While China and beer aren’t exactly synonymous, it has been brewed domestically since the turn of the 20th century. According to a recent article by the Washington Post, China accounts for one quarter of the annual worldwide beer consumption. And while brands like Tsingtao and Snow (once described as “a forgettable pale lager that doesn’t taste like much” by Fortune Magazine) have been the largest players, the craft market in China is rapidly expanding.
China’s recent economic successes have resulted in a significant ballooning of the middle class. Approximately 4% of Chinese households qualified as middle class in 2000, compared to the 68% of households in 2012. As is to be expected, this rising middle class has a ravenous appetite for luxury consumables.
This interest in higher quality products has crossed over to the beer market in recent years says Darren Guo, an organizer of the 2018 Craft Beer of China Exhibition. He states that craft beer currently makes up about 5% of the total Chinese beer market, and believes it will increase by 30% year-over-year through 2020. For comparison, independent breweries currently account for around 13% of the US beer market.
Michael Jordan, head brewer of Shanghai based and AB InBev owned Boxing Cat explains that Chinese President Xi Jinping may be responsible for some of the growth, pointing to his sharing an IPA with then British Prime Minister David Cameron as a landmark moment of public knowledge surrounding craft beer. Some of the interesting, local, Boxing Cat is incorporating in their beers include green tea, chai, kiwi and egg tart.