Christopher Wong: Our interview with HK’s go-to craft beer guru

Christopher Wong gave up a promising accounting career to pursue his passion for beer. Now he is the head brewer for Hitachino HK Brewery, has co-founded HK Brewcraft and Heroes Beer Co, and stands at the frontier of Hong Kong’s burgeoning craft beer scene…


Where was your love of craft beer kindled?

Growing up, I’d always enjoyed the occasional drink with my family, but I only really and truly became enamoured with beer while I was in San Francisco working as an accountant after graduating from university. My Damascene moment came when I was introduced to a beer called Anchor Steam, which really kicked off the whole craft beer scene in the US. It completely changed my view of what a beer could be, inspiring me to take up home brewing myself.

Christopher Wong now works as Head Brewer for Hitachino

How did your first experiments go?

Well, around the time I wanted to start experimenting with home brewing, I first heard about SF Brewcraft, one of San Francisco’s most-well known beer stores, run – at the time – by Griz, a sort of Santa Claus character. The first time I walked in, I told him I wanted to brew something like Corona, one of the most popular Mexican beers. Suffice to say, he was not impressed. Instead, he scribbled something on a sheet of paper – which I still have – and that was the recipe for Lawnmower Beer. I loved it so much that my business – HK Brewcraft – is named after Griz’s original outlet.

HK Brewcraft is an homage to SF Brewcraft, where Chris first learnt home brewing

What finally made you decide to bring that concept to Hong Kong?

When I met my then-wife-to-be at a wedding in Hong Kong. I decided to move here full time, switching from my company’s San Francisco operation to its Hong Kong office. Once here, I completely changed industries and decided to head up a restaurant in Tin Hau called Kin’s Terrace. Working there meant my nights were focused on my cheffing duties, leaving the daytime free for me to focus on my home brewing, which was becoming more than just a hobby.

It was around then – in 2013 – that, realising there was no proper home brew store in Hong Kong, a group of friends and I decided to launch one. We wanted it to be a place where you could buy everything from malt and hops to actual brewing equipment, while also finding out just how to properly brew beer at home – and that is how HKBrewcraft was born. Just a few months after our first small Tin Hau outlet opened, the level of demand gave us the confidence to open a far bigger store in Central. And we’ve never looked back.

Chris gave up a successful accounting career to pursue craft beer glory

Your beer interests have broadened since then…

Definitely. Right now, I’m in charge of making beer on several different fronts. Firstly – and most obviously – there is HK Brewcraft. As well as being a home brew supplier, it also operates as an independent nanobrewery, which also doubles as a training academy for would-be home brewers. There’s also my main nine-to-five job – head brewer at the Hitachino HK Brewery, a Japanese company best-known for the Nest Beer brand.

Then there’s the Heroes Beer Co, my latest venture. It’s a very interesting idea and it’s based on the notion that everyone can be a beer superstar, a concept that is reflected in our tagline: “Unleash the hero within”. Part of our USP is that every Heroes’ beer has been inspired by a real person. Our Hunk Sir Milfee Porter, for instance, takes its name from a home brewer who was notorious for experimenting with unusual combinations. Essentially, it’s a lactose-infused brew that tastes a little like cha chaan teng milk tea.

For Chris, HK boasts the fastest-growing craft beer scene in Asia

How do you think Hong Kong’s craft beer scene has evolved over recent years?

Well, 2013 was something of a turning point for the sector. For one thing, it was the year when several of the people now seen as key players first met. That includes the crew behind Young Master Brewery, the folks at The Globe – the headquarters of the Craft Beer Association of Hong Kong – and, of course, the HK Brewcraft team. Alongside several of the more dedicated local importers, we collectively pushed to increase the range of craft beers available in the city, while also raising their profile among the local population. In addition, of course, there is Beertopia, Hong Kong’s very own beer festival. As a result of all this activity, the city’s become Asia’s fastest-growing craft beer hub.

Chris' love of craft beer started in San Francisco with Anchor Steam

Do you have a personal favourite beer?

Oh yes. For me, Anchor Steam is really something special. It’s the beer that started me on my home brewing journey and got me where I am today. Another beer close to my heart is Seriously, Heroes Beer Co’s debut brew. It takes its inspiration from old-fashioned, no-nonsense, bone-dry American Indian Pale Ale and I absolutely love it.

Thank you.

Interview by: Tenzing Thondup
Photos: Neville Lee
Art Direction & Styling: San Wong
Venue: Second Draft
Wardrobe: COS & Suitsupply