“Get your hands off me, you don’t know who I am. I’m a power player, I’m a power player.” – Clutch, “Power Player”
Still less than three years young, Hong Kong craft brewery Gweilo Beer has decided to go big—really big.
By summer 2018, the formerly contract brewery—or “gypsy brewery,” if you must—that to date has brewed just three beers (a pale ale, IPA, and wit) will be settled into a new US$5 million, 7,000-square-foot production facility located in Hong Kong’s New Territories. Capable of pumping out 3,000 bottles and 6,000 cans an hour—that’s up to 6.48 million beers a month for those keeping score at home—it’ll be Hong Kong’s largest craft brewery, and/or perhaps its most ludicrous, from a certain point of view.
To help oversee the power play, Gweilo co-founders Joe Gould, Ian Jebbitt, and Emily Jebbitt brought into the mix former Modern Times Beer head brewer Matt Walsh. We’re planning an in-depth feature story on Gweilo Beer closer to the brewery’s launch in 2018, but for now we catch up with Walsh for some hot takes on the move from California to Hong Kong, the new brewery, and more.
Beer Travelist: You’ve been with Modern Times for some time. Why did you decide to make the move to Gweilo Beer, and how did you hook up with the brewery?
Matt Walsh: I was the original head brewer at Modern Times. It was fun putting the brewery together and turning it in to a successful enterprise, and I’m hoping to do the same here at Gweilo. I was looking for a new opportunity somewhere in Asia for a while, and Gweilo fit the bill nicely.
BT: Every brewer has certain things at which they excel. What is your specialty, and how can or will you apply that to your new role at Gweilo?
Walsh: I’ve always been known as a hop guy, and I plan to keep that up here. Hoppy beers don’t travel too well, so I’m looking forward to putting out some fresh, super-hoppy brews in the near future.
BT: Gweilo is taking a herculean step forward with the new brewery. As head brewer, what is your plan of attack for Gweilo’s first year in the new facility in terms of production, recipes, releases, etc?
Walsh: As a team, we’re developing a plan to expand the core range and add seasonal and special releases. We are building the brewery in a manner that will allow us to do some smaller scale, experimental brews along with our larger scale releases. We definitely want to get some beer into barrels as soon as we can.
BT: With so many new craft breweries in Hong Kong (not to mention in the region), what is or will be Gweilo’s point of differentiation, strictly speaking to its beer?
Walsh: We’re going to push cans as hard as we can. I feel they are a better package for beer, and we have invested heavily in our canning line. They are lighter, cool down faster, impermeable to light and oxygen, easily recycled, and will give us the opportunity to do short runs of cool new beer.
BT: How much, if at all, will your brewing approach in terms of recipes and styles change based on working in a well-developed market like the United States compared to Hong Kong / Asia?
Walsh: I don’t really plan to change too much, but I would love to incorporate some regional ingredients, as well as get more familiar with the local cuisine to inspire new beers.
BT: What are a few of your key short- and long-term goals as Gweilo’s head brewer?
Walsh: Short term, we just want to get the brewery up and running and make sure we’re putting out the best quality beer we can. Long term, Gweilo Beer aims to be a catalyst in the growth and appreciation of craft beer in Hong Kong and Asia.
BT: Finally, I know you’ve spent some time in the region previously. What’s your view of craft beer in Hong Kong and in Southeast Asia in general? Do you see any specific areas of opportunity, and/or anything that needs to change for the better?
Walsh: There is a lot of good craft in Southeast Asia—and there is some bad. By and large I don’t think craft is as widely appreciated in this part of the world as it is in others, so more exposure to good, fresh beer—and some consumer education—will surely help. It’s a young market for craft, and I’m excited to be here at this stage of the game.