Author: Malin Norman
In a series of brewery profiles, we will explore some of the innovative breweries around the world. First out is Steppeo, an award-winning brewery in China best known for its Berliner Weisse.
To get an inside view on Steppeo, I talked to Tao Rex Sha, the brewery’s Chief Tasting Officer who I met at the World Beer Awards. Rex is a Certified Cicerone and one of China’s first BJCP beer judges.
First, what is the Chinese beer market like?
The market is complex and has been dominated by five major groups, who account for more than 80% of the total beer production. Although craft beer has only about 1% of the market, as the total consumption of beer is so large the situation for craft breweries is ok.
The development of craft beer in China is unstoppable. The demand for high-quality, personalised and niche products is growing rapidly. It’s no coincidence that our craft beer breweries have won so many international awards. Since 2017, Chinese brands have won more than 200 awards in various competitions around the world.
Just briefly, what is the story of Steppeo?
The founders grew up together in Hohhot. Five years ago, they decided to build a craft beer brand and a modern top-level craft brewery together. They started out with a brewpub in Hohhot and the main Steppeo Brewery was built in September 2018. So far, we also have a brewpub in Shenyang.
As of November 2019, we have brewed 15,000 hl beer in total, using a mashing system from GEA and a bottling system from KHS. Our director, Mr. Wan, has extensive experience in how to build a successful beer business, having set up several breweries for Budweiser and Carlsberg.
What makes this brewery different?
The main difference from other breweries is our philosophy. We value creative marketing, but we always put beer quality first. You can see that in our standard line-up. The seven beers brewed in our brewery are relatively simple styles, and they all have basic beer-style names with no deliberate gimmicks.
Our greatest advantage is that we employ professional people in every position. For instance, our brew master Ralf is from Germany and has 33 years of experience. He is skilled in brewing all kinds of German and Belgian style beers, as well as innovation and breakthrough.
And finally, what about the beers?
Our Weisse has won World’s Best in World Beer Awards 2019, bronze in European Beer Star 2018, gold in International Beer Cup, Asia Beer Championship and Chinese Craft Beer Award, and a few more medals. It’s a 2.5 % ABV Berliner Weisse with Lactobacillus developed in the brewery.
We have six other beers in the line-up; Maibock, American IPA, Belgian IPA, American Stout, Weizen, Witbier. Each has won at least one international award. And we are brewing other styles in our brewpubs, such as Strong Schwarzbier, dry hopped Saison, Rauchbier, strong Berliner Weisse, Eisbock, dry hopped Kolsch, Belgian quadruple and some barrel-aged beer. We also use plenty of local ingredients such as milk tofu, kumis, and sea-buckthorn.
My favourite Steppeo beer is always the next one!
Pictures: Steppeo Brewery