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Matt Walsh
Photo: Calvin Sit

Interview: Matt Walsh

We chat to Gweilo’s new head brewer about the company’s decision to build Hong Kong’s largest craft brewery

Written by
Holly Graham

Craft beer brewery Gweilo is going from strength to strength. From humble bedroom beginnings, the company is now set to open Hong Kong’s largest craft brewery in the summer. Located in Fo Tan, the US$5 million, 7,000sq ft facility should churn out enough beer to meet the high demand the local brewery is now enjoying.

Originally founded by husband- and-wife duo Ian and Emily Jebbitt and their friend Joe Gould, Gweilo is now joined by one of the biggest names in the American craft brewing business – Matt Walsh.

The California native started out home brewing as a teen, inspired after sampling some craft beers before a gig. Walsh muses: “It was illegal to drink at that age but it just added to the fun.” Initially choosing to pursue a career in the navy, he left after several years and got his first professional brewing break working for AleSmith in San Diego.

A long stint at Karl Strauss Brewing Company followed during which Walsh would quickly clean and fill kegs in order to take on other work. “Having an aptitude for this type of bottom-rung work helped me advance rapidly and I eventually became head brewer,” he says. Walsh worked at several other breweries and most recently helped open Modern Times, also based in San Diego.

Despite his many successes in California, Walsh was keen to move to Asia. He discovered Gweilo through an advert on an online brewing job platform and met with the team, saying: “I learned about Gweilo’s successes and goals and decided it’d be a great opportunity. Plus, when I was in the navy, I visited Hong Kong and it made a lasting impression on me.”

With his knowledge and expertise, Walsh is playing a key role in the development of Gweilo’s new Fo Tan brewery. He reveals: “We’re going to be producing world-class beers that will be packaged meticulously and will use a centrifuge to help remove particulate material. This means the liquid doesn’t have to pass through a traditional filter, which can strip flavour and aroma from the beer.” The new brewery also sees Gweilo produce its first canned beers. Walsh tells us: “Cans are better than bottles. There’s no light ingress, no bottle levy since aluminium is more easily recycled and they are lighter and easier to cool. Can-filling technology for a brewery our size has advanced a lot in the last five years and hopefully consumer perception has as well.”

The new operation is set to open in the summer and it will distribute around Asia and feature a public taproom for tasting experiences and all things craft beer related. Walsh exclaims: “We can’t wait to teach Hong Kong the joy of craft brewing!”

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