Leon Mickelson is a stand up guy. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve drunk more than my fair share of his thirst-quenching beer at Kiwi drinks.
Leon is not only one of the most genuine and enthusiastic people you’ll meet here in Shanghai, but he is at the core of shaping the craft beer and cider industry here in Shanghai and China. After a 5-year stint as the “Brew Master” at The BREW Brewery Bar at the Kerry Hotel (Pudong, Shanghai), where he hand-crafted signature beers and a cider in-house, Leon is now going out on his own adventure to make China’s first Craft Cider – Cider Republic – produced in Shandong Province.
Leon, what has been your proudest achievement? Won any awards?
My proudest moment to date is making a very unique sour beer which took out a Gold Medal at the largest annual beer competition in the world (the Australian International Beer Awards), and also a Gold Medal at the Japan International Brewing Awards. The beer was aged in red wine barrels for over a year, before bottling and ageing for another year. I also added peeled pear and lemongrass to the beer to make a lemongrass sour beer – super unique!
How do you decide on flavours and varieties?
I am very lucky to work with fantastic people including award winning Chefs that you can bounce ideas off – I am always trying new flavours, spices, fruits, and ingredients that compliment (and even possibly contrast) the beer profile I envision.
What challenges do you face brewing in China?
All of my ingredients are sourced from the best parts of the world to achieve the best product – so making sure the raw materials are shipped and arrive on time and good condition is the hardest challenge of brewing here. Getting anything out of China is relatively easy. Getting anything into China is a much harder task!
What pointers could you give an aspiring beer brewer in Shanghai?
Work hard, play harder and talk to everyone that has a hand on one of your beer glasses – educate the drinker – this is essential to the future of beer in China.
What are your plans for the (near) future?
Building Cider Republic to introduce apple cider to China – China grows nearly 50% of the worlds apples and I am the first cider brand locally made in the market.
In 1 word, describe your Shanghai experience to date?