Craft brewery WE in Tianjin is nearing its third anniversary and owner Steve Wang will soon start selling canned versions of his beers, including in our fair city. I know Wang from projects like World Baijiu Day and Maovember, and asked him a few questions about this newest initiative.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned about the craft beer market in Tianjin and, on a bigger scale, in China?
Tianjin is a very old-fashioned market. It has a lot of potential but the majority of consumers still prefer traditional drinks like baijiu and commercial beers. I think that situation translates nationwide. Most consumers don’t understand craft beer culture. We still need a lot of time for craft beer makers to educate the market.
You will release canned beers. What ones and why did you pick them?
We got a lot of requests from people in different cities who want to enjoy our beer, from travelers who loved it while in Tianjin and who want the option in their own cities. We decided to make small-batch releases of two of our core beers, Broken Compass IPA and Yi He Li Pale Ale. They will be available in 500 ml cans.
OK, simple consumer question: why cans and not bottles?
Great question. More and more craft beer makers around the world are using cans for a very simple reason: they keep the beer fresher than bottles. The cans protect the beer from light better and create a better seal than bottles. That will keep the beer fresh. Not to mention that cans pack nicely and are lighter than bottles, which is important for shipping and storage.
What’s the biggest challenge between doing draft beer versus canned or bottled beer?
Freshness is the most important factor for craft beer. We brew all our draft beer on site and use cold condition storage and short line systems that we clean regularly. This is to ensure the best experience for the customers.
For cans and bottles, we can ensure the brewing process and our side of storage and cold-chain logistics. But if people want the best experience, they should drink these beers quickly, the fresher the better. And they should keep them cold, between 5 and 10 degrees Celsius in their refrigerators.
When can we expect to pop the tabs on some WE brews in Beijing?
Hopefully by end of December or early January. These two beers will only be available in a few select locations. Details coming soon.