Hong Kong has had plenty of great concerts with boring beers over the years, not to mention some tremendous beer festivals with less-than-stellar music. This summer, Beer We Go and This Town Needs hope to finally give you both at the same time. On July 20 and 21, the organisers of last year’s Great Hong Kong Craft Beer Festival are hosting a revamped festival, now dubbed Beer We Go, at This Town Needs that caters to both beer geeks and indie scenesters.
Beers from 15 different craft breweries – including many that have never before been available in Hong Kong – are being paired with the sound and style of 10 bands playing live over four different sessions. On the bill are local indie acts Jonathan Yang (the bassist in David Boring, one of the best known bands on the indie scene) and Raw Track, as well as emerging artists from Japan and Taiwan, like Stuts and Mary See The Future.
Sound complicated? It isn’t. Each four-hour-long session is dedicated to a different genre of music (loosely categorised here as pop rock, hip hop, electronic and noise rock, and punk). While the bands play, brewers pour the beers they believe are best suited to the tunes. Whatever your opinion of the pairings, the beer and music should be special in their own right.
In the lead-up to Beer We Go, Time Out talked to Alan Cheung, one of the organisers of Beer We Go, to get his thoughts on craft beer and remaining independent in Hong Kong.
How has the craft beer scene evolved over the past five years? How do festivals like Beer We Go represent the latest stage of that evolution?
Taiwanese band Jade Eyes
In the last six or seven years, we went from having almost no craft beer presence to having over 30 local brewery brands, over 20 beer-focused taprooms, about five beer-focused bottle shops and a sizeable selection at supermarkets and wine shop chains.
Until last year, there was really only one major craft beer festival – Beertopia. Now we’re getting more and more, like the Young Master Invitational Beer Festival and the Great Hong Kong Craft Beer Festival. This shows that the size of the Hong Kong beer market has grown to a point that it can support multiple beer festivals in one year. It also shows that people are looking for new themes and concepts that will help them approach craft beer.
Was it hard to find the right beer and breweries to match the music?
We’ve been to great beer festivals in Hong Kong with no music and we’ve been to great independent music festivals in Hong Kong that only offer mass-produced commercial lagers. For Beer We Go, we wanted to take up the challenge to offer the best of both worlds.
This is a social experiment. We’re uniting two niche groups that support independent products. The challenge we’re facing is that beer geeks may not understand the value of the awesome music that we’re offering and music lovers may not see the value of the great beers yet, either. But that shows exactly what both industries need: education. That’s why we’re taking the risk to host this now.
What are the challenges of staying independent in Hong Kong, where creativity isn’t always valued on the same level as the almighty dollar?
Hong Kong artist Mukzi and The Island
When we asked our friends in the music industry for tips on scoring event sponsorships, 100 percent of them recommended that we approach mass-produced commercial lager brands. It’s definitely not easy to finance events like this on your own, but someone has to do it.
We’re thankful to have had a lot of support from beer drinkers in Hong Kong who encouraged us to go forward with [Beer We Go] and the guys at This Town Needs [formerly Hidden Agenda] who provided the amazing venue and helped to organise the music line-up.
Are there any beers we should be especially excited to try?
There are a lot of breweries that will be pouring beer in Hong Kong for the first time, like Cigar City, Oskar Blues, Three Weavers, Devil Craft, Lord Hobo, Loverbeer and Frau Gruber. We’re really excited to have them here.