Craft beers tend to be regarded as a US or European development but Hong Kong boasts around 18 craft breweries and twice as many brands, many of which are now targeting overseas markets.

According to the head of the Hong Kong Craft Beer Association, capacity among the territory’s now exceeds one million litres a year and was given a major boost last year when one brand, Gweilo, invested $5m in new equipment specifically with the aim of brewing for export.

Others are following suit. Lamma Island-based Yardley Brothers, for example, is planning a major expansion in production volume to meet growing demand overseas; exports already account of 10-15% of its business.

“The large [Gweilo] facility significantly increased the overall capacity of Hong Kong breweries,” explained Jason Lowe, himself the founder of Heroes Beer.

“The bigger players began to realise that Hong Kong is too small a market for all these capacities,” he told the South China Morning Post.

The man behind Gweilo already claims to have signed a deal that will see the brand going global – industry rumour suggests that this is with an airline.

Other brands appear to be more regionally focused. Singapore is a frequent target for Hong Kong’s exporters but some are looking further afield. Moonzen Beer’s biggest overseas market is currently Thailand, but it’s looking to Korea, Japan and Taiwan as key markets where appreciation of craft beer is greater.

A spokesman for the Singapore Craft Brew Association noted that Hong Kong’s brewers are leading the way in innovation, developing recipes geared towards Asian tastes. “Incorporation of unique Asian flavours from fruit, botanicals and spices have been a big hit with the craft beer community in Singapore,” he said.

The economics of craft brewing are another reason to look overseas. Some brewery owners have complained that they’re locked out of the Hong Kong market by big-name brands paying bar owners to be the only beer available.

Sourced from South China Morning Post; additional content by WARC staff