Chinese people love beer so much their country consumes the most amount of beer in the world. Unlike brews the West produces, Chinese beers are much lighter and have a lower alcohol content.
Talk about beer and you would think it’s countries like Germany, the UK or the US that drinks the most beer. But that list is actually topped by China.
In fact, the country’s beer culture is going strong. Many provinces and cities make their own beer. Beijing is known for its Yanjing Beer. In Qingdao, there is Tsingtao Beer, while Hangzhou has Cheerday Beer, Xinjiang has Wusu Beer, and Shenyang has Snow Beer.
Chinese beer is known for being light and refreshing. The beers usually have an alcohol content of around 3 percent to 3.6 percent, lower than the 5 percent typical Western beers like Carlsberg and Heineken contain.
Since Chinese beer is lighter, it makes for an easy drink. People in the country especially like consuming it in the summer, often pairing it with grilled meats, crayfish, and spicy food.
A new spin on beer
In 2020, mass-consumed beer accounted for over 99 percent of China’s beer market, while craft beer’s presence was close to none, according to data from Statista. But the scene is growing as more microbreweries pop up across the country. The trend started slightly more than a decade ago, when craft beer makers like Boxing Cat Brewery in Shanghai and Master Gao Brewing Co in Nanjing popped up.
“When you ask people, ‘What beers are there in China?’ They’d say, ‘Tsingtao, Yanjing, and similar beers.’ But there are many more interesting beers out there. [China is] the fastest-growing beer market in the world, says Alex Acker, who co-founded Jing-A Brewing Co, a microbrewery that has been serving the Beijing crowd since 2012.
Acker and his co-founder Kris Li first started making beer on the side in their previous jobs. Li said they would brew beer in small plastic barrels at home.
Turns out, it was a success. Currently, Jing-A has five stores, 100 employees and two brewing facilities that produce about 200,000 bottles of beer every month.
“Slowly, we built [our business] into what it is today,” Li says.
It’s also a lot of fun, he says, as they can experiment with different ingredients. Jing-A releases about 50 different flavors of beer every year.
“Each part of China has a different local speciality, and what we particularly like is to find a local raw material such as chilli, orange peel, tea, or mushrooms, and then we will incorporate this ingredient into our beer,” Li says, adding that he hopes his beers can tell a story.