Lager than life: 3 craft beer brands born in Shanghai

We sat down with the owners of three craft beer brands that were born in Shanghai and as the beer flowed, so too did their riveting stories...

Colourful assortment of Shanghai Love brews. Photo courtesy of Shanghai Love
By Michael MacLaren

It’s true Oktoberfest has come to a close, but with so much great beer in this city, does the boozing ever stop?

When it comes to craft beer, a single sip is sometimes enough to make us wonder...

“Who is the mastermind behind this magical potation?”
“How did the maker get into the industry?”
“And why is craft beer so darn tasty?!”

We sat down with the owners of three craft beer brands that were born in Shanghai and as the beer flowed, so too did their riveting stories...



By Jerry Liu


Jerry Liu. Photo by Mattias Isaksson

Jerry is the mastermind behind craft beer brand Brewlosophy. Longtime residents of Shanghai might remember how the brand used to have a cozy taproom on Yanping Lu. These days, however, Jerry is focusing on distributing his products to bars and keeping events well-watered.


Tell us what got you into beer.

I started drinking beer during my fraternity days back in college. As many college students are wont to do, I mainly drank cheap lagers, and when I graduated, I continued to drink them.

Then, I discovered Dogfish IPA in 2010. It blew my mind and broadened my palette — a bitterness bomb with deep and complex flavors. That’s when it all started.

I’m from one of the great craft beer cities of the world: Austin, Texas. Austin hit its peak craft beer craze in 2012 with countless breweries and biergartens opening up around town. Every weekend it was a different brewery and different beers, but always a great time.

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A cold one. Photo by Mattias Isaksson


When did you start making your own beer?

I met Kellyn Barnes, the founder of a popular brewery called Thirsty Planet, while rock climbing. Kellyn was my craft beer mentor and information guy. I got into brewing beer on the weekends with his guidance. Having a pro who was willing to give me advice really helped me skip the steep learning curve. I used beer as an escape from my corporate job, and found myself brewing for at least eight hours nearly every weekend.


Sean Brady (Sad Gorilla Club) and Jerry Liu getting up to no good. Photo by Mattias Isaksson


When did you realise you wanted to make it more than a hobby?

I was getting weighed down by my soulless corporate job. Thinking about staying in that office and wasting away for 10 to 20 years scared me, and I decided to make a move. The question rose: what then? Beer seemed to be the natural choice.

Around this time, I gave a colleague, who really knows his stuff, a beer I’d made in a cooler at home. He was shocked that I’d made it myself and said he’d be willing to pay for it. Getting that feedback from someone who knows beer was all the confirmation I needed and I never looked back.


Being mad flavour scientists. Photo by Mattias Isaksson


What’s the best part about making beer?

Why do I keep doing it? So I don’t have to go back to corporate. *Laughs* I guess part of it is the inner pride of making something myself and the desire to help others understand beer, especially in Shanghai. People here have been somewhat exposed to craft beer, but a lot of it isn’t done well, or after the journey of being imported, loses its quality. I feel like many people here have the wrong impression of craft beer, especially IPAs, and I want to change that. When you see someone finally get it, there’s no better feeling.


The Gaudi Cold Mosaic IPA and the Mencius New Zealand Pilsner


Atelier Izakaya, The Cannery, The Drinkery (Wuding Lu), Muse Penthouse, Tap That, The Upper Room, Yaya’s.


Sad Gorilla Club

By Sean Brady


Sean Brady. Photo by Mattias Isaksson

With a name like Sad Gorilla Club, it’s easy to see why this craft beer brand co-founded by Sean Brady has made a splash in the craft beer scene. In fact, Sad Gorilla Club just celebrated its one-year anniversary last weekend. Read on if you’re just as curious as we were about the reason for the brand’s name.


What got you into beer?

I started drinking beer when I was 15 back in Scotland. Back then, you could just walk into a bar and order a beer, and no one carded or cared. I usually just drank cheap lagers like Tennent’s. That changed when I was 18 and my brother came back from university. He got me to try something called Deuchar's IPA. I thought, 'Holy sh*t,’ beer can taste really different.'

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Pints = the new smartphone stands. Photo by Mattias Isaksson


When did you start making your own beer?

When I first came to Shanghai I’d go to places like Beer Lady and Stone. My brother was already here and also likes craft beer. He’d have me try all sorts of different beers with unique flavors. He was working for Witchcraft at the time and I’d help him out at events and festivals.

Then I got into doing sales and marketing for a big beer company and realised I could do my own thing better. When Covid hit, the company couldn’t keep it going; that’s when I decided to strike out on my own.

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Sean Brady and friend James slipping off the peels. Photo by Mattias Isaksson


How did you come up with your brand name?

It’s kind of a random story. I was half-listening to some friends’ conversation and they said that professional wrestler Eddie Guerrero had died, but I misheard his name as, ‘Eddie Gorilla.’ Then Harambe died a few years later and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s sad.’ So, I said to my friend, ‘Him and that Eddie Gorilla should form a club,’ and my friend looked at me all confused and said, ‘What?’ That’s how the name Sad Gorilla Club was born.


What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about building your own beer brand?

I’ve found out that the liquid is very important, but only gets you about 20% of the way. Marketing is what gets you the rest of the way.

Think about having a book in a bookstore; what makes people pick your book? It’s the story, and the story in my case is unique branding. You always need to be creating new and interesting things to put somewhere between the front and back cover of that book, otherwise it’s just a pamphlet called 'a beer company.' What I really enjoy about making beer is always thinking, ‘What am I going to do to make it interesting this time?’


Hazy IPA


Tap That, Come Out (出来喝酒), Bastard, Yaya’s, Beer Temple, Dehuan (得欢), Hops Rover (探花精酿), One Way Street, The Upper Room and Before Midnight.


Shanghai Love

By Kia Parsai


Kia Parsai. Photo courtesy of Shanghai Love

A familiar face at Shanghai Love on Maoming Beilu,Kia Parsai hails from Santa Barbara, California, and also has a lager brand called Cita. Find out how the family business helped Kia get one foot in the door of the big and brash world of beer.


When and how did beer become a big part of your life?

It started about 30 years ago in Santa Barbara, where my family owned a small supermarket with a wide selection of beer and spirits — think liquor store on steroids. We were located right by a university that was a big party school, so people were drinking tons of beer. At one point, we were the biggest retail supplier of beer in California. That was my introduction to beer and, more specifically, craft beer.

My first experience with craft beer was Sierra Nevada, a local California brewery. I fell in love with it and how the hoppiness and bitterness gave way to a whole new tapestry of flavours. I became addicted. Around the same time, IPAs started to become a thing, with California at the epicentre. It was almost impossible to not be into craft beer.

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Shanghai Love's taproom on Maoming Bei Lu. Photo courtesy of Shanghai Love


When did you start making your own beer?

About 9 years ago. I started a beer company in China with another partner. One thing led to another and all of a sudden, I found myself doing everything: brewing, marketing, all of it. That’s when I decided to start my own company.


Colourful assortment of Shanghai Love brews and a group shot at a 'Love Wins' party. Photos courtesy of Shanghai Love


What’s your favourite part about having your own beer brand?

At the beginning, it was the excitement of bringing something different and new to the market. When I first started doing craft beer, we were one of the only ones selling to bars, restaurants and hotels. I like the business side more than the brewing side, to be honest. I want the final say in the recipe, but don’t want to just brew. Collaborating with big names like Stone and coming up with creative recipes like barrel-aged beers and unique events: those are my favorite things about having my own craft beer brand.

We’ve also done a lot with the community in Shanghai. We’ve worked with the LGBT community, doing events like our ‘Love Wins’ campaign. Another big event is our 'Brew For Love' charity beer festival. I always want to focus on giving back to the community and supporting locals. The craft beer movement has always been about redefining tired traditions and not sticking to the rules. That’s what it’s all about.


Shanghai Love Coconut IPA and Cita India Pale Lager


Shanghai Love Taproom and various bars, restaurants and hotels around town.

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