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Chinese breweries win kudos at European beer awards

By Cecily Liu in Nuremburg, Germany | China Daily UK | Updated: 2018-11-15 23:31
Tsingtao Brewery's pilsner wins a silver award in the German style light beer category at European Beer Star competition in Nuremburg on Wednesday. [Photo/China Daily]

Chinese breweries clinched awards at the renowned European Beer Star competition in Nuremburg on Wednesday, marking a milestone in their international competitiveness.

The 115-year-old Tsingtao Brewery saw its pilsner win a silver award in the German style light beer category, while the two-year-old Huhhot based Inner Mongolia Steppeo Brewery won bronze with its weisse in the sour and fruit sour beer category.

"This award is a stamp of confidence for our beer quality and paves the way for us to gain trust and confidence internationally," said Dong Jianjun, Tsingtao Brewery's vice-president of manufacturing.

Tsingtao Brewery, which generates most of its sales from its flagship lager, in recent years has actively broadened its beer range in response to Chinese consumers' demand for more diversity and sophistication.

Its pilsner was launched to market in 2016 after two years of development. The Tsingtao pilsner taste is lighter compared to more bitter tasting pilsners in Germany.

"Our pilsner follows the tradition and heritage of European pilsner brewing techniques but we've adapted the taste to suit the demand of today's younger generation of consumers. It has already been hugely successful in China and we hope it will find success globally," Dong said.

Xu Jinsong, strategic sourcing director of Inner Mongolia Steppeo Brewery, shared Dong's enthusiasm, adding that he expects many more innovative beers will emerge from China over the coming years in response to consumers' increasing demand for flavor diversity.

With entries from 2,344 beers from 51 countries, the European Beer Star is regarded as one of the most competitive in the industry. Founded in 2004, the competition is hosted by the Association of Small and Independent Breweries in Europe.

The awards are given after 144 drinks industry experts conduct a rigorous two-day blind tasting process. Gold, silver and bronze awards are presented across 65 categories.

Previously, Shangri-la Highland Craft Brewery was the only Chinese brewery to have won in the competition, in 2016.

Improvements in Chinese beer quality have been highlighted by leading German experts.

"Chinese beers are encountering a significant premiumization over the past few years as Chinese consumers become more sophisticated," said Andre Feldmann, director of Asia Operations at Barth Haas Group, a supplier of beer hops.

Werner Globner, director of Doemens Academy, a German school for brewers, said the quality of leading Chinese breweries such as Tsingtao Brewery is now world-leading.

"The quality of Tsingtao's beers is very good compared to the best here in Europe. The clarity of flavors of Tsingtao's beers make them stand out," Globner said.

China is currently the world's biggest beer market. In 2015, Chinese consumers drank about 25 billion litres of beer, compared to 18 billion litres United States consumers drank in that year, according to the research company Euromonitor International.

Although traditionally beer in China was seen as a cheaper substitute to other alcoholic drinks, breweries such as Tsingtao are attempting to change this perception by placing an emphasis on quality and building their international brand.

Tsingtao is one of China's biggest beer exporters. It now sells to more than 100 countries and regions, across restaurants, supermarkets and bars.

Globner said the high quality of Tsingtao's beers provide a strong foundation for its international success, but to become a truly top global brand it still has a long way to go with building up its international sales teams, distribution channels and marketing efforts.

The European Beer Star awards ceremony was held during BrauBeviale, a three-day beer industry trade fair beginning on Tuesday. The festival attracted about 1,100 exhibitors who are mainly brewery equipment makers and beer ingredient suppliers.

A handful of the exhibitors are from China, including Shandong HG Machinery, Ningbo Draft Beer Equipment and the Hefei-based Central International Machinery.

"Chinese breweries' growing international reputation has allowed us to more easily win trust from international customers by telling them we already supply leading Chinese breweries," said He Sheng, general manager of Central International Machinery, which has been exporting to overseas markets since 2006.

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