Though it seems counterintuitive, we begin part two of our Taiwan Beer Exploration not by heading south from Taipei City, but by heading north to Keelung (a small harbor city on Taiwan’s northernmost tip) to celebrate a craft brewery calling that city home. (Read also:Taiwan’s Craft Beer Scene (Part One))
A Craft Brewery Grows in Keelung
From the fashionably uncool port city of Keelung comes Taiwan Terroir, a brewer with the mission of creating craft beers honoring local customs and tradition by working with farmers to develop eco-friendly farming techniques. Like the city they call home, Terrior is small but definitely unique, and their beers represent Keelung in both name and flavor.
Included in their offerings are Chaojing Seaweed Ale, a bright amber with herbal, wild honey, and yes, a bit of seaweed. (Naturally this beer goes well with seafood, found in Keelung in abundance!) Terroir also makes a dark brown Keelung Craft Beer, an ale with red wheat, dried longan, caramel aromas, sweet rhyme and bitter finish. Their Red Wine Beer is a medium body light brown amber with tropical fruit and malt aromas, while their Dark Ale is dark and strong (7% alcohol, as opposed the the 5-and-change of Terrior’s other offerings) with an almost charcoal-coffee flavor. (Read more: Keelung: Seaport City of Deep Character)
From Keelung, a short hop down the east coast brings us to Yilan, known for scenic beauty, good hot springs and, thanks to the incredibly popular Kavalan distillery, whisky. But if our single entry from Yilan have anything to say about it, Taipei’s bucolic eastern neighbor will soon be known for craft beer as well.
Yilan: Good Mountains, Good Water, Good Beer!
Being nestled in valley between the Central and Snow Mountains gives Jim & Dad’s Brewery automatic status in Taiwan; Taiwanese folks tend to trust agricultural products born in natural areas with an abundant supply of fresh water. That J&D’s nearest alcohol-producing neighbor is the prestigious Kavalan distillery doesn’t hurt their reputation either. But none of this would mean anything if it weren’t for the fact that Jim & Dad’s produces an abundance of truly excellent and supremely drinkable beers.
Topping the list at potency is their Rum Barrel-aged Barleywine, which at 12.5% ABV is definitely not for the faint of heart. This brew is made from barley and imported malts ripened in rum barrels from the Caribbean. Slightly sweet but still refreshing, this is probably a good beer to drink if you’re having only one. Far lighter is their Kumquat Pale Ale, a wheat bar with just a hint of Fresh-squeezed Kumquat Juice, their Cold-brewed Coffee Amber made with German red malt and ice-brewed coffee, and their Summer Mosaic, a malt pilsner with a tropical fruit aroma. (All three of these beers weigh in at around 5% ABV, making them good choices for longer occasions.)
Jim & Dad’s aptly-named Dark Beer uses two shades of dark malt, designed to bring out the baked aroma and smoky flavor of the dark malt. And lovers of IPA’s will love their deeply hoppy Hop Bomb IPA, which tastes like the sort of beer you’d drink while riding a unicycle around Portland, Oregon. Jim & Dad’s brewery is open daily, and plans are in the works to offer pub-style food in the future alongside their various excellent beers. (Read more: Just Passing Through: 5 Taiwan Urban Layovers)
Having covered the beer scene of Taiwan’s north, we move down south to explore some of the craft breweries popping up in Taiwan’s deep south. While the list is definitely way smaller, we expect to see more breweries coming out of southern Taiwan in the near future as more northern beer pros are lured south by cheaper rents and the ever-increasing coolness of Taiwan’s banana, sugarcane and mango belt.
Beers of Tawan’s Deep South
Takao Beer is brewed in Kaohsiung and has enjoyed some notable recent successes, with its beers cropping up on the shelves of Carrefour and other supermarket chains across Taiwan (as well as many craft beer shops). Takao celebrates the flavors of southern Taiwan with a variety of bubbly, fun beers like their Honey Bubble and Passion Fruit, along with more traditional Dark Ales and lager beers. They’re a small operation located close to Kaohsiung Airport, but their base of operation still makes for a great place to visit. Less a brewery and more a bar / shop, factory tours can be arranged if you contact them in advance. Should you visit on a whim you’ll be able to do some beer tasting in-store as well as buying their products. For craft beer fans in the Kaohsiung area, a visit to Takao HQ is definitely worth the trip! (Read more: 5 things to do in Kaohsiung)
Pingtung’s Hengchun is known for being one of the last towns in the Qing dynasty to have a wall put up around it, both to protect residents from Japanese Pirates and restive local tribes who weren’t particularly happy with Han incursions. If the wall (parts of which you can still visit) represents Old Hengchun, then Hengchun 3000 Brewery represents the young spirit of Taiwan’s southernmost county. This small-town brewery makes a surprisingly large variety of excellent craft beers, including its signature Hejie, a strong and hoppy American Style IPA and South Bay, a lighter American style Pale Ale.
The company honors its local roots with South Gate (a dark beer named after the town’s famed wall), Baisha (a Czech-style pilsner named for the white sands of the nearby beach) and Kenting Hoppy Lager, named (naturally) for the nearby party town of Kenting, home of Taiwan’s famous Spring Scream Music Festival. Other locally inspired beers include Hengchun 3000’s Mudan Gruit (an unusual herbed Ale), its Man Jhou Cream Ale, and its super-strong Mt. Da Jian (a delicious Belgian Tripel). The brewery welcomes visitors, so if you’re in Hengchun, feel free to drop by.
For our final stop in Taiwan’s deep south we’ll head north up the coast just a bit and catch the ferry to the beautiful island of Xiao Liuqiu. (Read more:10 reasons to visit Xiao Liuqiu, Taiwan’s Hidden Island Gem)
Visitors to the island may notice one particular canned beer in stores, bars and guesthouses around the island that they’ve not likely seen anywhere else in Taiwan. This is Captain Beer, a beer brewed specially for (and only available on) Xiao Liuqiu. Captain Beer’s two canned varieties are it’s draft beer (the blue can) and it’s much lighter fruit beer (the pink can). Though hardly as complex as most of the other beers on our list, both are eminently drinkable, and go perfectly with the laid-back vibe of Xiao Liuqiu. The company also seasonally bottles a limited edition English Pale Ale and a German Lager, which you’ll sometimes find on shelves next to the cans.
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