The made-in-Taiwan story in terms of beer is essentially summed up as this: Taiwan Beer 台灣啤酒 rules the market – always has, and still does – with roughly around 72% share of a market that exceeds over 80 million NT per year in revenue. Owned by the government-run Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp, 台啤 (the colloquial name for Taiwan Beer 台灣啤酒) dominated nearly 100% of the market share until 2002, when the market was forced open by the WTO.
Even after restrictions were lifted, local breweries were slow to develop. Le ble d’or 金色三麥, which recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, was one of the early entrants into the market with their signature honey beer – which they sold through a series of Le ble d’or restaurants, as well as mass distribution through retailers such as Costco. The beer market has rapidly changed since then, and the products of several local breweries are now commonly listed next to imported craft beers on menus all across the city. And we’re not talking 熱炒 or tacky, faux-European style pubs – these range from small alley cafes, to casual fine-dining concepts such as FujinTree 台菜香檳, to New American gastropubs such as EIEIO and BING. I’m taking a look at two Taiwan-based craft breweries that have caught my eye lately. First up: Alechemist.
I discovered Alechemist I found while browsing Huashan at the 好樣VVG x 品物市集Plenty Market, an expo featuring creators and craftsmen around the city.
The collective behind Alechemist view beer as a product that should benefit – and be strongly linked to – local agriculture, particuarly mixed-grain production. Alechemist founder Chen Hsiang-chuan (陳相全) gathered a group of agronomy students from National Taiwan University 國立台灣大學 and sought to make an organic brew entirely with grains such as wheat and barley grown here in Taiwan, which hasn’t sought to produce these crops for decades – instead relying on imports from abroad.
Rather than relying on imported ingredients to create their beer, they hope to create an integrated system that takes them from raw materials to finished product in a way that diversifies the number of economic crops in grown in Taiwan and ultimately increase agricultural self-sufficiency. Alechemist currently has farm acreage in NTU as well as in Taichung, where they’ve begun to grow wheat, and eventually hope to grow barley, corn and hops. They debuted their first produce, a Cream Ale, this year: created with self-grown wheat and Tainan white corn.
A group of young Taiwanese, executing a beautiful marriage of biological farming practices and quality craft brewing – these are the stories I’m hearing more and more of as a features writer, and it makes me so happy. From what I can gather, besides one-off events, Alchemist 禾餘麥酒 can be found at a select number of cafes around town, listed on their Facebook Page – admittedly, none of which I’ve heard of. But it’s worth tracking down this grassroots project (agricultural pun?) – really hoping that it takes off.
You can watch a short introductory video on Alechemist 禾餘麥酒 here (Chinese only)
• 55th Craft Street Brewery – list of stockists on ALBUM page.
• Alechemist – list of stockists on ABOUT page.
• Tasting Room – serves 55th St. and variety of imported & local beers.
• Fujin Tree 台菜香檳 – 55th St.
• Xiang Se 香色 – 55th St.