Breaking Beer: One Man’s Brew

After a successful career in the chemistry related industry, leo luo had realized that there’s more to life than money. Beer was his missing ingredient.

When you are proficient in chemistry, what direction will you take for a new career? The former teacher, Walter White chose to make drugs for his family to have money. Similar but completely different, the previous grain and oil factory boss, Leo Luo chose to make craft beer because of his interest.

Majored in Industrial Foreign Trade at a college where the bioengineering major ranks top three in China, as well as having worked for China National Cereals, Oils and Food Corporation (COFCO) after graduation, Leo gained copious experience with chemistry. Afterwards, he earned his own factory. Generally, people continue to invest money when a factory runs well–but Leo didn’t.

“I closed my factory at a time when it could still earn me some nice moola,” Leo said, “Around my forties, I started thinking ‘Is it worth spending more time and money just for more money?’” He shook his head and continued: “No, that money isn’t a necessity, just a number in the account. There are things in life like family, job, interests and so on. You need to balance them. When you come to a certain age, you will think of it spontaneously.”

Starting a new business for personal interest didn’t mean everything would happen right away. Leo considered many components before taking action. Suitable ingredients were assured by some related schoolmates from his college; beer innovation was all controlled by himself based on his chemic experience; ensuring that there was no influence on his or his family’s normal life even if the business failed, etc.

“Creation isn’t from ‘nothing to something,’ your creation is based on your previous experience.”

“To start a new business, you normally find something within your ability. Making beer requires more than an interest in beer. Yes, interest is important. But you also need knowledge, resources, money and so on to support this.”

Without the need to earn money for basic living from his craft beer, Leo feels less pressure when brewing. He’s bold to try different combinations. At the beginning, he discarded many failed attempts at beer. Gradually, the more he brewed, the more familiar he became with the equipment as well as different reactions among various ingredients. Impressively, he gets more inspiration for previous beers when making a new beer; even when repeating a process, he understands different variables a bit better every time. “Creation isn’t from ‘nothing to something,’ your creation is based on your previous experience,” said Leo.

As the boss of Cheer bar, Leo defines himself as a brewer more than an owner. Making craft beer brings him more pleasure than drinking it. “I feel free when making craft beer,” Leo said with his eyes shining, “I am unrestrained while making beer; my mind is clean without any interference. All processes are under my control.”

In fact, brewing isn’t so relaxed. Leo normally works from 8 am to 10 pm while eating waimai slotted in between. Not to mention lifting heavy ingredients. For the hard workload, Leo has his own understanding: “If you work while thinking and exploring, you feel less tired. It’s some kind of balance.”

Besides the progress, the energy of craft beer brings Leo deeper joyfulness. More than once, he has practically changed individuals’ stereotypical views that beer is cheap and flavorless. There was a dinner he attended once, turning up with a bottle of Sassy Lassy, his first craft beer, as well as the best-selling one at Cheer bar. Before many Maotai and imported wines, Leo shared with everyone his Sassy Lassy brew in small cups, which deeply impressed the dinner guests. Most of them didn’t remember how other alcohol tasted but want more Sassy later. Leo mentioned that the real enjoyment comes from the spirit of the craft beer culture. He said: “I think what’s important is people from different places are happy drinking my beer, appreciating my beer, and they like to communicate with me. This is my happiness.”

As he has become more and more well known among the craft beer community in Dongguan, Leo is always asked about cooperation and expanding the business. To which his response is that he wants less involvement with the business part, to simply be in charge of brewing. He mentioned that a person’s time and energy is limited; if you focus more on business, you’re left with nothing much for brewing. He wisely concluded: “Sometimes slowing down actually helps you to be faster.”

Certain foreign products like McDonald’s or Pizza Hut will make some adjustments to cater for local tastes. When asked if he will do a similar thing, Leo answered: “For most of the beers here, we lead the locals.” He added, “For many people, they don’t even know what good beer is because they haven’t tried it before. If you never try, how can you tell whether it’s good or not?”

In addition, having lived in Dongguan for so long, Leo already brews a DG IPA, mixing local elements such as guan incense.

Cheer up and enjoy authentic local craft beers.