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An American made good in China with pub brewery

By Kurt Nagl ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-08-23 07:43:53

The company fosters an "all-local" philosophy, which extends to ingredients and overall atmosphere, says Setzer. They use Chinese hops and locally sourced spices, teas, sugars and other adjuncts. Ingredients like Sichuan peppercorn and Iron Buddha tea are infused into the flavor of some beers, making them a staple for many Chinese locals.

"Some people think that locals only want imported because it is better than the domestic," Seltzer says. "But I thought that for a country so proud and nationalistic, that cannot be true."

When the restaurant first opened, its customers were overwhelmingly expatriates, says Lucia Wang, who handles public relations for the business. But now, she explains, about 55 percent of customers are Chinese. She says locals usually come to the brewpub for lunch or dinner, while expatriates often frequent on the weekends. By about 7 pm on most days, finding a table can be difficult, and it becomes evident why the company is expanding.

"Before we started, nobody knew what potential the market had in Beijing," Setzer says, now in a half-yell as he contends with the sounds of a crowded bar. "We are kind of like a flag bearer."

With plans to open his third Great Leap Brewing location in the Chaoyang District, one might consider Setzer a quick learner. The bearded, heavier set mid-Westerner never envisioned himself brewing beer for a living, much less doing so in China.

"The economic situation in America is horrible if you ask Americans who've never left, but it's wonderful for those who have tried to start businesses overseas," he says. "Unfortunately, the majority of Americans have not and will never leave America, so it's easy to say the system is broken and weighted against entrepreneurs.

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