The third edition of the Shanghai International Beer Festival kicks off on April 18 at the Wharf Bund Promenade! We had a chat with The Minh Nguyen, the manager and co-founder of the organizing company, Bevex, to see what we can look forward to at this year’s fest.
Please tell us something about you, how you came to be in China, and how you came to set up Bevex.
I was born and raised in France, my parents emigrated to France during the Vietnam war and the funny thing is that growing up, I became more accustomed to drinking wine than beer. Fast forward a few years later, after graduating from the Kellogg School of Management, I got recruited by AB-Inbev (Budweiser) to work in their sales department in Shanghai. After that first introduction to the beer industry, I joined Dxcel as their marketing director to lead the development of the American craft beers that the company was promoting in China. Back in 2012, the craft and imported beer industry was gaining momentum in Shanghai and we could feel that the beer consumers were looking for a big scale beer festival that could offer them a wide selection of beers in a fun and interactive environment. It is around that time that we decided to launch a beer festival. We wanted to create a different kind of festival that would not look like the stereotypical German Oktoberfest that you can find in so many cities throughout China. In 2014, we decided to set up Bevex to better support the growth of the beer festival. Currently, the beer festival takes 75% of my time.
We hear this will be the first time you’re having a beer awards. Tell us about that.
One paradox that we faced in China is that the biggest beer drinking country in the world did not have any international beer award. Consequently, we decided to launch the first international competition at the beer festival. This is the first time that China will host an international beer competition and it will be a great opportunity to shine the light on the development of imported beer and local craft beers in China. This award will be organized by Bevex with the participation of the BA (Brewers Association) and we are flying international judges to join our judge panel. Having Bob Pease the COO of the Brewers Association as one of our judge gave tremendous credibility and legitimity to that competition. This competition is a huge milestone to acknowledge the beer industry in China. Close to 200 different beer brands will be competing in 7 different categories.
How will this year’s event differ from in year’s past?
This festival will be presented by Stella Artois our title sponsor. The marketing department of Stella Artois has helped us to further promote the festival. During the festival, Stella Artois will host a variety of exciting hospitality and entertainment programs, including the opportunity to win a VIP Wimbledon experience. Stella Artois will award one lucky draw winner a complete travel and lodging package to attend the Wimbledon in the UK this Summer.
What can we look forward to at this year’s beer fest?
This year will be more focused on an interactive fun environment. We want our visitors to further interact with our entertainers. Consequently, we brought out more DJ’s and dancers to make the crowd dance, more free games that will be animated by our entertainers, a wider selection of food and beers…And most importantly more toilets…
How has Shanghai’s beer scene changed from when you first arrived in Shanghai until now?
Back in 2011, the choice of beer was limited and the major international beers represented in Shanghai were either from Germany or Belgium. The microbrewery scene only had a handful of microbreweries with pioneers such as Shanghai Brewery or Kaiba -a Belgium beer bar-. Now, the scene has grown tremendously if you go to the Taphouse, you can find more than 18 different types of beers on taps. There are now roughly 15 microbreweries in Shanghai and more than +100 beer brands that can be found in bars and restaurants. The diversity has grown and you can find beers from all over the world such as Brazil, Australia, France, Czech Republic, US Craft beers, England etc… We can definitely see that the local consumers have migrated from locally brewed beers to more international beers that are either imported or to local microbreweries. Surprisingly, one segment of these consumers that have been particularly reactive are Chinese young professional women. It is not unusual to see big groups of women gathering in bars to try new beers. In some bars, 70% of the customers are women! This is also reflected in the demographics of our festival where half of our visitors are women.
What impact will the beer fest have on Shanghai’s beer scene?
We wanted to show to the Chinese consumer that beer is an international beverage. Every country has great beers and that is what we settled to do by offering beers coming from more than 24 countries and having more than 100+ different beer brands. The keyword for us was “International”, we offered to the visitors of our festival, the widest selection of international beers, international music and international food. For our first beer festival, we expected to have 5,000 visitors but we were very surprised to see 14,000 people show up to our festival gate! Since then, the festival has quickly grown and we are expecting more than 30,000 people for the next edition. We hope that after the beer festival, some of these visitors will continue experiencing new varieties of beers.
You’re expecting 30,000 visitors this year, 7,000 more than at the last beer fest. To what do you attribute this increase?
A simple formula, the visitors have understood that the SIBF provides great entertainment at a very reasonable price. The entrance ticket is only 50RMB including one bottle of Stella Artois. This ticket gives you access to the greatest beers in China. You can dance on the Bund to the sound of China’s best DJ on the biggest outdoor dancefloor along the Huangpu River with a direct view on the Pudong Skyline surroundered by all of your friends. It does not get much better than that. This festival is on its 3rd Edition and the visitors have understood that every time they come, they will expect a more interactive and a better experience than the last edition. Thanks to the social medias, most of our promotion is done through our visitors’ word of “mouse”. There are many shanghai international beer festival groups on Weibo and on facebook. One thing that I have learnt organizing the SIBF is that visitors do not come alone to a beer festival.
Sample more than 100 beers from 24 countries at the 3rd edition of the Shanghai International Beer Festival, happening this weekend, April 18-20, at Wharf 1846.
600 Waima Lu, near Maojiayuan Lu (外马路600号, 近毛家园路)
For more information, visit http://www.shbeerfest.com