In Hong Kong, The Things Yardley Brothers Does to Be More than a Alcohol Producer

Yardley Brothers​, based​ ​in Hong Kong, has recently announced a partner​ship with Open Book Extracts (OBX) Asia to release its first CBD infused beer.

Lo/Hi Mango Cheesecake CBD Sour is the first instalment in a range of CBD beers planned​.​

In partnering with OBX, Yardley Brothers can utilize OBX ingredients produced from organically grown hemp from family-owned, U.S.-based farms by farmers with generations of experience. The OBX network of hand-selected farmers have pioneered hemp cultivation, production, and agricultural technology with environmentally friendly, Good Agricultural Practices-compliant growing methods.

Luke Yardley​, a founder​ of the company, shared insights with Brewer in this International Insights piece.​

BREWER: ​What can you tell me about the history of your brewery? How has your business strategy evolved to help grow and stay competitive?
YARDLEY: ​We had quite a fortitions start, having been generously gifted the brewhouse in 2016. At that time, my brother and I were very passionate homebrewers, brewing beer for ourselves and our friends. Back then, Hong Kong’s craft scene was very limited, and a good craft beer was hard to find. When the brewhouse landed on our lap, we thought, “Why not turn this hobby into something that’ll put food on the table?” Since then, we have learned a lot, evolved, and grown into Hong Kong’s most innovative craft brewery, always experimenting with new and exciting flavours and playing with herbs, mixed cultures, fungus (Aspergillus oryzae, also known as kōji mold), and whatever else we can get our hands on to make the most interesting, unique beer possible.​ ​Yardley Brothers Craft Brewery has gone on to develop a keen customer base through our constant innovation and pushing the boundaries with new and exciting flavours. Sour beer and barrel-aging has seen us differentiate ourselves in a relatively young marketplace. In 2020, we started our barrel-aging program, and currently have 65 barrels from French chardonnay to Canadian maple syrup and everything in between. Yardley Brothers is widely considered as Asia’s leading sour beer craft brewery.​ ​We are avid collaborators. We’ve collaborated with some of the most well-known craft breweries in the Asia Pacific region. We’ve done collaborations in Australia, Vietnam, Singapore, Sweden, and at home here in Hong Kong. One such collaboration was an ice-distilled sour IPA brewed with Moon Dog Craft Brewery (Australia), coming in at a mind-bending 18% ABV! We’d love to collaborate and continue to push the limits with other like-minded breweries elsewhere, particularly North America and the UK.​ ​Also, our labels have become somewhat of a talking point among the Asian craft beer community for their eccentricity. We work with independent local artists to come up with striking and unique labels to tell stories with hidden details and complexity. We’ve been known to bury genitalia deep within the artwork, barely visible to the naked eye…pun intended! We keep each new design fresh and a bit out there, making our followers wonder, “What’s next from Yardley Brothers?”​

BREWER: Tell us more about Lo/Hi. Why has Yardley begun working with CBD?
YARDLEY: Lo/Hi Mango Cheesecake CBD Sour is a low alcohol, heavily fruited sour that was brewed to better represent what craft breweries can offer when it comes to low alcohol beers. Non-alcoholic or low alcohol beers from macro breweries usually taste like shit and often way too sweet. If you’re going to take the alcohol away from a beer, at least make it taste good! As a small, innovative craft brewery, that’s what we did. We brewed a heavily fruited pastry sour with all-natural ingredients to prove that a no- or zero-alcohol beer can taste great! Going down the sour path ensured the acidity balanced out the sweetness.​ ​Brewed with 66mg of THC-free CBD per litre and lots of delicious mangos, Lo/Hi Mango Cheesecake CBD Sour illuminates the glass with a saffron yellow hue for a juicy, refreshing, and super chilled out low alcohol (0.9% ABV) craft beer reminiscent of a fresh slice of creamy, mango drenched vanilla cheesecake. As for the inclusion of CBD? I personally like the effect of CBD as something to help reduce anxiety and chill out with – show me a craft brewery owner who doesn’t need to chill out! From a business point of view, consumers are looking for alternatives. Non-alcoholic beer is becoming more popular. But non-alcoholic beer has two problems: it doesn’t taste like its alcoholic equivalent and it doesn’t relax you. I spent time figuring out how to make a low-to-no alcohol beer that tastes great and you also get something out of it without the numbing hangover attached. Using CBD is our way of doing something different. It’s important to give consumers different options from a moral standpoint. You can be a beer producer without being an alcohol producer.​

BREWER: What sort of possibilities does this present for you in the market? What is your core audience for this and how do you feel this brand or others in your portfolio can connect with consumers?
YARDLEY: There are not too many craft non-alcoholic beers in Asia. We are seeing an increased presence of “mocktails” over here while also paying attention to what is happening in other parts of the world. According to new research, the non-alcoholic beer market revenue is anticipated to cross USD ​$​29 billion by 2026. This trend is a great opportunity to connect with consumers and give them a non-alcoholic beer that tastes good and is something they will seek out. By heavily fruiting non-alcoholic craft beers, the consumer doesn’t have to compromise on flavour when choosing the non-alcoholic option.​

BREWER: What idea did you or your team come up with lately that has been a big benefit to how your brewery functions?
YARDLEY: As we are developing more into mixed fermentation and expanding our barrel-aging program, we have invested in separate tanks, an extra packaging line, and an additional clean-in-place system, allowing us to safely and seamlessly produce wild and clean craft beer in the same brewery.

BREWER: How has COVID-19 affected your country and your brewery, and how have you had to adapt to restrictions and safety concerns while still being able to produce and sell beer?
YARDLEY: Hong Kong are the cool kids; we have been dealing with COVID-19 since January 2020 and are fully versed in all things social distancing. Coupled with the previous SARS epidemic from 2003, people here are fully supportive of mask wearing and other measures to ensure the safety of others. Thankfully, we’ve never had a full lockdown here, although there continue to be restrictions in place when it comes to opening hours and seating arrangements for bars, restaurants, and cafes. We’ve just learn to get on with it and follow the guidelines to ensure the safety of our staff, the cleanliness of our facilities, and that our customers are looked after.​ ​With restaurants, bars, and cafes under changing business hours restrictions and people spending more time at home, we have moved our production to focus more heavily on bottled beer and less by the keg.​ ​At The Beer Shack – our dedicated taproom and restaurant on a nearby surrounding island — we have adjusted our opening hours as per government requirements, and come up with many creative ways to get people out of their houses and have something to look forward to over a couple of fresh brews. We’ve hosted beer and cheese pairings, oyster and beer couplings, organized lucky dip raffles for charity, and had authors hold socially distanced book launch gatherings. At The Beer Shack, we have maintained our strong ethos of community spirit by offering hand-delivered beer orders – not through a courier — for that personal touch and to maintain human connection. We continue to adapt and stay resilient during this challenging time by expanding our takeaway food options to include breakfast, lunch, and dinner.​ ​We have put a temporary halt on guided brewery tours but have kept our follower base up to date with behind-the-scenes footage of our brewing operation across our social media channels. You may not be able to come visit the brewery but check out what weird shit we got up to today!

BREWER: If you had one business strategy that you could implement to better the brewing industry in your country, what would it be?
YARDLEY: Hong Kong is a new market, especially compared to North America and the UK. Differentiation across craft breweries is important so that each brewery is known and heralded for their own speciality. Everyone can have their own lane and be regarded as the leader in that field. This also makes collaboration a lot of fun and very exciting for the consumer. Joining forces to brew a special beer, using the skills, experience, and reputation from each craft brewery is like the craft beer equivalent to a Robocop/Terminator hybrid. Both have their own strengths, but joining forces? Holy shit!

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