The first thing that grabs you about Yardley Brothers is the artwork. Each label is striking and unique, telling a story with hidden details and complexity. Similarly, each beer created by Yardley Brothers is made with passion, attention to detail and expert craftsmanship. However, you can't generalise much else about these beers.
Luke Yardley has a long list of new beer ideas
We recently joined Luke Yardley and Cam McWilliam for their Friday brewery and tasting tour (currently suspended) and have become huge fans. We recommend joining the tour when COVID restrictions are eased to learn more about how Yardley Brothers are fighting the commercialisation of craft beer – simply by brewing really awesome, creative beers and building an open and collaborative craft beer community in Hong Kong.
Yardley Brothers staples
There is a core range of sorts, but they do periodically sell out.
Having just won Gold at this year’s Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition, Machine Men Hoppy Pale may be momentarily hard to come by. Machine Men has low bitterness but a gorgeous hoppy aroma, and it also won the award for Best Session IPA at the Hong Kong International Beer Awards in 2017. It’s a delicious pale ale (and a good one to try if you’re ready to step back from commercial beer).
The more bitter and higher-alcohol Hong Kong Bastard Imperial IPA won Best in Show and Best IPA at Beertopia 2016 and is regularly brewed along with the popular Lamma Island IPA and Quit Your Job Saison. These are tried-and-tested beers that have a loyal Hong Kong following, but the real fun comes from creating new recipes, flavour combinations and brewing methods.
A real ale love story
Even though they are breaking ground with inventive methods and unique ingredients, Yardley Brothers do traditional beer so very well. Take, for example, Yardley Brothers’ Amarillo Ale. Why? Because it’s the current favourite beer of this author.
This English pale ale is served at cellar temperature between 10–13oC because it is a live beer and is still subtly finishing in the cask. It’s not pressurised, so it is hand-pumped – old school. For the drinker, it’s sublime – smooth, slightly nutty, with little carbonation, and is so easy to drink it will surprise you (and we recommend you try it this winter). Check the list of bars serving Yardley Brothers draught at the bottom of the article, but phone before you go to make sure it’s still on tap (this isn’t Carlsberg, you know).
Sour beer has been around for a long time (and it’s always been pretty amazing), but its popularity in recent times has come about simply because more brewers are making it. It used to be risky to brew, with a chance that rogue bacteria could spoil an entire batch, but processes have improved a great deal. Luke Yardley and his team are award-winning sour beer specialists.
Sour beer is made with one or more special bacteria or yeasts such as Lactobacillus and/or Brettanomyces (aka Brett). Lactobacillus produces the tart flavour you find in yoghurt and converts sugars to lactic acid instead of alcohol. Brett is quite special in that different strains produce different flavours, ranging from tropical and fruity to earthy and barnyard, and those flavours can change over time.
If you’ve never had a sour beer, it’s difficult to imagine what to expect. And there is such a variety of styles within this group that you may love some and hate others, and really there is only one way to find out...
Mango Sticky Mango Imperial Gose has also just won Gold at the 2020 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition in the Specialty Fruit Beer category. This fruity gose (a German-style beer using Lactobacillus for souring) is inspired by bites of sweet, slighty salty glutinous rice doused in coconut cream and aromatic mango.
Brand new is Berried Alive Raspberry Milkshake Sour, available only on tap. Lots and lots of fresh Scottish raspberries and whole vanilla pods went into making this gorgeous tart beer, which reminds us of fruity sour candy.
Unlike craft beers that are best enjoyed fresh, you can cellar and age sour beers like you do wines, and barrel-ageing introduces exciting new complexities and flavours. Yardley Brothers have one of the biggest barrel-ageing programme in Hong Kong with 64 barrels (Young Master has over 100), and are embarking on an ambitious barrel-ageing programme to age sours, barleywine and red ale.
Ageing now are batches of Flanders Red Ale, and once the first batch reaches the ripe old age of four years, it will be blended with subsequent younger batches to balance the acidic characteristics and produce beer of exquisite complexity. This will be worth the wait!
As a special treat, we sampled a barleywine that had been ageing for a year in cognac barrel #001. Barleywine is made from grain – not fruit – so it cannot be called a wine, but it has a very high alcohol content, as wine does. Sweet, rich, with a touch of caramel, drinking it feels like sitting by a fire in a snowy cabin (or what we imagine that would feel like). This will be a limited-edition, single-batch barleywine, ready early next year.
And yet more must-try limited-edition beers
The Kveik yeast trio of beers is made from an active Norwegian farmhouse strain of yeast called Kveik that is very tolerant to high temperatures and different pHs and results in loads of fruity characteristics, ideal for sour beers. We tried Fancy a Kveikie, a light, crisp wheat beer with a wonderful hoppy and fruity aroma. It is fermented with whole white peaches (there are no fruit concentrates used at this brewery).
Another new beer we tried on the brewery tour is a brand-new experimental farmhouse ale called Jovaru® Lithuanian Wheat, using Jovaru yeast from Lithuania. This yeast has unique properties in fermentation and produces a sweet initial taste and dry finish, with strong notes of orange peel and black pepper. Hearing Luke tell us about the strains of yeast and how beer was likely first brewed in a farmhouse in Lithuania was like a history and geography lesson (but fun and with beer).
Now available around town, Fruit of the Gods Hazy Feijoa IPA is a limited-batch beer using the South American feijoa fruit (flown in from New Zealand) to flavour a hazy IPA-style beer. It is delicious, best drunk cold and fresh, and is one to keep an eye on for future awards.
Also look out for Mum’s Rhubarb Crumble, which recently won Bronze at the 2020 Asia Beer Championship in the Spiced/Herb-Flavoured Beer category. This is the second time the brewers at Yardley Brothers have used this recipe for a limited batch, and it’s back owing to its popularity.
If you’re looking for some Christmas spirit – and let’s be honest, we all are – Yardley’s Christmas Ale is currently brewing. This is a spiced seasonal ale brewed with a special dark caramel malt, English ale yeast, Madagascan vanilla pods, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise and a quite a lot of festive cheer. It tastes like a mouthful of Christmas pudding.
Overwhelmed? Fear not!
Here’s what to do:
- Follow Yardley Brothers on Instagram or Untappd
- Get a selection of beers to try at home and record them on the Untappd app
- Visit the brewery when it reopens – this is like a level up in craft beer knowledge
- Support your local craft breweries. Get local beers on tap and don’t stop at Yardley!*
*A Yardley Brothers–approved message
Where can you get Yardley Brothers beer (and other craft beer) in Hong Kong?
You can always find the very latest Yardley brews at The Beer Shack on Lamma Island, and they are also available with good food at most of the top taprooms in Hong Kong.
On tap in HK Island
- The Globe, SoHo, Central, @theglobehk, theglobe.com.hk
- 65 Peel, SoHo, Central, @65peel, www.facebook.com/65peel
- Alvy’s, Kennedy Town, @alvyshk, www.facebook.com/AlvysHK
- Second Draft, Tai Hang, @seconddrafthk, Second Draft on Untappd
- Hong Kong Island Taphouse, Tin Hau, facebook.com/HKIslandTaphouse
- The Roundhouse, SoHo, Central, @roundhousetaps, facebook.com/RoundhouseKB
On tap in Kowloon & the islands
- The Beer Shack, Lamma Island, @thebeershackhk, facebook.com/thebeershackhk
- The Ale Project, Mongkok, @thealeproject, thealeproject.com
- Tipsy Tap, TST, @tipsytap.hk, facebook.com/TIPSYTAP.HK
- Momentai, Sai Kung, @momentailah, momentai-la.com
- Once You Go Craft, Tai Kok Tsui, @onceyougocraft, facebook.com/onceyougocraft
To buy for home
- Beerhound, Wong Chuk Hang, beerhound.com.hk
- HK Brewcraft, Central, @hkbrewcraft, hkbrewcraft.com
- The Kappening, Prince Edward, @the_kappening, facebook.com/kappening
- Craftissimo, Sheung Wan, @craftissimohk, craftissimo.hk
- Secret Bottle, Yuen Long, @secret.bottle.hk, secretbottlehk.store
- Angry Beer, Admiralty and Mongkok, @angrybeerhk, angrybeer.com.hk
- Mango Store (中文), mangostore.co
- KTown Liquor, Kennedy Town, @ktownliquor.hk, facebook.com/ktownliquor.hk
- CAVE Beer Point, Mei Foo, @cavebeerpoint, facebook.com/cavebeerpoint
Did you know?
The artwork for Fancy a Kveikie is a tribute to *that cowboy T-shirt* by Vivienne Westwood.
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