How Does The Beijing Craft Beer Scene Make 8×8=136?

craft beer china 8x8 project bw

You don’t need to be an Einstein to appreciate the answer.

On October 26 & 27, the 8×8 China Brewing Project returns to Beijing for its second year. It features eight special beers brewed by eight craft breweries from Greater China, in collaboration with eight craft breweries from a different region of the world each year.

The 8×8 festival is organized by Jing-A Brewing Co., an award-winning craft brewery founded in Beijing in 2012 by two North American expatriates, Alex Acker and Kristian Li. Jing-A brews a wide variety of beers, but has developed a reputation for its bolder styles and Chinese-inspired interpretations, such as their Airpocalypse Double IPA and Guizhou Smoked Chili Porter.

craft beer china 8x8 project poster

Pushing the envelope is Jing-A’s limited release ale-baijiu hybrid, Qu Brew, which was created two years ago to celebrate World Baijiu Day. Last year, Jing-A released Mijiaya, a collaboration with Hong Kong’s Moonzen Brewery to reproduce a Chinese Neolithic ale. The recipe was based on ancient pottery residues retrieved from a site outside Xi’an that was analyzed by Stanford University and Shaanxi archeologists.

Looking for the next challenge, Acker and Li decided it was time to organize a beer festival of their own. Beijing, however, is no stranger to craft beer festivals. There’s the annual China International Craft Beer Festival hosted by Imbeer and Great Leap Brewing’s acclaimed Beijing Invitational Craft Beer Festival, to name just two. What could they do that would be different, special?

Since Avery and Russian River released their Collaboration Not Litigation Ale in 2006, collaboration beers have become ubiquitous. They are popular, both from a creative perspective and as a way to express the camaraderie of the craft beer community, never mind that collaborations also spur sales.

Collaboration brewing has also become a trend in China. It began with Great Leap and Boxing Cat Brewery in August 2012 when they released the country’s first such beer. Their 5.2% Yunnan Amber featured three malts and three hop varieties to create a simple, yet flavorful beer that has a late infusion of Dianhong black tea from Yunnan province.

Since then, collaboration brews have not only flourished between brewers in China, they have increasingly reached out to craft brewers in other parts of the world, including Europe and North America. This international meeting of the minds was Li and Acker’s inspiration for the 8×8 China Brewing Project.

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The 8×8 2017 collaboration brewers visit the Great Wall of China. (Source: Daniel Dumbrill, TAPS)

Rather than just organizing and hosting an open collaboration beer festival, Jing-A acts more like a combination of marriage broker and curator. First, they choose a region of the world to present. Then, they select eight of their breweries to match with eight breweries in China. After the introductions are made, it’s up to the paired brewers to independently develop a recipe over the summer and test it out.

The eight collaboration beers are released for the first time at the festival in Beijing in autumn. Not only may this be the first time the foreign brewers have traveled to China, it could even be the first face-to-face meeting with their China counterparts. It’s also a great opportunity to be directly introduced to Chinese craft beer drinkers, should they be interested in exporting in the future.

Eight beers do not make a festival. To fill out the roster, each brewery also brings eight of their own beers to feature. That means 8×8 is, in fact, 8 x (8 + 8) + 8 = 136. This is broken down into four sessions spread over two days where at each, the 16 breweries will pour their collaboration beer and two of their own. While each session offers 40 beers, you’ll have to attend all four to try every beer.

To ensure there’s something for everyone, Jing-A puts careful consideration into selecting a well-rounded mix of styles for each session. Beer geeks will also appreciate that all of the brewers will be on hand to relate the stories behind the brews.

Last year, Acker and Li chose to showcase the Pacific Northwest for the inaugural 8×8 China Brewing Project because of its pioneering role in craft brewing and Jing-A ‘s relationships with Cascadian brewers, such as Boneyard. This year, Nordic countries will be highlighted.

craft beer china 8x8 project

Shangri-La and Nøgne Ø brewing their first collaboration batch in Deqen, Yunnan. (Source: Shangri-La Highland Brewery)

8×8 China Brewing Project 2018
October 26 & 27
Yushe Entertainment Space, Building 16, Langyuan Vintage
No. 6, Tonghuihe North Road
Chaoyang, Beijing

¥258 (single session), ¥988 (all-session pass)

Participating Breweries
Jing-A (Beijing)
No. 18 Brewing (Wuhan)
Shangri-La (Deqen)
Taiwan Head Brewers (New Taipei City)
Trip Smith (Guiyang)
Wild West Brewery (Chengdu)
Xian Brewery (Xi’an)
Young Master Ales (Hong Kong)
Amager Bryghus (Denmark)
Brewski (Sweden)
Dugges Bryggeri (Sweden)
Kex Brewing (Iceland)
Nøgne Ø (Norway)
Põhjala Brewery (Estonia)
Stigbergets Bryggeri (Sweden)
To Øl (Denmark)

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A Canadian writer with a passion for travel, craft beer, and gastronomy. With my Great Hop Forward project, I am currently focused on combining those interests in China.

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