Interview: Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster Garrett Oliver on his new brews HK Yau

“A successful local craft beer brand becomes part of the fabric of the community but that doesn't happen overnight as it needs to be earned”
Garrett Oliver, Peter Poon, hk yau
Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery and Peter Poon of Carlsberg Hong Kong
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Carlsberg Hong Kong has collaborated with New York’s popular Brooklyn Brewery to launch the brand new craft beer range HK Yau. The character yau <<友>> meaning ‘friendship’, and in this case, representing the collaboration between the passionate people that produce the brews. The range includes three new beers that use local flavours and recipes with a North American influence.

We speak to Garrett Oliver - Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster and one of the founders of HK Yau to find out more about the three new brews using local flavours and recipes with a North American influence.

Hi Garrett, what made you choose Hong Kong and what do you think of the craft beer scene here?
Hong Kong is a global city, like New York, making us feel right at home. When we first started visiting there was only one craft brewery and that's changed dramatically in the past few years. We were one of the pioneers of the craft beer revolution in the US so it was natural for us to want to be a bigger part of the craft community in Hong Kong. Craft beer is exploding here, and together with Carlsberg, we can help accelerate that trend.

Who are the people behind the HK YAU range?
From Brooklyn Brewery, it’s the President Robin Ottaway and I. We’ve loved Hong Kong from our first visit. I can still remember flying into the old airport! Carlsberg Hong Kong is led by HK local Peter Poon and its speciality division, Craft and Crew, is led by fellow local James Beacher. So Robin, Peter, James and myself are the core group behind the brand. But there's tons of enthusiasm for this project from everyone at both companies. Launching a brewery is fun and exhilarating but a huge challenge, and we are fortunate to have so many experienced and motivated people behind the brand. I think everyone at Carlsberg Hong Kong feels ownership of HK YAU brewery.

Tell us more about the local influences and flavours in the new beers.
Like Brooklyn, Hong Kong is a real blend of food cultures and we can see that Hongkongers enjoy the same beer styles we do back in the US. So we've started with three styles that have become popular everywhere - pale ale, pilsner, and wheat beer. The Times Square Lager is dry, snappy and refreshing, but more robust than other pilsner-type beers. Underground Pale Ale has a bright hop flavour that people are really loving. And the New Kong Wheat combines the Belgian wheat beer style with some new spices, such as local chenpi straight from Hong Kong's markets. As we continue to innovate, you'll see local Hong Kong flavours used in exciting new ways.

The ‘Times Square’ lager is said to pair well with Chinese food. What dish do you think pairs perfectly with this brew, and is the name a nod to Times Square in New York or Causeway Bay?
HK YAU Times Square Lager is great with roast goose, Peking duck, cha siu and dim sum. The names of the beers reflect some of the things Hong Kong and New York City have in common - we both have a famous Times Square, people from both cities spend a lot of time traveling underground, and both places are where things are constantly made new.

What does the future hold for HK YAU?
Before we think about the future, we need to focus on the present. It takes time to build a brand. A successful local craft beer brand becomes part of the fabric of the community but that doesn't happen overnight as it needs to be earned. So we will focus on developing the brand correctly, which means selling it to bars and restaurants throughout Hong Kong. I've noticed that most Hong Kong craft brands focus on the Western market. I don't think HK YAU can achieve full success if we don't focus on the local Chinese market, who we hope will embrace the brand and feel proud of it.

One last one we have to ask - outside of your own ranges, what’s your favourite beer?
The farmhouse beer style, saison, has always been a favourite - we’ve been brewing them since the ‘90s. Among those, though, it's hard to beat the classic, Saison Dupont. It has an almost volcanic carbonation, and it's dry, bitter, peppery and earthy all at once. It's both complex and amazingly refreshing.

The beers are currently available at Liberty Exchange, Cordis Hotel, Fat Pig, The Pawn, Stormies (LKF and Elements branches) and Pickled Pelican.

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