【WHY NOT BOLD】Female Brewer in Hong Kong Creates Homemade Honey Wine and First Lounge Opening Interviewing with HoWong Brewing and Sea you lounge’s founder

At the bustling Tsim Sha Tsui Pier, where people hurriedly go about their daily routines, there is a place that, if you slow down, you’ll notice— a place for everyone to pause, rest, and find solace. It’s a warmly decorated and exquisitely designed bar called “Sea you lounge.”

Unlike the usual dimly lit bars, this one stands out with its spacious glass doors that offer a clear view of the bar’s interior. Bathed in bright, warm yellow lights, complemented by shimmering spotlights, it creates an inviting and secure ambiance, making you feel at ease as you take your first step into trying their homemade honey wine.

You may have heard of the local Hong Kong craft beer and honey wine brand, “HoWong Brewing,” which actually serves as the prologue to the story of “Sea you lounge.” Today, we have the pleasure of inviting the founders of HoWong Brewing and “Sea you lounge,” Nico and Mabel. Nico is a female Beer brewer, while Mabel takes charge of marketing and brand management.

From Beer Enthusiast to Female Brewer

Nico’s venture into the brewing industry initially stemmed from her passion. She explains, “It all started because I have always enjoyed fizzy drinks. From childhood sodas to developing a taste for beer as I grew older, I’ve always had a fondness for beverages. So, during my studies, I took up a part-time job at a brewery.”

The process of brewing beer is intricate, with each step requiring meticulous attention. Factors such as hop quantities, sugar levels in malt, acidity, and even the temperature of the wort must be carefully controlled. The work encompasses tasks like crushing malt, handling raw materials, and managing centrifuges. Continuous monitoring of temperatures and coefficients is essential, as well as ensuring the cleanliness and hygiene of all pipes and equipment.

Through her firsthand experience in brewing, Nico sheds light on a lesser-known aspect: the demanding nature of being a brewer. She elaborates, “Most of our daily tasks revolve around cleaning and maintaining hygiene. We spend 90% of our time on cleanliness while only dedicating 10% to brewing. During my time working part-time at the brewery, I was the only female among my colleagues; there were no other women. Later on, I realized that female brewers are indeed a minority in the industry.”

Nico believes that the physically demanding nature and frequent heavy lifting involved in brewing may deter women from entering the field. However, Nico herself is an active individual who doesn’t find handling heavy objects challenging. She believes that many health-conscious women in the younger generation possess the necessary physical strength to handle brewing work. The editor also shares the sentiment that despite the arduous brewing process, the satisfaction and joy derived from producing exceptional results can be beyond imagination.

Establishing their own brand stemmed from a pure desire. While some people may meticulously weigh various factors and take a considerable amount of time before making decisions, Nico explains that her fearlessness of failure motivates her to embrace different endeavors. She states, “If I want to do something, I simply go for it. I’m not afraid of making mistakes because overthinking and delaying action may not lead to favorable outcomes either.”

Locally Crafted with Honey: A Commitment to Hong Kong Manufacturing

Mabel then shared the brand philosophy of “HoWongBrewing” explaining why they chose to craft their own beverages using locally sourced ingredients in Hong Kong, even though it incurs higher costs. They took an unconventional approach by targeting the female market. Mabel stated, “When establishing our brand, we wanted to start with Hong Kong as our foundation, highlighting its unique characteristics.

That’s why we decided to set up our production facility here. Despite being a smaller-scale operation, we strive to use locally available materials, such as Hong Kong honey, in our brewing process. We have faith in Hong Kong manufacturing and believe that Hong Kongers can discern the difference.” Mabel emphasized that while using cheaper ingredients might pique initial curiosity, it wouldn’t foster long-term support or a genuine connection with the brand.

During their early days as an online store, “HoWongBrewing” introduced their flagship products: two beers along with their signature honey wine. Surprisingly, the response to the honey wine surpassed their expectations, overshadowing the popularity of their beers. However, the pandemic presented challenges in terms of engaging with consumers directly. To bridge this gap and gain valuable feedback, Nico and Mabel actively participated in various events such as markets, food exhibitions, and pop-up stores. They discovered a strong following among female customers who expressed interest in more diverse flavors of honey wine.

Mabel humorously remarked, “Since I personally have a preference for honey wine, I convinced Nico to focus more on it. Now, it has become our flagship product.” Initially, they introduced red grape honey wine, followed by green grape variants, and eventually expanded their offerings with unique flavors like coffee-infused honey wine and a Hong Kong-style mixed fruit punch honey wine. The mixed fruit punch is a nostalgic reference to a popular beverage among girls in the 90s, often ordered during karaoke sessions. As someone who used to enjoy mixed fruit punch, the mention of it brought a smile to my face.

Starting with their first counter at Eslite Bookstore in Taikoo, they gradually transitioned to face-to-face interactions with customers. Eventually, they opened their first 24/7 bar, providing a cozy setting where customers can savor their own products and establish a more direct connection with the brand.

Their seaside bar in Tsim Sha Tsui, aptly named “Every person has their own sea,” aims to offer a comfortable and relaxed environment for individuals, whether they choose to visit alone or with friends. Unlike typical bars with their noisy, dimly lit, and debaucherous atmosphere, their intention is to create a warm and soothing sanctuary. Just like Nico’s personal favorite, the “Easy Drinking” experience, this place allows you to unwind and enjoy delightful moments with friends.

“If you’re afraid of making mistakes, you’ll even lose the motivation to start.”

After three years in business, transitioning from an online store to owning a bustling day and night bar, Mabel and Nico’s journey feels like a dream come true for most people. Reaching this milestone, they firmly believe that the key mindset is not being afraid to make mistakes. They share, “Don’t fear failure because, more often than not, out of ten things you try, five are bound to fail. But without trying, you won’t gain valuable lessons. For instance, we initially assumed that beer would be the crowd favorite, but our foray into honey wine proved that there’s a huge market among women. Success doesn’t happen overnight; it requires unwavering persistence and determination, with you and your companions supporting each other through thick and thin.”

If you aspires to become a female brewer

Nico acknowledges the traditional male dominance in the brewing industry, given its physically demanding nature. However, he questions the societal boundaries imposed on women’s career choices. He remarks, “These limitations are self-imposed. Nobody dictates that women must adhere to certain roles. So, don’t be afraid to break free from labels and pursue what you truly desire.” Mabel adds that their motivation stemmed from wanting to pursue their genuine interests, and humorously mentions her failed attempt at office work, where she found it impossible to concentrate. Ultimately, they discovered that jobs allowing them to be on the move suited their inclinations better.

The new collaboration series with a Japanese sake brewery in 2024

To commemorate the three-year anniversary of “HoWongBrewing,” Mabel and Nico’s team boldly reached out to a renowned honey wine brewery in Japan for a potential collaboration. To their delight, the negotiations proved fruitful. In early 2024, they embarked on a journey to Japan, joining forces with another esteemed artisanal honey wine brewery. Together, they will craft two exceptional varieties of honey wine, set to be simultaneously launched in Japan and Hong Kong in the near future. They invite everyone to stay tuned and follow the latest updates on the Instagram pages of “HoWongBrewing” (@howongbrewing) and “Every person has their own sea” (@seayoulounge).

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