Header photo courtesy of H.K. Lovecraft

Craft beer lovers understand that not everyone wants to go on a craft beer journey that will inevitably end up in an expensive beer-drinking hobby. If you do start though, it might go something like this:

Lagers -> IPAs -> Big stouts -> Sours -> Lagers

Everyday international pale lagers – Asahi, Heineken, Corona – are all designed to be easy drinking and super refreshing.

But then you try a hoppy IPA, and you learn that the pine and tropical pineapple aromas are coming purely from hops! There’s a lot to explore in this category. The latest trend is New England-style IPAs with low bitterness that pour and smell like fruit juice. They need to be fresh, fresh, fresh, and you will constantly be checking when your beers were packaged.

Getting into stouts and sours is a similar exciting adventure as to what is possible within each category.

But here’s the thing: every brewer we know has a favourite lager that they like to drink at the end of the day.

Craft lager

A lager uses a different yeast than an ale. It needs to ferment for longer and at a lower temperature. The flavours of a lager are clean. Every step must be perfect – there is nothing in the beer to hide any bad flavours.

We visited Tsing Yi on a Friday afternoon to meet H.K. Lovecraft’s founder and brewmaster, Perry Lam, and see his brewery. Before opening this impressive brewery, Perry completed the Master Brewer Program through the World Brewing Academy in Munich and Chicago and spent some time in Germany. H.K. Lovecraft has only ever brewed lager, and we asked Perry what we should expect from a craft lager versus a commercial premium lager.

He explained that a commercial lager should be clean with no strong flavours, with a crisp, dry finish and high carbonation – a refreshing, easy-to-drink beer.

“A craft lager will additionally showcase the malt, and if it’s fresh, you can enjoy elegant, German-style hops, which are subtle and floral.” – H.K Lovecraft founder, Perry Lam

Mick and Perry sampling the freshest lager in town

After sampling lager straight from the tank, we did note a subtle floral-hop aroma and a clean, sweet maltiness. All the beers from this brewery are unfiltered – like a traditional Kellerbier – and can be slightly cloudy.

Lagers further differ from ales as they should be “lagered” at the brewery (i..e., stored cold with the yeast in order to mature the beer and soften the flavours). All H.K. Lovecraft beers are lagered at low temperatures for at least two months. Other breweries commonly lager for less time than this, and for reference, an ale can be finished in less than three weeks. Mother Goat Doppelbock is lagered for a staggering six months, so it’s only brewed twice a year.

This is a pretty big ask of a brewery in space-starved Hong Kong, but it’s an important part of brewing this style of beer. Why would anyone choose to do this in Hong Kong?

As Perry tells us, imports to Hong Kong were a big part of his life growing up, but he said there used to be a lot more HK-made products here than there are now. He felt strongly that lager is something that can be made fresh in Hong Kong, and made well – and he was proved correct when he won three medals at the 2019 Berlin International Beer Competition.

H.K. Lovecraft medals from the 2019 Berlin International Beer Competition

And it’s a good thing too, since no one will be casually hopping over to Germany to enjoy a fresh lager in a beer garden anytime soon.

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Community and collabs

Chun Fa Lok India Pale Lager is the latest release from H.K. Lovecraft, and it’s a collaboration with @tsingyipeople – a community group that helped to design and create this lightly hopped, bitter lager.

There is a community aspect of the neighbourhood brewpubs and beer gardens that are common outside Hong Kong that is missing here. Perry engages actively with various local groups in order to foster a similar spirit. Previously, H.K. Lovecraft has brewed a honey lager with 100% local ivy tree raw honey and a mango beer collaboration using mangoes from local farms, which in turn use H.K. Lovecraft’s spent grain as compost.

We would love to see a HK beer garden attached to a brewery, but we understand the problem. If you’re renting in a premium zone that can qualify to sell alcohol, it’s very hard to justify using that expensive land for brew space. Gweilo has a brewlab in Kennedy Town, and we hope to see something similar in Kowloon soon.

The name and the art

H.P. Lovecraft was an American horror author best known for creating the Cthulhu Mythos, and the genre of cosmic horror is named after him. The Lovecraftian genre centres around the fear of the unknown, and this is what inspired the labels and names of the core line of H.K. Lovecraft beers. Whilst it’s not exactly feared, craft beer is certainly unknown to many.

The gold-medal-winning Space Rock Rauchbier + book illustration by J.M. de Aragon

We have recently had a lot of Space Rock Rauchbier, so it was only fitting that we read the “The Colour Out of Space” first and are working our way through the many other H.P. Lovecraft stories (all available for free online).

Perry also told us that the mysterious figure in their logo who looks like personified wheat stalks (between the “Love” and the “craft”) is actually the letters “H” and “K”. Of course! Once seen, it is impossible to unsee.

The brewing equipment

One of us has never worked in a brewery before but was still suitably impressed with the meticulous layout and sheen of the H.K. Lovecraft brewery.

The H.K. Lovecraft brewery is so very clean and organised

The equipment is BrauKon – brought to Hong Kong from Germany on a boat and then welded together on-site by a team of BrauKon engineers.

The mill is separate to the brewhouse, hidden behind a wall that helps to contain any airborne particulates. The milled grain is transported to the 2,000L mash tun through a large pipe and is combined with water inline – which is quite fancy and avoids clumping. After mashing, everything goes to the lauter tun next for filtering. The spent grain is kept and transported to farms to use as compost.

There are three hop cylinders lined up between the lauter tun and the kettle, for automatically adding hops and other additions at different times of the boil, and the whole system is managed through a large touchscreen monitor. Honestly, a head-up display wouldn’t look out of place here. Think Minority Report, but much brighter.

From the kettle, the unfermented beer (hot wort) is crash-cooled though a heat exchanger on the way to the fermentation tank. Fermentation finishes in as little as a week at roughly 10oC, and then the cold maturation process (lagering) ties up that tank for two months at near freezing temperatures.

The H.K. Lovecraft team are currently waiting for a new canning machine that will further automate and streamline the process of getting us fresh beers. Thanks, guys!

RELATED: Read more articles about beer in Hong Kong

Where to find H.K. Lovecraft beer

You can purchase directly from the brewery online, which means you are likely to get the freshest beers from the brewery floor.

Beer map from the H.K. Lovecraft website

Upcoming events

There is a local beer fest at The Madhouse in Causeway Bay on this weekend, from 2:30pm on 7 and 8 August, where you can meet the crew and try the brew from three local breweries: Lion Rock, Black Kite and H.K. Lovecraft.

Further ahead, we are expecting an Oktoberfest announcement soon, where we will be swimming in fresh German beers from both H.K. Lovecraft and a number of other local breweries. We are very excited about this, and fingers crossed the COVID situation doesn’t deteriorate to cancel Oktoberfest celebrations again this year.

Keep an eye on our articles here for the latest beer news and events.

Unit 52, G/F, Block E, Phase 2, Tsing Yi Industrial Centre, 1–33 Cheung Tat Road, Tsing Yi, 2119 0070

Related: All HK Craft Breweries

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Mick and Dale are drinking beer, brewing beer and reviewing beer all over Hong Kong. It's a tough gig! @foo.brew

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