Sculpting the landscape of craft beer in Taiwan

Peter Huang is the Managing Partner of Taihu Brewing, Taiwan’s leading craft brewery.  In just three years, Taihu Brewing has created a name for itself synonymous with experimental and quality-driven craft beers that are slowly dominating the market.  The craft beer industry has been booming in this country ever since brewing was de-monopolized 15 years ago.  Two major brewers came onto the scene and trail-blazed an opening over the past decade, and since then, the craft beer industry has grown substantially over the past two years in Taiwan after push-back against craft beers finally lifted.  Since then, Taihu Brewing has dedicated itself to creating culture-based craft beers that communicate the essence of Taiwanese culture.

Taihu Brewing wanted to bring great beer to Asia and wanted to become part of the impressive craft beer movement.  They are distributors as well as retailers, and each of their stories that they boast have 20 taps of constantly-changing brews.  Their staff is expertly trained to educate consumers on taste, type, and the brewing process, and they pride themselves in adding no extracts or additives so as to preserve head retention and promote cultural flavors.

Taihu Beer - BIC Podcast

We wanted to sculpt the landscape of craft beer in Taiwan

While they are available outside of Taiwan at festivals, their stores are only exclusive to the region.  The have plans to open another office later this year in Shanghai in the hopes to continue generating exposure based on educational information.  How they attract their consumer base back into their stores is by using a tactic where they consistently cycle style and flavors on all 20 taps in their stores.  This encourages people to come in and constantly try new flavors, encourage recurring customers, and give the staff more opportunities to educate the market on craft beers.

Huang came from a background of finance.  He found that he didn’t want to continue pursuing it, and found a passion for brewing and the skill behind it when he began taking apprenticeships.  His food and pairing knowledge simply comes from exposure to others who are more informed than he is within that world, and he listens to those more educated around him and soaks up the information in the process.

The great thing about Taiwan and, more specifically, brewing beer, is the fact that there is no classical way to brew.  This movement was born on the basis of experimentation, so it’s a market that isn’t influenced by mere tradition.  Their more popular flavor profiles tend to stem around their seasonal fruit-based craft beers because of Taiwan’s perfect climate for growing the fruit locally.  However, Taihu Brewing also finds popularity with their sours.

Kettle sour and barrel aging are two different types of sour beers that are made two different ways.  The acceptance of these flavor profiles has been extremely positive as the market becomes more educated, and what helps Taihu Brewing is that they use nostalgic flavor profiles, such as black sesame, to draw the main consumer market.

    When Taihu Brewing set out to find their market, they chose Taiwan simply because they loved it.  They thought it was an awesome place to live, with a lively culture full of hospitable people behind it.  They found themselves knee-deep in Taiwanese pride, and they wanted to extend that pride with their brand.  Their dream is to create a premium international product representative of the culture that they can expand outward.  They wanted to be able to create a space for the younger Taiwanese generation to break the bonds of tradition when it comes to major applicable jobs in the country and create an environment where you can live more than just your boxed standard.
    One of the issues with craft beer in Taiwan is that there are many hurdles to clear in order to take your craft brewery to a retail market.  Because it is illegal to brew inside of the city, brew pubs are out of the question.  Brew pubs are usually a necessary step for brewers to educate the market about their product as well as start the footholds of becoming profitable, but with that elimination it becomes harder to engage consumers on a personal level in regards to the product and brand.  You either have to be a “home brewer” or a large commercial brewer, which requires a substantial amount of risk.
    However, despite the pitfalls that come with Taiwan law, Taihu Brewing has still managed to portray both an internal and external reflection of their product.  They have been able to tweak how the world perceives Taiwan through their product, and they have received honest feedback from their consumer market on how consuming Taihu craft beers makes them feel personally.  This honest feedback system allows them to connect with the market personally, tweak to their respected flavor profiles, as well as take constructive criticism in order to forward their company.  They have found a way, despite the law, to interact personally with their consumer base, which is why they live up to their core values: constant growth and improvement.
    The craft beer movement in Taiwan is a booming success.  Education is making its way to the public, and nostalgic flavor profiles brewed to perfection are drawing in newer and older generations alike.  The reason?  Because they have taken their brand and infused it with the culture instead of attempting to reinvent it.

 Written by Rebecca Travis