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Brewed In China


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Madlen Lao



When it comes to food travel, exploring the local beverages is just as important as savoring the cuisine. And in a country as vast and diverse as China, the world of brewing offers a fascinating and flavorful journey. From ancient traditions to modern innovations, the brewing scene in China has undergone a radical transformation in recent years.


China has a long and storied history when it comes to brewing, dating back thousands of years. From the ancient times of the Shang dynasty to the present day, Chinese brewing has evolved and adapted to suit the changing tastes and preferences of the people.


Traditional Chinese brewing techniques have been passed down through generations, and they continue to blend seamlessly with modern brewing methods. Whether it’s the rich history of rice wine or the more recent boom in craft beer, Chinese brewing offers a diverse range of flavors and styles that are sure to delight any beverage enthusiast.


As the Chinese economy and middle class have grown, so too has the demand for premium and specialty beverages. This has sparked a craft beer revolution in China, with new breweries popping up across the country to meet the evolving tastes of consumers.


However, the Chinese brewing industry also faces its fair share of challenges. Government regulations, competition from international brands, and a lack of consumer awareness about craft beer are just a few of the obstacles that breweries in China must navigate.


Despite these challenges, the rise of Chinese craft breweries has showcased the dedication and creativity of local brewers. They have successfully carved out a niche in an industry that was once dominated by mass-produced lagers. Today, Chinese craft breweries are gaining recognition both domestically and internationally for their innovative brews and commitment to quality.


Beyond the beverages themselves, the brewing culture in China is a vibrant and evolving part of the country’s culinary scene. From beer festivals to beer-pairing dinners, there is a growing appreciation for the art and craftsmanship of brewing.


Looking ahead, the future of brewing in China is an exciting and promising one. As the craft beer movement gains momentum and consumer preferences continue to evolve, the Chinese brewing industry is poised for further growth and innovation. Whether you’re a beer lover or simply curious about the country’s brewing traditions, exploring the world of Chinese brews is an adventure waiting to be savored.


History of Brewing in China

The history of brewing in China dates back thousands of years, with evidence of early fermentation techniques found as far back as the Neolithic era. Ancient Chinese civilizations, such as the Shang and Zhou dynasties, were known to produce alcoholic beverages using grains like millet and rice.


During the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD), brewing reached new heights with the invention of a special type of alcoholic beverage known as “jiao li.” Jiao li was made from fermented grain and was considered a luxury drink reserved for nobility and the royal court.


One of the most significant milestones in Chinese brewing history was the invention of rice wine, known as “jiu.” Rice wine became a staple of Chinese culture and was used in religious ceremonies, as a medicinal remedy, and for social gatherings. Its production technique involved fermenting rice with yeast to create a smooth and slightly sweet beverage.


In addition to rice wine, China also played a crucial role in the spread of tea as a popular beverage. Tea was initially consumed in its raw form as a medicinal drink, but during the Tang dynasty, it began to be processed and brewed as a flavorful beverage.


With the arrival of foreign traders during the Ming and Qing dynasties, new brewing techniques and ingredients were introduced to China. European merchants brought beer to the country, resulting in the development of Chinese-style lagers. This marked the beginning of a new era in Chinese brewing, with beer gaining popularity as a refreshing and enjoyable beverage.


However, it wasn’t until the late 19th century, during China’s modernization period, that Western brewing techniques truly took hold. German and Czech brewers were imported to establish breweries and help modernize the industry. As a result, beer production shifted from small-scale local operations to larger, industrialized breweries.


Today, Chinese brewing continues to be influenced by both its rich history and international trends. Traditional techniques, such as the fermentation of grains and the use of herbal ingredients, are still celebrated in the production of beverages like baijiu and rice wine. At the same time, the craft beer movement has embraced Western brewing methods, incorporating a wide range of flavors and styles inspired by global beer cultures.


The history of brewing in China is a testament to the country’s cultural diversity and its ability to adapt and evolve. From ancient civilizations to the present day, China’s brewing traditions have left an indelible mark on the world of beverages.


Traditional Chinese Brewing Techniques

Traditional Chinese brewing techniques have been refined and perfected over centuries, resulting in a diverse range of unique and flavorful beverages. These techniques highlight the importance of natural ingredients, fermentation processes, and the incorporation of medicinal herbs in brewing.


One of the oldest and most renowned traditional Chinese beverages is rice wine, known as “jiu” in Mandarin. Rice wine is made by fermenting cooked glutinous rice with yeast, resulting in a smooth and slightly sweet alcoholic beverage. The fermentation process can last from a few weeks to several years, depending on the desired flavor and strength.


Baijiu, another iconic Chinese drink, is a distilled spirit made from fermented sorghum, rice, wheat, or other grains. The production of baijiu involves multiple rounds of fermentation and distillation, resulting in a potent and complex beverage. Each variety of baijiu has its own distinct flavor profile, ranging from floral and fruity to earthy and spicy.


In addition to rice wine and baijiu, there are also various herbal and medicinal drinks in Chinese brewing traditions. For example, “medicinal wine” is made by infusing herbs, roots, and other botanical ingredients in rice wine. These concoctions are believed to have therapeutic properties and are often consumed for their health benefits.


Another unique aspect of traditional Chinese brewing is the use of fermentation starters, known as “qu.” Qu is a mixture of grains, yeast, and beneficial bacteria that kickstarts the fermentation process. Different types of qu are used for specific beverages, such as the “daqu” for baijiu and the “jiuqu” for rice wine. The use of fermentation starters adds complexity and depth to the flavors of the final product.


Furthermore, traditional brewing techniques often involve aging the beverages, allowing them to develop more nuanced flavors over time. This can be seen in the production of aged rice wines and vintage baijiu, which are highly valued for their smoothness and complexity.


While traditional Chinese brewing techniques have a rich history, they are not confined to the past. Many contemporary breweries in China continue to embrace these techniques, incorporating them into their craft beer production. For example, some craft breweries use Chinese herbs and spices to create unique and innovative beer flavors that pay homage to traditional brewing methods.


Overall, traditional Chinese brewing techniques are a testament to the country’s reverence for natural ingredients, craftsmanship, and the blending of flavors. Whether it’s rice wine, baijiu, or herbal concoctions, these beverages offer a glimpse into the deep-rooted brewing traditions of China.


Modern Brewing Methods

While traditional Chinese brewing techniques have a rich history, modern brewing methods have also made their mark on the industry. With the advent of industrialization and the growing influence of Western brewing practices, Chinese breweries have embraced modern techniques to meet the demands of a changing market.


One of the key advancements in modern brewing is the use of specialized equipment and machinery to streamline production. Industrial breweries utilize state-of-the-art fermenters, filtration systems, and packaging lines to ensure consistent quality and efficiency. These advancements have allowed breweries to scale up their operations and meet the growing demand for their products.


Furthermore, modern brewing methods often incorporate the use of specific yeast strains, selected for their ability to produce desired flavors and aromas. This has led to the development of a wide variety of beer styles, ranging from crisp lagers to hop-forward IPAs and complex stouts.


Quality control is another area where modern brewing methods have made significant improvements. Breweries now employ rigorous testing and quality assurance measures to ensure that every batch meets strict standards. This includes monitoring factors such as alcohol content, pH levels, and microbial stability.


Technology has also played a significant role in modern brewing. Automated systems and computerized controls are used to monitor and regulate the brewing process, ensuring consistency and efficiency. These advancements have allowed brewers to have greater control over the brewing parameters and have paved the way for experimentation and innovation.


Moreover, modern brewing methods have seen the rise of the craft beer movement in China. Craft breweries focus on producing smaller batches of beer, emphasizing quality, creativity, and unique flavors. Craft brewers often experiment with ingredients such as local fruits, herbs, and spices to create one-of-a-kind brews that capture the essence of Chinese culture.


The craft beer movement has also fostered a sense of community and collaboration within the industry. Craft breweries organize beer festivals, tasting events, and beer-pairing dinners, providing opportunities for beer enthusiasts to connect and share their passion for brewing.


Overall, modern brewing methods in China have brought efficiency, consistency, and innovation to the industry. While traditional brewing techniques still hold their place in Chinese culture, the incorporation of modern methods has allowed brewers to expand their offerings and cater to an increasingly diverse market.


Popular Chinese Beers

Beer has gained immense popularity in China, with a variety of domestic and international brands available in the market. From mass-produced lagers to craft brews, Chinese beer enthusiasts have a wide array of options to choose from. Here are some of the most popular Chinese beers:

  1. Tsingtao Beer: Tsingtao is perhaps the best-known Chinese beer brand globally. Founded in 1903, it has become an iconic symbol of Chinese brewing. Tsingtao beer is a light and crisp lager with a mild hop bitterness and a clean finish. It is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike and is often paired with Chinese cuisine.
  2. Snow Beer: Snow Beer is the best-selling beer in China and holds the title of the world’s most consumed beer by volume. It is a light and refreshing lager that gained immense popularity due to its affordable price and widespread availability. Snow Beer’s success is attributed to its marketing strategies and its ability to appeal to the mass market.
  3. Zhujiang Beer: Zhujiang Beer, also known as Pearl River Beer, is a popular beer brand from Guangzhou, in southern China. It is a smooth and easy-drinking lager with a slightly sweet malt flavor. Zhujiang Beer has a strong presence in the southern region of China and is known for its association with Cantonese cuisine.
  4. Harbin Beer: Harbin Beer is one of the oldest beer brands in China, dating back to 1900. It is a full-bodied and malty lager with a rich golden color. Harbin Beer has a loyal following, particularly in northeastern China, where it originated. It is known for its strong flavor and is often enjoyed during the winter months.
  5. Yanjing Beer: Yanjing Beer is a Beijing-based brand that has gained popularity both domestically and internationally. It is a light and crisp lager with a subtle malt sweetness. Yanjing Beer is often associated with Chinese culture and is a favorite choice for many locals and tourists visiting the capital city.

While these are some of the popular Chinese beer brands, it’s worth noting that the craft beer scene in China has seen significant growth in recent years. Craft breweries across the country are pushing boundaries, creating innovative and unique brews that cater to the evolving tastes of Chinese consumers. With a focus on quality, diversity, and creativity, these craft beers are gaining recognition for their distinct flavors and supporting the growth of a vibrant brewing culture in China.


Craft Beer Revolution in China

In recent years, China has experienced a craft beer revolution, with a surge in the popularity of locally brewed artisanal beers. This movement has challenged the dominance of mass-produced beers and has given rise to a new wave of breweries that prioritize quality, creativity, and flavor.


The craft beer movement in China gained momentum in the early 2010s, driven by a growing middle-class population with a taste for premium and specialty beverages. Influenced by international beer cultures, Chinese craft breweries began experimenting with different brewing techniques, ingredients, and styles, capturing the attention of beer enthusiasts and connoisseurs.


One of the significant factors contributing to the craft beer revolution is the desire for authenticity and a sense of uniqueness. Craft breweries in China focus on producing smaller batches of beer, allowing them to maintain higher quality control and offer a wider range of flavors. They often use local ingredients such as Chinese fruits, spices, and teas to create brews that reflect the country’s cultural heritage.


The craft beer movement has also brought attention to the importance of sustainability and community involvement. Many craft breweries in China prioritize environmentally friendly practices, such as sourcing local ingredients and using renewable energy. They actively engage with local communities through events, collaborations, and partnerships, fostering a sense of camaraderie and support within the industry.


Additionally, craft beer festivals have become a popular platform for brewers to showcase their creations and to connect with beer enthusiasts. These festivals attract both local and international breweries, allowing for a vibrant exchange of ideas and a celebration of the craft beer culture in China. Beijing’s “Great Wall of Craft Beer Festival” and Shanghai’s “Beer Carnival” are among the most prominent craft beer events in the country.


While the craft beer scene in China is still relatively young compared to more established markets like the United States and Europe, it is rapidly growing and gaining recognition. Chinese craft breweries have won awards at prestigious international beer competitions, showcasing the level of expertise and innovation within the industry.


However, the craft beer revolution in China is not without its challenges. Craft breweries often face a complex and evolving regulatory landscape that can make it difficult to navigate the industry. In addition, the general consumer awareness and understanding of craft beer and its distinct flavors are still developing, presenting a hurdle for brewers in educating the public.


Despite these challenges, the craft beer revolution in China continues to gather momentum. With a focus on quality, creativity, and community, Chinese craft breweries are redefining the beer culture in the country and carving out a niche in the global craft beer market.


Challenges in the Chinese Brewing Industry

The Chinese brewing industry, both traditional and craft, faces a unique set of challenges that impact its growth and development. These challenges range from government regulations and competition from international brands to consumer awareness and changing market dynamics.


One of the significant challenges faced by the Chinese brewing industry is government regulations. The brewing industry in China is heavily regulated, requiring breweries to obtain various licenses and adhere to strict quality control standards. These regulations can be complex and time-consuming for new and small-scale breweries, creating barriers to entry and hindering their growth.


Competition from international brands is another challenge for Chinese breweries. Global beer giants have a strong presence in the Chinese market, and their mass-produced lagers dominate the shelves of bars and supermarkets. These brands often have significant marketing budgets and established distribution networks, making it difficult for local craft breweries to compete for market share.


Consumer awareness and education about craft beer are still relatively low in China. Many beer drinkers in the country are accustomed to mass-produced lagers and may have limited exposure to the diverse range of flavors and styles offered by craft breweries. Educating consumers and introducing them to the world of craft beer poses a challenge for breweries in building a loyal customer base.


Changing market dynamics, such as shifting consumer preferences and economic fluctuations, add another layer of complexity to the Chinese brewing industry. As tastes evolve and new trends emerge, breweries must adapt and innovate to stay relevant. Economic factors, such as fluctuations in raw material costs and changing consumer spending habits, can also impact the profitability and sustainability of breweries.


Furthermore, distribution and logistics present challenges for breweries looking to expand their reach. China’s vast size and diverse regions make it challenging to establish efficient and cost-effective distribution networks, particularly for smaller craft breweries. Accessing remote areas and reaching consumers outside of major cities can be a logistical hurdle.


Despite these challenges, the Chinese brewing industry has shown resilience and creativity in finding solutions. Craft breweries have embraced collaborations, events, and partnerships to create more visibility and awareness for their brands. Additionally, government initiatives promoting the development of the craft beer industry and the growing interest in local, artisanal products are helping to overcome some of the challenges faced by Chinese breweries.


Overcoming the challenges in the Chinese brewing industry requires a combination of regulatory support, consumer education, innovation, and collaboration. With determination and adaptability, Chinese breweries are navigating these obstacles and contributing to the growth and evolution of the beer culture in the country.


The Rise of Chinese Craft Breweries

In recent years, China has witnessed a remarkable rise in the number and popularity of craft breweries. These independent breweries, often referred to as “nanobeer” or “microbreweries,” have been at the forefront of the craft beer revolution in the country.


Chinese craft breweries have emerged as a response to the dominance of mass-produced beers and a growing demand for unique and high-quality brews. They prioritize creativity, flavor experimentation, and the use of local ingredients to create a diverse range of beers that cater to evolving consumer tastes.


One of the driving forces behind the rise of Chinese craft breweries is the growing middle-class population with an increasing appreciation for premium and specialty beverages. As consumers become more discerning, they seek out craft breweries for their emphasis on quality, innovation, and local production.


The craft beer movement in China has also benefited from the globalization of beer culture. With easier access to international beer trends and the exchange of brewing techniques and ideas, Chinese brewers have been able to learn from and incorporate the best practices of established craft beer scenes around the world.


To foster the growth of the craft beer industry, Chinese breweries have embraced collaboration and knowledge-sharing. This sense of community and camaraderie extends to events like beer festivals, where craft brewers come together to showcase their creations. These festivals have become an essential platform for breweries to connect with consumers and gain exposure.


Moreover, Chinese craft breweries are often deeply rooted in their local communities. They are committed to sustainability and supporting local farmers by sourcing ingredients from nearby regions. This emphasis on local production not only ensures freshness but also strengthens partnerships between brewers and farmers, creating a more sustainable and tightly knit supply chain.


The rise of Chinese craft breweries has not gone unnoticed by the international beer community. The quality and unique flavors of Chinese craft beers have garnered recognition and accolades in prestigious beer competitions worldwide. This international recognition has further boosted the reputation and credibility of Chinese craft breweries.


Despite their success, Chinese craft breweries face ongoing challenges, including regulatory hurdles, intense competition from major beer brands, and raising consumer awareness. However, their dedication to quality, innovation, and community involvement positions them for continued growth and success in the Chinese beer market.


The rise of Chinese craft breweries represents a shift in consumer preferences and a reimagining of the beer culture in China. These breweries are pushing boundaries, fostering creativity, and contributing to the overall development of the craft beer industry both domestically and on the global stage.


Chinese Brewing Culture

Chinese brewing culture is deeply rooted in the country’s rich history and diverse culinary traditions. It encompasses a wide range of beverages, techniques, and rituals that reflect the regional and cultural diversity of China.


At the core of Chinese brewing culture is the appreciation for natural ingredients and the pursuit of balance and harmony in flavors. Traditional brewing techniques prioritize the use of local grains, fruits, herbs, and spices, resulting in unique and distinct flavors that represent different regions of the country.


Chinese brewing culture is closely intertwined with the concept of yin and yang, harmony between contrasting elements. This principle is reflected in the careful balance of flavors, aromas, and textures in Chinese beverages. Whether it’s the nuanced sweetness of rice wine or the complex herbal notes of baijiu, Chinese brewing aims to achieve a harmonious and well-rounded taste profile.


In addition to the beverages themselves, brewing culture in China includes a variety of customs and rituals. For example, the art of toasting, known as “ganbei,” is an integral part of Chinese drinking culture. It is a gesture of goodwill and respect, where individuals raise their glasses and take a sip together in celebration or during important social occasions.


The Chinese also have a long-standing tradition of using alcoholic beverages for medicinal purposes. Throughout history, certain drinks, such as herbal concoctions and fermented tonics, were believed to have therapeutic properties and were used as remedies for various ailments. This interplay between brewing and medicine demonstrates the holistic approach to health and well-being in Chinese culture.


Another aspect of Chinese brewing culture is the social aspect of drinking. Sharing a drink is seen as a way to build relationships, strengthen bonds, and celebrate special occasions. Whether it is a family gathering, business dinner, or festive event, the act of drinking together fosters a sense of camaraderie and connection.


Chinese brewing culture has also been influenced by the global beer culture. As the craft beer movement gains traction, beer festivals and tasting events have become popular platforms for brewers and beer enthusiasts to come together, share knowledge, and celebrate the art of brewing.


Furthermore, Chinese brewing culture is increasingly embracing sustainability and environmental consciousness. Many craft breweries prioritize using locally sourced ingredients and implementing eco-friendly practices, aligning with the broader global trend of sustainable and responsible brewing.


As Chinese brewing continues to evolve, it continues to honor its cultural heritage while embracing innovation and experimentation. The deep-rooted traditions, customs, and flavors of Chinese brewing culture add a distinct and fascinating element to the global world of beverages.


Future of Brewing in China

The future of brewing in China holds immense potential and exciting possibilities. As the craft beer movement continues to gain momentum and consumer tastes evolve, the brewing industry in China is poised for further growth and innovation.


One of the key trends shaping the future of brewing in China is the increasing demand for premium and specialty beverages. As the middle class grows and consumer preferences become more sophisticated, there is a growing market for high-quality craft beers, artisanal spirits, and unique brews that showcase regional flavors.


The craft beer scene in China is expected to flourish, with new breweries emerging and existing ones expanding their offerings. Craft breweries will continue to push boundaries, experimenting with flavor profiles, incorporating local ingredients, and paying homage to Chinese cultural heritage. The craft beer movement in China has the potential to rival more established craft beer markets around the world.


Furthermore, increased consumer education and awareness about craft beer will play a crucial role in shaping the future of brewing in China. As more people become familiar with the diverse range of flavors and styles offered by craft breweries, there will be a greater appreciation for the craftsmanship and creativity that goes into brewing unique beers.


Sustainability and environmental consciousness will also have a significant impact on the future of brewing in China. Consumers are increasingly seeking products that align with their values, such as those produced using sustainable practices, local ingredients, and eco-friendly packaging. Breweries that prioritize sustainability will have a competitive advantage and appeal to a growing segment of environmentally conscious consumers.


Additionally, technology will continue to play a significant role in the brewing industry’s future. From automated brewing systems to innovative brewing techniques, technological advancements will enhance efficiency, quality control, and the overall brewing process. Digital platforms and e-commerce channels will also provide increased accessibility for breweries to reach consumers directly.


The future of brewing in China will also see increased collaboration and partnerships between breweries. Collaboration brews, joint ventures, and knowledge-sharing initiatives will foster a sense of community and contribute to the overall growth of the industry. This collaboration will also extend to international collaborations, as Chinese breweries collaborate with global craft beer pioneers to exchange ideas and create unique cross-cultural brews.


Overall, the future of brewing in China is bright and promising. The industry will continue to evolve and adapt to meet the changing preferences and demands of consumers. With a focus on quality, sustainability, innovation, and cultural heritage, brewing in China is set to make its mark on the global stage and become an integral part of the country’s vibrant culinary landscape.



Exploring the world of brewing in China is a remarkable journey filled with rich history, diverse flavors, and vibrant innovation. From traditional rice wines and baijiu to the craft beer revolution, the Chinese brewing industry has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years.


Throughout ancient and modern times, Chinese brewing techniques have celebrated the use of natural ingredients and the pursuit of balance and harmony in flavors. Traditional techniques coexist with modern brewing methods, creating a dynamic and diverse landscape of beverages.


Popular Chinese beers like Tsingtao, Snow Beer, and Yanjing have gained global recognition, showcasing the country’s brewing prowess. These beers, along with the rise of craft breweries, have revolutionized the Chinese beer market, offering consumers a vast array of unique, high-quality, and locally-produced brews.


Craft breweries have emerged as a driving force in the Chinese brewing industry, embracing innovation, creativity, and community involvement. They continue to challenge the dominance of mass-produced beers and redefine the beer culture in China. With a focus on sustainability, collaboration, and flavor experimentation, Chinese craft breweries are poised for further growth and recognition.


Looking ahead, the future of brewing in China is bright. Increased consumer awareness, rising demand for premium and specialty beverages, and the integration of technology will shape the industry’s growth. Sustainability, community involvement, and the preservation of cultural heritage will remain important pillars of Chinese brewing.


As the Chinese brewing industry continues to evolve and adapt, it presents an exciting opportunity to explore the rich tapestry of flavors, customs, and traditions in Chinese brewing culture. Whether it’s sipping on a traditional rice wine, enjoying a craft beer collaboration, or toasting with baijiu, the world of Chinese brews invites us to embark on a flavorful and immersive journey.


So, raise your glass and celebrate the captivating world of brewing in China, where tradition meets innovation, and every sip tells a story.