United by a mutual adoration for craft beer, the three founders behind Hong Kong’s Mak’s Brewery are bringing new flavours and a taste of their hometown’s traditional culture to the market.
It was both a casual conversation between 3 friends Tak Chi Lo, Po Mak, and Ho Lun Mak (better known as Mark) and a casual start that led to the launch of Hong Kong’s distinctive craft brewery company, Mak’s Brewery, back 2014. With a seemingly endless stream of foreign beers dominating Hong Kong’s beer scene, Po and his co-founders started out experimenting with their own recipes at Po’s home in Yim Tin Tsai, an offshore island in Sai Kung. Their idea was to create an ale for beer lovers that might give them a taste of local culture by using unusual ingredients specific to Hong Kong. Fast forward two years and their beers were popular enough for them to open their own brewery in Tsuen Wan.
The inspiration for the trio’s unusual recipes can be found close to their upbringing. The idea of adding soup ingredients to their brews such as longans, goji berries and dates came from Po’s mother, as she prepared Chinese soup for them whilst they stayed up late at night in the early stages of the business, brewing away until morning. In August 2015, they launched their signature Longan Pale Ale, Sugarcane Stout, and Hefeweizen brews, striking a chord with the local crowd and beyond. Demand shot up as customers came, attracted by the interesting provenance, unusual ingredients, and great taste of Mak’s unique beers. Not long after, Sony even reached out to them with plans of developing a beer together.
As the business got more serious, the friends put clear structures in place, splitting roles on account of their individual strengths. Mark, with his background in accountancy, takes care of internal business affairs, Tak oversees production as the head brewer, and Po is in charge of public relations thanks to his career as an actor and public speaking skills. They have all, however, immersed themselves in the craft of what they do. Whilst studying at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, Po took on homebrewing as a hobby, spending most of his spare time reading books and watching videos on brewing and building a real foundation of understanding before they set out.
By offering a taste of Hong Kong and tapping into the traditional culture through their ingredients, Po firmly believes that Mak’s is not only delivering great tasting ales but also showing off his hometown. “When expats try our flavours, they go for the sugarcane stout because they can associate with what sugarcane is. But, because we’re a local brewery, they can also see the culture we infuse within our beers, so they’re more than likely to explore flavours they haven’t tried before. If they wanted something regular, then they would just stick to Carlsberg or Budweiser.” By March 2017, Mak’s Brewery had grown enough to have a total of 7 different flavours of beers along with an upgraded factory equipped with fermentation chambers. And their initial proposition still stands, as they embark on more local-inspired flavour combinations, such as their recent mint and honeydew.
Whilst their quick growth and distinctive proposition have both held firmly on an up curve, running the business that supports that has not always been easy. The 3 friends have faced considerable problems with finance and time management along the way. To start, “The 3 of us managed to put together HKD$300,000 which came from our own savings and from family,” says Po. Along with this, the trio quit their day jobs in order to devote their attention to the company. However, as the company grew, the 3 had issues utilising their time effectively, especially as the brand really took off. The team would often brew through the night until morning, leaving little time for much else and putting them all under pressure.
Despite the difficulties and struggles, however, the 3 pride-driven founders are unyielding in their goal of promoting locally brewed beer that gives a little taste of Hong Kong. Mak’s Brewery hopes to lead the craft beer movement by infusing each bottle of beer they brew with local traditions and culture, growing both at home and abroad with plans to expand to neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Thailand soon as they continue their quest to make a Hong Kong-grown beer that makes waves on an international market.
Address: Tak Fung Industrial Centre, 168 Texaco Road, Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong
Telephone: +852 6174 7740