明问题，那么实验啤酒应该会很好卖。朋友Ashley Ho 在网上看到有关少爷麦啤的消息后，Kathy Wong去参观了酿酒厂。从事教育工作的Kathy Wong说：“葡萄酒我喝得很多，一般不喝啤酒，但我很喜欢这种啤酒。”她坐在酒厂的品酒室里，尝了一口香港黑啤。她说：“这款酒是我的最爱。初尝不是很烈，但回味很丰富。”
Ashley Ho喜欢1842 Imperial IPA，喜欢到买了一罐两升的啤酒带走。后来，两个人去了位于中环的Globe酒吧尝试不同种类的手工啤酒。
Diversified Events展会活动公司总经理斯图尔特·贝利说：“肯定有很多人喜欢喝手工啤酒，如果是本地酿制，人们应该会愿意多出点钱。” Diversified Events负责香港餐饮展(Restaurant & Bar Hong Kong)和一年一度香港国际啤酒奖(Hong Kong International Beer Awards)的筹办。贝利说：“我现在有点沾沾自喜，因为五年前我就预测到了，但没人相信我。”
首届Beertopia 啤酒节由Jonathan So发起于2012年。目的是将手工啤酒引入香港，当时吸引了1,000多人前往历史悠久的西港城(Western Market)商场。第二年，So将啤酒节安排在户外，搬到了西九龙海滨。
今年的啤酒节持续三天时间，从3月13日到15日，提供来自世界各地的400多种啤酒，包括很多比较特别的啤酒，比如北京大跃啤酒(Great Leap Brewery)的茶味啤酒，丹麦Mikkeller的在红酒桶里陈化的比利时四料啤酒，还有日本Baird Brewing的一种由名叫mikan的柑橘类水果酿造的啤酒。
Darren Hayward/The Wall Street Journal越来越多的酒吧开始安装专供手工精酿啤酒的出酒龙头系统。
印度淡味麦啤(India Pale Ale)：啤酒花浓郁的烈性啤酒，最初酿制这种啤酒是为了熬过从英格兰到印度的漫长航行，但后来被美国酿酒师重新改造，加入了柑橘味、果味或松木味的西海岸啤酒花。
少爷麦啤(Young Master Ales)
自2013年开始酿造，产品包括：Cha Cha Soba Ale、少爷经典(Young Master Classic)、001 IPA、1842 Imperial IPA、香港黑啤(Hong Kong Black)、黄金时代古典(Golden Era Old Fashioned)。
香港啤酒有限公司(Hong Kong Beer Company)
自2014年开始酿造，产品包括Big Wave Bay IPA、Dragon's Back Pale Ale、Gambler's Gold Golden Ale、香港琥珀拉格啤酒( Hong Kong Amber Lager)、Sevens Oatmeal Stout。
New Empire Brewery
自2014年开始酿造，产品包括美式麦啤(American Pale Ale)、麦啤(Pale Ale)、 杏仁啤(Apricot Beer)、柑橘蜂蜜麦啤(Orange and Honey Ale)、覆盆子啤酒(Raspberry Beer)、 烈性波特啤酒(Stout Porter)。
自2014年开始酿造，产品包括新界比尔森(New Territory Pilsener)、九龙麦啤 (Nine Dragons Pale Ale)。
自2010年开始酿造，2012年起暂时歇业，准备搬迁。产品包括T8 English bitter、Eastern Lightning pale ale。