Venture 75 kilometers (46 miles) outside of Chengdu, Sichuan and you’ll discover some stunning countryside. Since ancient times the Chinese have called this place “the Country of Heaven” for its natural abundance and beauty. It’s in this spot, in the foothills of the Qionglai mountains, that a husband & wife team of two “Wild Westerners” - American Scott Hunt from Utah, and Chinese Carol Li from Sichuan have set up shop: their Wild West Brewery.
出了成都市区，向西驱车1小时20分钟，便到了自古为“天府南来第一州”的邛崃 （qióng lái） 市。这里拥有中国最大白酒原酒基地，更是古代“Brew Girl", 四大才女之一卓文君的故乡。为爱人当垆卖酒并留下千古名句 “愿得一心人，白首不相离”的佳人已逝。而另一段或许平淡却时髦的爱情故事，却把我们带到了这里。
来自美国犹他州的Scott Hunt和来自中国四川的Carol Li夫妻档，在这个绿水环绕的小山城，建造起了一家精酿酒厂，名曰“美西”。两人笑称自己的家乡都位于美丽的西部，所以这个名字再贴切不过。
Wild West Brewery Fast Facts for Beer Nerds
Located in 1100 square meters of industrial space in Qionglai City
WWB is 2300 liters with 4 brewing vessels for brewing multiple batches per day
Their current fermentation capacity is 35,000 liters (35 tons)
WWB is not just set up for national distribution: They also have an on-site taproom
Why Craft Beer?
Co-founder Scott spent 28 years working in semiconductor technology before making the leap to craft beer - but it wasn’t a waste - his work in technology transfers to Asia introduced him to his partner in love and business, Carol. Scott’s background in technology development has also taught him the importance of experimental design, cleanliness and process control to make the same high quality product, every time.
But beer has almost always been a part of his DNA, says Scott. “I’ve always been interested in beer, ever since I was young.” He recalls his first taste of a non-industrial beer in 1984: “I had my first Sam Adams Boston Lager. I thought, ‘Oh wow, there’s a whole new world of flavors out there.’”
Before long Scott was tinkering with craft beer in his own home. Though he spent 21 years brewing for himself, it wasn’t until about five years ago that he decided to really hone his skills. “I started working on recipe development, process control, ‘engineering stuff’,” he explains. “And I also joined a lot of competitions.” Scott didn’t just join these competitions. Between 2011 and 2015, he won a whopping 28 awards - 19 from the state of Utah, where he and Carol were living, and 9 USA National Homebrew Competition awards. By then Scott was clear on what he wanted to do for his second career, so he completed an MBA at the University of Utah in 2013 to prepare for his calling as a craft beer entrepreneur.
Why Craft Beer in China?
It turns out there are at least 4 very compelling reasons to open a brewery in Sichuan, China.
Carol explains the first. “We felt the timing was perfect to enter the China market, as this is an emerging market and China’s demand for quality local craft beer is really taking off. These are exciting times to be in China.”
Secondly, this area in the foothills of the Qionglai mountains boasts incredible water quality. Wild West Brewery is far from the first enterprise to discover this secret - the area has been renowned for its premium baijiu. Water quality is so pristine in the Qionglai foothills that nothing more than a standard filtration system is necessary for the brewing process. Those who have brewed in other parts of China know that in order to achieve quality water, complicating processes like reverse osmosis are usually in order - Scott requires none of that for his Wild West brews. In fact, water samples he brought back to the US for testing revealed something extraordinary: the water in Qionglai shares a mineral profile shockingly similar to that of the water in the ancient brewing hub of Vienna, Austria.
Thirdly, Qionglai’s government has welcomed their business with open arms. “After all the research we did, this place is the most friendly and welcoming city,” says Carol. “It was a good cultural fit for our project. The local government has had a very professional and welcoming attitude. So we feel very comfortable here. We’re very fortunate.”
Finally and most importantly, Scott chose greater Chengdu for their brewery location to fulfill a promise to Carol’s mother: “I promised that we would return,” says Scott. “I’m 7 years late, but better late than never, right?”
Now that Scott and Carol have moved from Utah to Sichuan, swapping the American West for China’s, they’re settling happily into their new home.
Embedded in the local community
The design and layout of the brewhouse and taproom were important to Scott and Carol in their planning. “Our main inspiration was Stone Brewing in Escondito. We visited and decided, this is our dream,” Scott recalls. Carol agrees. “I really like the idea that the fans, the beer drinkers, can see how the beer was brewed. When we built this place, we had that in mind.”
踏入美西的一刻，会有时空交错感，纯正美式风格不仅体现在他们的啤酒里，更在这个空间发挥得淋漓精致。“加州Escondito的Stone酒厂是我们设计的灵感来源” Scott回忆道。 Carol也说：“我们想让客人清清楚楚看到他们杯中的啤酒是如何酿造的。所以在打造酒厂的时候，也确保一切都是开放而明亮的。”
Carol also went out to describe Wild West Brewery’s role in more than the craft beer community, but also the local economy and ecosystem. “[Our operations] have to be environmental-friendly. Take much less, bring more,” she says. Wild West Brewery, for example, has teamed up with a local steam plant to take advantage of their resources. They’ve installed a line running from the steam company to the brewery not only to save on costs, but also to save on the energy of maintaining their own generators. The steam plant uses byproducts from local farms to create steam, a much more eco-friendly process than farmers openly burning their waste in their own fields. In teaming up with the steam plant, Wild West Brewery becomes part of this local eco-chain, and, as Carol adds, “We are using a very clean, effective natural resource.”
We all want to know: what’s on tap?
What can you drink at the Wild West Brewery? Scott & Carol gave TheBrewGirl a taste of what’s on tap:
Silky Blonde Ale
4.5% ABV, 27 IBU
This is a very easy drinking beer with low alcohol content and low bitterness. Its smooth and refreshing taste makes it an ideal “transition beer” for beginners, and its full-flavored malts make it an enjoyable session ale for more experienced drinkers.
Pale Morning Ale
3.5% ABV, 30 IBU
This session pale ale is only 3.5% ABV, meaning you really can enjoy one in the morning if you so prefer. The interesting story behind this easy-drinking beer takes us back to Scott’s native Utah, where stringent alcohol laws prohibit the brewing of beers over 4% ABV. It’s actually more challenging to brew beers at a lower ABV, and so Utah’s brewers have had to overcome this challenge to make a tasty, full-bodied craft beer that is also legal. Scott calls this brew his tribute to those intrepid Utah brewers.
Misty Mountain Pale Ale
5.2 % ABV, 37 IBU
This American-style pale ale is made with citrusy Centennial hops (in the craft brewing industry known lovingly as “Cascade hops on steroids”) as well as a bit of Simcoe hops. This divine balance between hops and malts is the flavor profile that really started the craft beer revolution in America - and it remains one of Scott’s favorites.
5.4% ABV, 14 IBU
This brew is based on the Belgian-style witbier, which means it’s very low bitterness and incorporates orange peel and coriander. However, in a tribute to the nation that birthed it, this witbier is extra-special: it incorporates Sichuan numbing peppercorns (huajiao) and Qionglai orange peels. Unlike other “lajiao beers”, these flavors are very well integrated. The huajiao mixes well with the coriander, as if the flavors are bouncing off of one another. Though the huajiao is obvious on the nose, the taste is well balanced, refreshing and light - the perfect complement for an authentic Chengdu hotpot dinner.
Stone Forest IPA
6.5% ABV, 60 IBU
This American-style West Coast IPA is a big and bold craft beer flavor profile that American craft beer nerds love and is quickly gaining popularity here in China. Scott has spent years tweaking this recipe to achieve his ideal IPA. Brewed with 7 different kinds of hops, the result is a floral nose and a sip that reveals complex yet well-balanced flavors.
Cloud 9 IPA
6.7 % ABV, 45 IBU
This American-style East Coast IPA is currently all rage in the US and beyond. It’s softer and more juicy-fruity as compared to its West Coast cousin. The grain bill, specific yeast variety, along with a unique hopping scheme result in a deceivingly smooth, fruity, cloudy, juice bomb of a beer.
This all sounds delicious - where can I get my hands on some?
There are also many more new and interesting beers in the planning/development stages. Scott plans to incorporate lots more indigenous and unique Chinese ingredients into his recipes. The end goal is to create wonderful beers that are truly Chinese! Luckily, we may not have to wait much longer to try Wild West Brewing in Shanghai and other cities around China.
“We’re starting off in Chengdu, trying to get local distribution there,” explains Scott. “We also have distribution lined up in Wuhan and Shanghai.” The challenge is their mode of distribution: For now, Wild West Brewery does not bottle, they produce kegs. “Our distribution is limited to cities and bars that know how to handle craft beer - unfiltered, unpasteurized craft beer… It requires knowledge on how to handle the beer. Cold chain requirements, draft system knowledge and maintenance, et cetera. So we’re going to be selective on where our beer lands. We’ll expand our distribution later when we get into bottles or cans.”
不久的将来，全国的酒粉们也许都能喝上美西啤酒，但酒厂似乎并不愿意先跑后走。尽管已经取得了瓶装执照，美西目前的销售仍以生啤为主。“我们主场在成都，同时经销武汉及上海。” Scott解释说 ：“对经销商的要求高，使得我们布局较缓。我们的合作伙伴必须懂得怎样好好对待精酿-- 未过滤，未巴杀的啤酒... 很多酒吧和从业人员还不能做到这一点。全程冷链，生啤系统，售后维护...这些都是挑战。我们必须为消费者把关，确定他们能在对的地方，对的时间喝到我们的啤酒。接下来，我们才去考虑装瓶，装罐，扩大市场。”
If you're lucky enough to live in Sichuan, you can visit their original location in Qionglai City, or find their new Chengdu taproom set to open in July.
If your city doesn’t make the list, you’ll also be able to find Wild West Brewery on the festival scene. TheBrewGirl met them at Shanghai’s recent Beernanza, and they’ll be at Hong Kong’s Beertopia festival in November.
Finally: What are your favorite food pairings?
Scott suggests mala tofu with a Stone Forest IPA. Instead of numbing the mouth, the peppercorns enhance the intensity of the hops. “I had more taste sensation than ever before,” Scott explains. “It had so many distinct flavors from the hops that I normally don’t get.”
And Carol’s suggestion? “Rabbit heads, duck heads, pig feet,” she grins. “Everything Americans don’t eat, I love. And I love my food paired with a glass of cold beer.”
Watch our interviews and take a tour of the brewery with Scott!
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