It is Columnist Chris Foste is a bearded beer fanatic whose sparkling glass of knowledge overflows with wisdom upon the mooring of his whistle.
The craft beer industry is known to engage with its surrounding community and to support and empower what makes its consumers great. Regular charity events help raise awareness and fundraise for local nonprofit organizations that bring together craft enthusiasts and social philanthropists. You could say that everything revolves around LOVE.
Shanghai LOVE is a brand of craft beer that breathes life into everyone’s sentiment for the community. Their annual Brew For Love beer festival helps raise funds for local charities and brings together happy beer drinkers from all over Shanghai. I had the chance to sit down with Shanghai LOVE founder Kia Parsai and ask him how he found his desire to brew crafts in the Middle Kingdom.
Hi Kia. Thanks for taking the time to sit down with me. The craft beer industry is growing month by month here and we are always interested in understanding how these new and different brands got started. First of all, tell me a bit about yourself and what brought you to China.
SHâ¤ï¸: I actually lived in Salvador, Brazil, before I came to China. I was working on a project with a friend who brought me to Shanghai to do some research. After a few months, we decided not to proceed with the project. I had already fallen in love with this city so I decided to stay.
Everyone always has an interesting story from their beginnings in Shanghai. But what prompted you to get started with craft beer?
SHâ¤ï¸: I’ve been drinking beer my whole life and have a lot of experience in retailing beer from our family business. After selling my first restaurant in China, I wanted to stay in F&B. The opportunity presented itself to get into craft beer and I jumped at the chance to eventually form my own craft brewing business.
How not to seize such an opportunity ?! So, from the moment you started brewing, how would you describe the craft beer scene in China?
SHâ¤ï¸: The scene here is changing rapidly, in a very unique way. The American market I grew up in had decades to evolve, with a lot of refinement along the way. China has experienced a sudden explosion in recent years. The enthusiasm is high, with many beer lovers following global trends and looking for rare styles. But, when it comes to the overall commercial reach, there is still a long way to go before craft beer becomes ubiquitous in this society.
Yes, the top tier cities got it, but there are still a few hundred million people who have no idea what craft beer is. With that in mind, what are some of the challenges you have encountered when brewing in China? How is brewing different from other countries you know?
SHâ¤ï¸: I’ve been brewing here for four years now, I can say it was a lot harder the first two years. These days the ingredients are easier to find and overall we have been able to adapt and grow with the experience. We don’t have the variety of brewing products that you find in more fancy markets, but in a way that requires us to be more creative, so it’s kind of fun.
The right ingredients were once hard to find, now they’re pretty easy to find here. So, where do you get inspiration from when developing your recipes?
SHâ¤ï¸: Inspiration can come from anywhere. Sometimes you taste another beer on your travels and want to do something similar, sometimes you just want to push the boundaries just to see what happens, and sometimes it can even be from a song, a movie. or a video game. The more alien the source of inspiration, the more exciting it is to try and match a beer with that vision.
Anything can be your muse if you know what to look for! Speaking of inspiration, what are the breweries that inspired you to get started with craft beer and contribute to your branding?
SHâ¤ï¸: For me, it all started with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It was the first time that I had something like this. When I was a teenager I just drank Belgian beers or maybe a Guinness and felt like it was special and different. But Sierra Nevada changed everything. Since then, I have come to appreciate many local breweries on the west coast of my home state, California, and have drawn most of my influence from many legendary breweries. As for the image, to go back to what I grew up with, the 80s and 90s, video games, musicâ¦ just an overall retro vibe.
I couldn’t agree more. Growing up in the 90s was a golden age. Now how about describing some of your favorite beers or a beer that stood out for you?
SHâ¤ï¸: Aside from the original Sierra Nevada Pale Ale I mentioned earlier, I really like a classic West Coast IPA and double IPA, and I’ve always been a fan of Russian’s Pline the Elder. River. It’s been home for many years now. As for the tart beers that are all the rage these days, I would say my favorite is the Duck Duck Gooze from The Lost Abbey.
These are fantastic beers and I really wish cask aged sisters were something that spreads here in China. Beyond your favorite beers, what’s your favorite place in China to grab a pint of Shanghai LOVE?
SHâ¤ï¸: Oh no, it’s so hard to pick a favorite because we now sell to over 70 locations in town and many of my favorite restaurants, hotels and bars in town. But as you know, I tend to drink most of my beer early in the day and spend many early afternoons enjoying a casual pint at Funkadeli and The Rooster. There is nothing quite like drinking a cold beer when you are outside.
OK. If you don’t like drinking outside on a sunny day, what kind of upbringing did you have as a child? Back in our current country of residence, how do you see the future of craft beer in China?
SHâ¤ï¸: The future is bright! We’re going through a fun phase now, a lot of people are trying to get involved, and honestly, there’s a lot of bullshit out there. But I had a few gems and I think the weaker players will quickly fade away and the creativity of the more dedicated brewers will shine. We have a lot of local elements that we can draw our influence from in China and I predict this will become one of the most exciting craft beer communities in the world in the years to come.
This is the idea! The beer frontier has moved so far west that it has crossed east! Now explain this phenomenon to the flat earthlings! Well I appreciate the time you took to sit down with me and give me your take on Chinese craft beer and a bit of Shanghai history LOVE! Last question, if there was one person to share a pint with, who would it be?
SHâ¤ï¸: Louis CK.
Eh? Any reason?
SHâ¤ï¸: He’s the funniest man in the world.
Kudos to Shanghai LOVE for persevering in the hardships of not only starting a business in China, but also starting a relatively young industry!
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[All images courtesy of Shanghai LOVE]
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