A few weeks ago, I met the guys behind 23 Brewing Company 二十三號啤酒有限公司 at Corner Office – one of my favorite American restaurants in Taipei. After beer tasting three refreshing brews (Pale Ale, Natural Blonde, 23 IPA,) I grew intrigued by their story.
Brett Tieman, Matt Inahat and Rob Baumgarten came to Taiwan individually, but crossed paths to discover a passionate common ground: creating meaningful craft beers. Although Taiwan has always been globally known as a hotbed for fostering entrepreneurship (really, which local doesn’t come from a family business of some sort,) building a business like 23 Brewing Company in a foreign country can’t be easy.
I wanted to share their story because the world is becoming smaller today. Meaning that, the idea of designing a life in a country you didn’t grow up in is no longer a bizarre concept. So many of us fall in love with a particular country while traveling and we impulsively decide to stay permanently. Three months often turn into three years. How do they make it work? Fortunately, Brett spills the beers, oops, beans with us:
What brought you guys to Taiwan?
Brett: My wife is from Taiwan. I first visited the island in 2003 for our wedding and was immediately a fan. After several subsequent deliriously brief jet-lagged visits, I finally convinced my wife to move home. We decided to relocate from NYC to escape our 9-5 office job lifestyle and build a business for ourselves. We initially planned to open a restaurant with some friends, but that didn’t pan out. Desperate for a good pale ale, I joined Taiwan’s Home Brew Maniacs Facebook group and started to make beers to suit my taste. I met many people with craft beer entrepreneur visions through the Maniacs – including Matt and Rob – and the timing seemed right to do craft beer.
How did 23 Brewing Company come about?
Brett: We all met in 2013 via Home Brew Maniacs and became fast friends with a mutual love for brewing. Each of us wanted a steady supply of fresh craft draft and so we decided to step up from home brew and make the beer flow on an island-wide scale.
Was breaking into the beer business in Taiwan difficult?
Brett: Creating the actual business entity in Taiwan was not particularly difficult, however, introducing an unknown brand of relatively higher-priced foreign-style beer in a market dominated by a single brand with an ubiquitous product at an unbeatable price point is definitely a challenge. Fortunately there were/are several foreign-owned businesses with patrons desiring flavors from home. Those businesses were willing to take a chance and gave us the client base needed to get some needed traction. Now, we are part of an ever growing wave of locally made foreign beer styles and our industry’s collective challenge is to show and prove to the local cafes, shops, restaurants…etc. that stocking craft beer is smart business.
What are the 3 types of brews you guys make?
Brett: First is the Pale Ale, which is an American pale ale. Then, we make a Natural Blonde, which is American blonde ale. And our American IPA is called 23 IPA.
Hops. Hops. Hops.
How is it being expat-entrepreneurs in Taiwan?
Brett: I would describe the experience as pleasant but often frustrating. The Taiwanese people are famously welcoming and a wonderful community in which to operate; that is the pleasant part. The frustrating part is that we are on an island and none of our primary ingredients are native so sourcing the necessary raw materials and tools requires a lot of advance forecasting. Beyond that, language barrier can create interesting miscommunications in the brew house.
If you were one of the beers you make, which one would you be?
Brett: #1, because I am the #1 pale male.