It's probably not a great surprise that Beijing, the third-largest city in the world, has a couple of breweries. It is a surprise, however, that one of them has a connection right here in Central Oregon.
Jing-A Brewing Co., which opened its own facility and taproom in China's capital a couple years ago after a period of gypsy brewing, made its official stateside debut at the Oregon Brewers Festival a few weeks back. Beers on offer included Hu-Tong Clan, a 9 percent dark IPA with Pacific Northwest hops and Chinese ginger, and Eightfold Path, a heavy imperial stout. Both were collaborations with Bend breweries—the first with Boneyard, the second with 10 Barrel/Elysian—and that's chiefly because Jing-A co-founder Alex Acker has family in Bend who he visits regularly.
"I honestly think Bend has one of the best craft beer scenes in the world," Acker said. "Just an amazing collection of breweries, all innovating and motivating each other to try new things and improve. And at the same time, everyone I've met in the industry here is super down-to-earth and friendly. Plus, it doesn't hurt that you can't find a more beautiful place to enjoy a beer."
Jing-A, the clientele of which Acker estimates is about half native Chinese and half expatriates, is part of a small but growing beer scene in the metropolis. "In terms of ingredients, things have actually improved quite a bit over the last couple years," Acker noted. "We have great access now to Yakima Valley, as well as NZ/Australian/EU hops. In a way, it seems we may even have better access to hard-to get-varieties (Mosaic, Nelson Sauvin, etc.), maybe because of quotas set for the Asian market. Fresh/whole-flower hops are another story, though, of course."
The Bend-brewed version of Hutong Clan should be available locally before too long, but curious beer fans will have to wait a while for Jing-A's latest 10 Barrel collaboration—it's a Brettanomyces-yeast beer, and so will be sitting in fermentation for the next eight to 12 months. In the meantime, if any local brewers have a taste for adventure, Jing-A is hiring a head brewer—check jingabrewing.com for details. "The craft beer scene is taking off incredibly fast there," Acker said, "and there's just an amazing selection of local spices, fruits, and culinary traditions to play with. So reach out if you're up for a bit of adventure!"