After a career at Fortune 500 companies like GE Capital and Zuellig, Allen Lueth became CEO of Great Leap Brewing last February. In this Q&8, he talks beers for newbies, cycling Beijing to Tianjin for brewery visits, his biggest fear for China’s craft beer scene, people from his home state of Minnesota everyone should know, and more. (See more Q&8s here.)
1 How did a finance guy for some pretty big companies end up in working in craft beer?
Passion. I love beer and enjoyed the craft beer revolution in the U.S. My first experience was drinking a Sam Adams in 1991.
It is so exciting now to introduce great beers to Chinese consumers, giving them the same experience that I had. Beer should be exciting, diverse, and a fun conversation piece!
2 Great Leap is doing some rebranding. What can you tell us about that?
We want to tell people who Great Leap is. Our name comes from a Song dynasty poem, “Take a Great Leap when you are young and passionate.” That is the message that we want to deliver.
Our new logo has three meanings. The upward angle of the English is about being bold, about taking a risk to achieve something great. The thickness of the Chinese characters represents the strength of being a pioneer and innovator in the Chinese craft beer revolution. Finally, the sleekness of the horizontal strokes represent the modernness of both the company and our flavors.
3 You are an avid bicyclist and have even done the 160-km trip between Great Leap in Beijing and Tianjin. What does that kind of journey entail?
I’ve ridden both ways, completing the trip in just under 5 hours and averaging 34 km per hour. The biggest surprise, in the middle of the trip, is that I left Beijing and entered Hebei. I was worried for a moment, until I realized that there is about a 2 km stretch between Beijing and Tianjin that belongs to Hebei!
4. Say I’m a newbie to craft beer and visiting Great Leap for the first time. What three beers and one dish are you starting me off with?
Great question. All our locations have 20-plus taps, with something for everyone. Start with one of my favorites, Long Oasis Kolsch, an easy-to-drink refreshing ale. Our Banana Wheat, which is Great Leap’s best-selling beer, is our take on a German Hefeweissen. And for a different experience, try a fruity “bubbly”, a fermented version of a hard seltzer that also is low in calories.
Food is so personal, but my own favorite food is hamburgers, and ours are award winning. Get a bacon cheeseburger and upgrade the fries to a salad.
5. It’s incredible how much the craft beer scene has developed in China the past dozen years. What does it need to do to maintain the momentum?
Craft beer is about individuality and experiencing new things. The trade needs to continue to innovate and to expand boundaries, to understand that everyone’s taste buds are different and continue to evolve.
My biggest fear is “fake craft” beer brands who claim to make craft beer but that isn’t even as good as industrial beer.
On the other hand, there are many other impressive brands out there, too, making remarkable beer, and together we are continuing to expand the market.
LOL! Actually, while we love dogs, no pets are allowed in our restaurants. We were honored to be able to participate in this meaningful charity event though!
7. You hail from Minnesota. Who are three Minnesotans everyone in the world should know?
Will and Charlie Mayo, the founders of Mayo Clinic, the world’s most advanced healthcare provider. Greg LeMond, first American to win the Tour de France. And my parents, who were grandchildren of immigrants and just plain old great Americans.
8. When you aren’t working, drinking beer and cycling, how do you like to spend your time?
Those three are a pretty nice set, and I enjoy all of them very much! I try to spend as much time as I can with my family, and I am also active in our church.
* * *Get regular Beijing updates via my Instagram and Twitter feeds. Also see my sibling sites Grape Wall of China, World Baijiu Day and World Marselan Day. Help cover the hosting and other costs of these sites with a WeChat, AliPay or PayPal donation.
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