Remember the movie Lost in Translation? Bill Murray plays aging American actor (and famous person) Bob Harris, stuck in Japan to do an ad for Suntory whiskey.
Well, replace the fictional famous person Bob Harris with nonfictional and aging Houston Rockets Star Tracy McGrady, and you’ve got the same basic setup here.
Sedrin (or Xeujin) beer — the “official beer of the NBA” in China — gets the Lost in Translation treatment, complete with McGrady drinking what we’re sure is a mediocre Budweiser substitute after falling into a physics-defying trap set up by some local Chinese youth.
With the recent opening of Slow Boat Brewery in Beijing, the city’s number of American-style microbreweries officially doubled — to two. But according to both brewers, there’s a growing and largely untapped market in China’s capital as disposable income rises and beer-swilling residents clamor for more variety at the pub.
Late last year, Slow Boat held an evening tasting of its beers, whose flavor resembles brews of the U.S. Pacific Northwest such as Sierra Nevada. The beer ran out in just 45 minutes, despite the brewery quadrupling its offerings to four kegs from a prior event.
“It was a little embarrassing,” said the brewery’s chief executive Chandler Jurinka, though he added that it was also an encouraging sign of demand.
The debate about ingredients between the two is fascinating, given that I’m personally working on a tea-based Pale Ale recipe myself:
Great Leap and Slow Boat take differing approaches when it comes to ingredients. Slow Boat uses nearly all imports, including malt, hops and yeast, because it’s “comforting for local Chinese to know the ingredients aren’t Chinese, because of all the food scandals,” Mr. Jurinka said.
By contrast, Great Leap uses local hops and highlights a range of Chinese ingredients, from Sichuan peppercorns and Yunnan coffee beans to organic honey from Shandong province and a variety of teas. ”You don’t have to import quality,” Mr. Setzer said. “You can have good-quality things that are made in China, using existing ingredients.”
This post at Foreign Policy Magazine pointed me to a note about PBR’s premium status in China. It’s not your standard hipster PBR (which has a reputation I absolutely can’t understand), but a high-gravity ale called 1844.
The above advertisement appears on the inside front cover of the current issue of Window of the South (南风窗), a respected biweekly business magazine. At first glance it looks like an ad for a wine or a brandy, but closer inspection reveals the actual brand: Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer 1844.
1844 was the year that the Pabst Brewing Company was established in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the US, the beer’s lack of pretension led to a recent upswing in popularity among hipsters.
He links to an excerpt from an interview with Alan Kornhauser, Pabst Brewmaster-Asia, given to All About Beer magazine:
I still like formulating specialty beers. In fact, with Pabst, I just made the first specialty beer in Mainland China. There’s almost no ale in China: I had to smuggle the yeast into the country. I formulated a special high-gravity ale called “1844.” It’s all malt, and we use caramel malts from Germany. The initial aging is dry-hopped rather heavily. Then we do a secondary aging in new uncharred American oak whiskey barrels. We bought 750 brand new barrels to the tune of $100,000. This is a very special beer; it’s retailing for about over $40 U.S. for a 720 ml bottle.
Fascinating stuff. I haven’t seen, nor have I even heard of, 1844 in the U.S., but if I could find a bottle, I’d absolutely buy it. It reminds me a little of what Michelob has been trying to do — take a long-time cheap beer, and spin it off into a new direction.