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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Craftiness

 How my daughter must look to a fish

It isn't a common sight here in Taiwan, and thus had to be checked out. On our way into downtown Taichung (Tái​zhōng) 台中 early this afternoon to have lunch, my wife noticed a small sign reading 手工啤酒, Chinese for "craft beer", and an arrow indicating a right turn past a small hardware store. Needless to say, this had to be checked out, and a quick change in our lunch plans was in order. The microbrew in question is brewed by a company called Malt Crystal Biotechnology Co., Ltd. (hardly a mouthwatering name for a brewery)...

...and I had a glass of their "Pure Bavarian Beer":

Though a bit light-tasting for my liking, it went well with the beef-and-rice dish I had for lunch, and it goes without saying that this beer was far better than anything you can find on most Taiwanese supermarket and convenience store shelves. The restaurant's location on a semi-desolate stretch of Jūngōng Road 軍功路 (between Dōng​shān 東山路 and Tài​yuán Roads 太原路) probably helps to explain why microbrews still make up an infinitesimal segment of the Taiwanese beer market.

Suitably fortified with the proper balance of hops and yeast, it was time to dive into the hordes descending upon Taichung's newest addition to the department store scene, the Top City Far Eastern Department Store on Zhōng​gǎng Road 中港路:

Despite the rain, or more likely because of it, the place was packed. There was a long line of cars waiting to descend into Top City's underground garages, so we chose to park nearby in a lot for a flat fee of NT150 ($5.10). To be honest, the store was little different from its next-door neighbor, Shinkong Mitsukoshi 歡迎光臨新光三越百貨, with the exception of two restaurant floors on the 11th and 12th floors. The sanitized recreation of a postwar Taiwan had many people taking pictures:

Other highlights of Top City included the view of Taichung from the 14th floor...:

...while Amber got a kick out of the fish video installation on the 10th floor. Waving your arms around and pretending to throw food would bring the "fish" closer to you (that's Amber waving at the shark swimming away):

Like all good department stores, Top City has a gourmet supermarket in its basement, and it's in these places that my will almost always breaks down:
On the left is yet another Made in Taiwan craft beer, the White Beer from North Taiwan Brewing; in the middle is an Old Foghorn Barley Wine Style Ale, courtesy of San Francisco's Anchor Brewing Company; while the one on the right is a Belgian Amber Ale, Montagnarde. My daughter insisted I get the last one, for reasons which should be obvious. Alas, the onset of a cold will prevent me from enjoying these brews for a couple of days, at least.

Things are starting to look up in the local beer market, though when your most popular beer is Taiwan Beer 台灣啤酒, up is the only direction in which to move. It's going to be a long, uphill struggle, and my advice to the local microbrewers would include not using words like "biotechnology" in your brewery's name; making sure your product is available in more centrally-located dining and drinking establishments; and including locations other than those in Singapore on your website for visitors looking to see where they could enjoy one of your fine brews. 

I'm just sayin'...

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