Beer Stories: Craft Beer Industry Insights

Founder & Owner of Steersman Brewery, Wayne Su

February 20, 2023 Hosts: Mischa Smith & Alex Violette, Guest: Wayne Su Season 1 Episode 9
Beer Stories: Craft Beer Industry Insights
Founder & Owner of Steersman Brewery, Wayne Su
Show Notes Transcript

Alex & Mischa wrap up Season 1 of Beer Stories by talking with Wayne Su, Founder & Owner of Steersman Brewery, another craft brewery based right here in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam! They talk about Wayne's discovery of craft beer here in Vietnam after growing up in Taiwan, his homebrewing start leading to opening his own brewery in Saigon, winning international awards and what that means for a young brewery, Alex's favourite subject: Brown Ales (!!), how Wayne's family supported and encouraged him with his first business start-up, Wayne's new business partner Ben and what he brings to the table at Steersman, the possibilities of a good Pho Beer, Steersman's recent foray into making hard sodas, how there are no laws while drinking White Claws, and building up craft beer neighbourhoods by working together! They also have a fairly tame Hangover Check and another spirited round of Fact or Fiction. Cheers! 

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Mischa Smith:

Welcome to Beer Stories. This is a weekly podcast where we talk about beers. My name is Misha Smith. My cohost to my left, as always is Alex Violet. Hello everyone. Our producer is Niall Mackay of Seven Million Bikes podcast. Our theme music is composed and performed by Lewis Wright, and our guest today is the founder. Thanks for coming on. you tried craft beer for the first time in Vietnam? Went back to Taiwan got some experience brewing with some guys who knew what they were doing. Yeah. Learned from them. And then you figured you were ready to come back to Vietnam and open your own brewery.

Wayne Su:

Yeah. Obviously is a mistake. I talked to one of the town new guy, and when I talk to him this idea, he's if you don't do it now, what you waiting for? Wait until you have family and you have more concern. yeah, let's do it. I'll do it now. and he say, if you do it, I'll invest you. But he just disappear and the co hit But luckily, yeah, my parents, support me a lot, mentally and. money

Mischa Smith:

Yeah.

Wayne Su:

Yeah. Money. Absolutely. Star business money is important, right,

Mischa Smith:

Absolutely.

Alex Violette:

I think it's cool. it's a family business, so you really get to make sure that, e everything you're doing is really in line with your vision of making these beers that seems like you have some Taiwanese influence with the, the honey beer.

Mischa Smith:

we were being conscious of, how can we appeal more to Vietnamese drinkers and especially young Vietnamese drinkers, like get them on craft beer early. When I say young, I mean of drinking age not too young Absolutely. you recently took out a new, business partner.

Wayne Su:

actually I've been looking for a partner for a while, but just couldn't find the correct person. It is people describe it as a marriage, but even harder marriage, you can divorce, but the business partner, if he doesn't wanna leave, is very difficult. Right.

Mischa Smith:

I think it's pretty difficult to leave a marriage

Alex Violette:

What's more expensive? A six pack of beer or a pair of shoes.

Wayne Su:

oh, wow. Wow. That's a good question. Ever since I work for there, I don't buy shoes, revoking any. I know the cost

Alex Violette:

I remember, um, when we were going to brew our first batches of beer, the, the people we had, set up at their brewery, and they had the, the license, right? So we could be tech certified and all of that. And they were. trying as hard as they could to tell me not to do this. They're like, you're gonna lose all your money like this. This is too small. You need big brewing equipment. Like this isn't gonna work, just to save your money.

Mischa Smith:

we start each episode with a recurring segment that we like to hangover check. How we were feeling this morning when we woke up, Only a three. That's you're flying. That's great. Alex,

Alex Violette:

Uh I'm at a zero today. Oh. No drinking yesterday so feeling great.

Mischa Smith:

So yeah, we were all taking it pretty easy last night. I, I was about a three outta. That's been the hangover check. So, Wayne you're from Taiwan? Yeah. Yes. Awesome. So what brought you to Vietnam?

Wayne Su:

when I graduate, my uncle was working, in the shoes factory for Reebok Adds. So my father said, Hey, why, why don't just try to work in overseas? I was like, yeah, why not? So my first job here is shoes factory working for Reebok Adds as a cost team manager.

Mischa Smith:

And, uh, were you into craft beer back then, or was that something that came to you later on in life?

Wayne Su:

Yeah. So back to the time, my supervisor at the time, he brought me to, h od TA room, and that was my very first crab beer experience. In the beginning it was like, damn, this shit is so bitterer, why the beer is so beater, but it smells so good. And it made me feel very curious about it. So after that I, I try to search online what is crab beer? basic knowledge it, until there's some BJ CCP study. And then buy a lot of crab beer in Taiwan because, the ranch here is not that wide. And then start to home brew around like February, 2017.

Mischa Smith:

Oh,

Wayne Su:

wow. Yeah.

Mischa Smith:

How old were you then?

Wayne Su:

it was five years ago. So it was like 24.

Mischa Smith:

Okay. this is amazing. how long did it take you from having never heard of craft beer to having your own brewery?

Wayne Su:

I started The Home Brew from 2017 and the Star Steer Man around third quarter of 2019. So two and a half, two and a half year.

Mischa Smith:

That's a pretty quick turnaround.

Wayne Su:

Yeah. Very different industry. You never know, right?

Mischa Smith:

Alex, how long was it between your first home brew and when you started working at an actual brewery?

Alex Violette:

my first home brew. and then working about actually the same amount of time, two or three years.

Mischa Smith:

And you started as a brewery owner, just like Wayne?

Alex Violette:

No, I started, um, washing kegs and, uh, delivering them.

Wayne Su:

Yeah. So actually after I quit my previous job, I went back to Taiwan. I worked for the townies contract brewer. A brewery for like a couple months to have some experience.

Mischa Smith:

So you tried craft beer for the first time in Vietnam? Went back to Taiwan, got a, got some experience brewing with some guys who knew what they were doing. Yeah. Learned from them. And then you figured you were ready to come back to Vietnam and open your own brewery.

Wayne Su:

Yeah. Obviously is a mistake.

Mischa Smith:

no, I love the confidence.

Wayne Su:

It's the third quarter of 2019 said co hit right

Alex Violette:

Oh, yeah. Timing. It was a mistake,

Wayne Su:

Yeah. But happy with

Mischa Smith:

so you just, you guys just won a couple of awards at the latest, Asia Beer Championships. Yeah. So, I mean, that must feel pretty validating to go from. In less than five years, going from never even heard of craft beer to winning international awards for your beers.

Wayne Su:

yeah. That's dream I true, really, is our first time to join the Asia Beer Championship. And in the beginning, to be honest, I, I bought the ticket to Bangkok, to, to Chima. I, I went there for traveling and I didn't really expect that we can won the medal. So it means a lot because I've been, start this along for three years and of course when the business is not growing like you expected, you always question yourself. But this medal it that our direction and my insistence on the quote is the right direction.

Mischa Smith:

So one of the awards you won was for your Brown

Wayne Su:

Brown

Mischa Smith:

So I want you guys to nerd out a little bit cuz Alex's favorite style of beer is a brown ale.

Alex Violette:

It's up there.

Mischa Smith:

So can you guys just talk about that a bit? Like why Alex has mentioned it before on some of the episodes, like you started with a brown ale and the the flying

Wayne Su:

bees. flying bees.

Mischa Smith:

That's a honey. Yes. Okay. So why did you choose those two styles? Is like your flagship.

Wayne Su:

Our first beer is the fine beer, honey. Honey O because it's very common in Taiwan. That was like 14 years ago. Actually. Taiwan already have a crab beer, but they just call it honey beer. So you don't know. You just oh, it is a no more beer with honey. And then honey beer is begun. Kind of like everyone trying to do honey beer in Taiwan. And then when I come here like. There's no honey beer in the market. So I try to, the home brew start, I start home brew to, to try the recipe. So that's the reason I feel like, okay, so there's no honey beer in the market right now, so I try to make one. So start with the flying be and dark World is it's the same story. I feel like this market is, don't have that many, doc, the ember or the brown. So I try to make one. Yeah, just very simple reason. Just trying to be different from other brewery.

Mischa Smith:

it's funny. I remember when when Alex was back in the States and I had a different boss. We were talking about different beer styles to do and somebody suggested either an amber or a brown cause nobody was really doing it it was an American guy and he said, no, those styles are dead in America. And we had to remind him that we're not brewing beer in America. we're brewing beer for the Vietnamese market. So yeah, you're a hundred percent right. There aren't a ton of dark beers here in Vietnam and most of the ones that are dark are porters or stouts. So yeah, the brown A is, I think it's perfect for the market and I'm glad that, that you're supplying

Wayne Su:

that. Thank you so much. I like the Irish style as well,

Mischa Smith:

Ah, the Pastor Street,

Wayne Su:

Irish Yeah. yeah, yeah, yeah. yeah.

Mischa Smith:

Yeah. I like that a lot too.

Alex Violette:

Yeah. It's it's fun. And when you're doing the, the brown nails, I think what I see happen with them is sometimes they get lost. If people are like, oh, I want a dark beer. Then they go really dark. And then if they don't want a dark beer, brown nails too dark. yeah, it's like when there's a lot of beers on tap, it would just get lost and it was always one of my favorite styles to brew and favorite styles to drink. But, we were never really able to get it to take off at the breweries that I was doing that at. So What's your secret?

Wayne Su:

for me, just just, because the company, just myself, So I just. I, I think it might work. So I just trust it and keep doing it. That's it. So that's why the, the medal means so much to me because it shows that we do doing right.

Alex Violette:

That's awesome. You made it work.

Wayne Su:

Thank you.

Mischa Smith:

So speaking about that, obviously as a younger guy who hasn't been brewing for that long, like you said, the medals really give validation to what you're doing. I think I saw a social media post that you made that, you're always proud of your beers, but now you can confidently say that you make great beers because you send it to this international competition and it stood out in the category and won an award. so awards definitely matter, especially for smaller, younger breweries. I know, the first awards that we won at past Earth Street was at the same, the Asian Beer Championships, but it was in Singapore. And when we announced it online, Vietnamese people were so excited, oh, Singapore Vietnamese beer went to Singapore and won an award. It's amazing. But do you think it's important for sales? do you think that you're gonna have a big uptick in sales of the Brown Ale now that it's won an award? Or is it more just like validation that, you're doing a good job?

Wayne Su:

I would say the, it is like the second so far, yeah, the sales is a little bit picking up, but it's not like the crazy, suddenly a lot of people ordering our brown, but, uh, we, because of the medal, so ourselves is more confident to when they reach the customer they say, Hey, brown, this brown is very good. We won the Silver War. So for me it's like giving us not only me and us, our team, more confidence to doing sales, to push the sales.

Mischa Smith:

Yeah, I love that cuz that's something that we've talked about internally, like these awards. are they really important and if they are, what are they important for? And that's the one that keeps coming up, is it gives confidence to our team, whether it's our team and our tap rooms, or you're saying your sales team, it's hey, we're not just some kids off the street with this beer. hey, we went to Bangkok and we came back with some hardware, we won some awards. You're saying, it's more confidence for your team, which is great. do you think it's like gonna help with marketing as well or like the actual sales at the outlets? Like more people would be willing to try the beer if they've seen that it's won something internationally or do you think it's just like it's good internally? It's a great feeling. We love it, but it's not really gonna affect what we do too much.

Wayne Su:

I think for marketing perspec for sure. it helped. Award is always like eye catching when you run the ads on the Facebook. And another one is we trying to reach out some hotels. So with the award for those big player with the award, they will pay more attention. Oh, okay. You want some award. They're more willing to spend time to try the beer with you if before they are not willing to sit down with us to taste our beer. But right now things start to change, so I'm very happy with it.

Mischa Smith:

Yeah, a hundred percent I remember yeah, it gives validation internally and externally, so like the more prestigious outlets are gonna take you seriously if they've seen them. Oh. And it's, we laugh about it sometimes with other people's, like some of these award shows are not legitimate And like some of these beer awards are just like, oh, you paid for that. But this one, the Asia Beer Champions obviously like, it's, it's very legitimate, it's very well recognized, in the region and it's obviously, it's a legitimate competition. They don't, you can't pay more and win some extra gold medals. but yeah, just quick start. We were in, Hanoi for a beer festival a long time ago, and Pastor Street was pretty well established in Saigon already, but not as much in Hanoi. And we didn't send much marketing stuff for the actual festival, so the booth didn't look great. And this one lady came up and she's what is this? Why is your beer more expensive than everyone else's beer? What are you doing? And I was just like, oh, we're past street. we're not open for whatever it was, two, three years. She's where's your certification? Where, how do I even know this is good beer? Like, how, I was just like, sorry, I don't, I didn't bring our, our paperwork, but here I can give you a beer and if you don't like it, then I'll just. Pay for it. She's no, this is, I don't trust any of this. She stormed off and then later one of her friends came up to the booth cuz he knew our beer and he was, and she came over. He was like, no, don't get their beer, their fakes, they're liars. She's

Wayne Su:

oh really? Oh

Mischa Smith:

yeah. So I would recommend bringing the awards to Just in case you get a cranky old lady. So Wayne, uh, when you first got started with Steersmen, uh, were there any, like big obstacles, any big hurdles to, that you had to overcome to, to get the brewery up and running?

Wayne Su:

For sure. So first, because I work in the factory before, so all my connection is only in factory industry. I know not no one besides this, uh, industry. So from the paperwork, it's already fucked me up for the, all the paperwork. I know nothing about all the paper and back to the time I work with the ava, they don't even have the. The bot in machine. So they say, oh, you can only sell keg. I was like, okay, start with keg, but start with who, that was very limited. The customer have the calculator. So that also the thing, and another is to build a team is very difficult to find, qualified sales. So I think, of course some, language barrier.

Alex Violette:

Yeah. That is a really difficult thing about starting up in Vietnam with draft is that the expectation is that the brewery buys the cator a lot of the time. So that's a, that's always a hurdle. but I think in, you know, in 2017 there were already quite a few bars that had their own draft machines. Is that where you really got started?

Wayne Su:

No, actually, I've. actually really waiting for Ava, have the bottle machine. Then I start the business because with only drive, it's hard to give the simple to the customer for me. So when we have the bottle so I can give away to the customer, to sit down together to taste why I be is so expensive compared to those commercial beer.

Alex Violette:

so having the bottles was. Really helpful to, to get the brewery going, to get the beers out at more places, get people, um, exposed to the styles that you were brewing. And I guess it's got a label, so it's got your brand on there. Yeah. Looks good on a table. how did you guys come up with the brand and the identity?

Wayne Su:

Before working factory, I got the stable job, stable salary, and I can go back to Taiwan six times a year. They sponsor all the flight. I was very scared to tell my parents that I quit and start my own crab beer brewery business. But when I met, made out my mind and I told my parents that I do it and I plan for it. It's not just, I just want to do it. they didn't actually say anything, but I was very nervous. And the next. My, my mom drew me a painting that was a boat cruising on the sea, so she's trying to tell me the business, if you start your own businesses, you must go through those up and down. But back to that time, I didn't know it is only down because col just about to come in. and also my major in the university is a shipping and transportation management, mainly like the cargo shipping. So it's all like bold and sea related. So that's why I come up with the steers and my mom tell me, yeah, just be your own captain. Be responsible for your life. So that's how steers mans come and how the local steers come from.

Mischa Smith:

I love that. That's that's great life advice from your mom and then also the fact that it inspired the direction of your brewery. that's fantastic.

Alex Violette:

So Have you, ever started a business before or is this your first time just starting a business in general?

Wayne Su:

Yeah, my first time. So it's because back to the time I talked to one of the town new guy, he been running the logistic company here for 20 years. And when I talk to him this idea, he's if you don't do it now, what you waiting for? Wait until you have family and you have more concern. yeah, let's do it. I'll do it now. And yeah, so that's, and he say, if you do it, I'll invest you. But he just disappear and the co hit But luckily, yeah, my parents, support me a lot, mentally and. money

Mischa Smith:

Yeah.

Wayne Su:

So that's why we can get through all this Covid. Yeah. Money. Absolutely. Star business money is important,

Mischa Smith:

Absolutely.

Alex Violette:

Absolutely. And I think it's cool. it's a family business, so you really get to make sure that, e everything you're doing is really in line with your vision of making these beers that you, seems like you have some Taiwanese influence with the, the honey beer.

Mischa Smith:

Cool. So Wayne, you, you had a, you recently took out a new, business partner.

Wayne Su:

Yeah. roughly six months ago. So I feel pretty lucky, after the Covid, actually I've been looking for a partner for a while, but just couldn't find the correct person. It is people describe it as a marriage, but even harder marriage, you can divorce, but the business partner, if he doesn't wanna leave, is very difficult. Right. So I've been looking for a super person.

Mischa Smith:

I think it's pretty difficult to leave a marriage as well, but luckily I don't have any experience

Wayne Su:

yeah. Same here.

Mischa Smith:

So how did It's Ben?

Wayne Su:

Yeah. Yeah. Ben,

Mischa Smith:

how did you guys meet?

Wayne Su:

actually he been our like customer, so he tried our flying B and really like it and, My girlfriend's, former colleague, they are friends, so hang out. We have a chance to hand out together and get to know each other. And after Covid, he just text me and say, Hey, you want, I have a drink? I was like, yeah, why not? And he talk about this idea in the beginning just told me that, he was thinking about start, a brewery as well. And I said, okay, I can help you with my experience. And he then he's like, why? I just don't join and we can work together. I was like, yeah. And he has experience. he used to work for a vc, so I think it's pretty good for helping us building a business. I hate math, but I don't know why. My first job is a costing

Mischa Smith:

right?

Alex Violette:

What? Costs more beer or shoes? What's more expensive? A six pack of beer or a pair of shoes.

Wayne Su:

oh, wow. Wow. That's a good question. Ever since I work for there, I don't buy shoes, revoking any. I know the cost

Alex Violette:

Less than a six pack, maybe

Mischa Smith:

Depends which kind of

Wayne Su:

beer. Yeah.

Mischa Smith:

So cool. So I talked to Ben, before and just to try to get some background that I could bring. and he told me to ask about your parents and how they felt when you first told them versus how they feel now, which kind of made me think that, maybe they had a bad reaction, but it sounds like they were really supportive from the start.

Wayne Su:

Yeah. actually in the beginning, yeah. my, my mom, especially my mom, my father is more open. My mom is like pretty upset with me, so we haven't talked in probably a week, but that's what very touching because after that he drove the painting

Mischa Smith:

She came around and then once she accepted that you had made up your mind, she was fully supportive and actually gave you some awesome

Wayne Su:

advice. Yeah. So last year when the Kobe hit very hard here, I actually went back to Taiwan for six months and every day I just asked myself, should I give up, spend more time with my parents, my family, my friends. But it become like, it turned out to be, they keep encouraged me.

Alex Violette:

That, that's amazing. I think, a similar story with me. I was supposed to be going to graduate school and then decided to, you know, start washing kegs instead. And, it definitely took longer than a week. I think it was like I had to like, win an award and have your name in the newspaper and then it finally was like, okay, I guess you know this is an okay decision.

Wayne Su:

So I'm not sure if I told Alex when we were in Bangkok because, when I'm planning to open our tab room and we've been looking for location for very long. One I really is the one in Honga. And then when I try to reach out to landlord and the landlord say someone took it already. So after two month or one month? Two month and it began the pass we ever Yeah,

Mischa Smith:

Oh, you were looking at the same

Wayne Su:

location Yeah. the location. So location, sorry. No, but thank you for carrying our goba. Our

Alex Violette:

Yeah, no problem. We I had no idea. but it is a great location, so I'm not surprised that there was a few people interested in that.

Wayne Su:

And I'm very happy to see, you guys big eyes and open more and more local place. that's the thing. I'm really happy to see that.

Mischa Smith:

Yeah, for sure. obviously you mentioned Covid. We try not to talk about Covid too much on these podcasts cause it's depressing. But yeah, like that was one of the, one of the things coming out of Covid and to be like, it's not just Covid, like we were already thinking about it before, any of that. But, you can't really count on tourists to, to run a business. You need to really get the local population behind your business for it to thrive and grow and expand exponentially. So, yeah, like. Even before Covid, we were being conscious of, you know, how can we appeal more to Vietnamese drinkers and especially young Vietnamese drinkers, like get them on craft beer early. When I say young, I mean of drinking age not too young. but yeah, so for sure, like you said, like going into more kinda like local areas, more Vietnamese areas and yeah, like even it's funny, like D two, our district two tap room, everyone calls D two at the expat bubble and it's all foreigners and, but most of our customers there are younger Vietnamese kids who know about craft beer and they're excited and they think it's hip and awesome.

Wayne Su:

Yeah. So my question is, yeah, we, before this actually, I was meeting with the landlord and I really want to have a pilot assistant. And our TA room. So I'm thinking one, ask Alex, do you guys have, I heard you guys trying to build a pilot system inside your TA room.

Alex Violette:

we're always trying, but um, there's like just different neighborhoods of different like regulations and you've just gotta be at the right place and I guess talk to the person who understands what you're doing. Because what I've seen is that when you say brewery, the idea of a small brewery doesn't really exist when you say brewery, they're thinking this massive factory with like smoke stacks coming out of the top and trucks going in and out all day. But if you can find somebody and explain that this is very small, it's artisanal, it's the same basic equipment that you would use for boiling f and running like a noodle shop. it's, the small scale brewing equipment is hard to explain, but if you can, then people are more willing to say, You could put that in. That makes sense.

Wayne Su:

Yeah. That's the difficulty I heard that is, is been very strict on the license or the permission to have

Alex Violette:

and I know about this at a very high level because, not speaking Vietnamese, I'm not really engaged in that conversation. We have, our operational managers that, talk to, all the authorities for licensing and stuff like that. But that's my takeaway from what I hear, is that you've just gotta be able to explain it in the right way and explain that this isn't some massive industrial thing. This is something that's gonna go in the neighborhood. It's not gonna cause a problem. It's gonna add some value to the customers coming in. and yeah, I guess explain it that way because the idea of a brewery in Vietnam is a giant, massive factory. It doesn't make sense. I remember, um, when we were going to brew our first batches of beer, the, um, the people we had, uh, you know, set up at their brewery, and they had the, the license, right? So we could be tech certified and all of that. And they were. trying as hard as they could to tell me not to do this. They're like, you're gonna lose all your money like this. This is too small. You need big brewing equipment. Like this isn't gonna work, just to save your money. And, and it wasn't like trying to get us to not do the business in a negative way. It was just genuinely saying Hey, we're just looking out for you.

Mischa Smith:

they they were worried about

Alex Violette:

about you? Yeah, they were worried. They were like, I have no idea what's going on here. and they were brewers. I can imagine when you're talking to, any sort of licensing person about, a small brewery, they, it just might not make sense right now.

Wayne Su:

Thank for sharing that. That's very helpful.

Alex Violette:

Yeah, you could just, get the license for a FUS shop and just boil some beer in the, fuck t.

Mischa Smith:

is that an official recommendation?

Wayne Su:

Okay. I'll try

Alex Violette:

Very unofficial recommendation. Yeah.

Mischa Smith:

I mean, obviously that would, that gets my mind going towards beer. Has anybody made a good f beer that you know

Wayne Su:

I, the only f beer I know is like Sea Brew Master. Okay. But I haven't tried. Yeah.

Alex Violette:

I think Fer Brew did one at one point, but I haven't had any f and I can't really imagine it would taste good.

Mischa Smith:

Yeah. I think one of our other brewers early on tried to do something like a f beer and then when he had it, he was like, we're not calling this F beer And we just called it whatever some of the ingredients were, and it was fine. It wasn't bad. But yeah, if. that's the thing, like I've had p cocktails at a few places and you can, some places nail them and if they taste like fa, that's great, but if you make a fa beer and it doesn't taste like fu it's like, well,

Alex Violette:

I could imagine drinking a beer with fa and that may, that being a good combination with the pairing, but it's I don't want like a steak ipa. I'd rather have an IPA and a steak There's no need to combine the food into the beer in this one.

Mischa Smith:

Wayne, one other thing I wanted to talk to you about, was your heart sodas. So you've got two different kinds now.

Wayne Su:

Uh, actually our third one is just coming. Oh, nice. Yeah. so the, it's just very simple, right? I believe everyone, we just, my friend sent me a video, was talking about the house sales and how growing, how fast it is. So I was like, yeah, why not just try. And first one was mango and we did it before c. but it turned out to be people. People like it during the, like home delivery. People like it. So it was like, okay, so we'll keep it in our core range and we, and more and more people, we got more positive feedback. So after the mango, we do a guava after guava, the new flavor is a tropical one. We're mixed with lici, pe, fruit, and a little bit strawberry.

Mischa Smith:

why did you want to expand beyond beer and get into the hard soda game?

Wayne Su:

one thing is that we feel the crab beer is still the cost because our target is always, local people. So we try to have more, first try to have more competitive price. So at that time, our crab beer, the sales was just stuck there. So also think about what is the product can help us to break through the situ. So that's also one of the reason, come with the householder and we try the house. So from truly, and some other, from other country and has, so I think for the local market is to of, to blend it for the end. And vie is, I think Vienna is more like a Vivi customer, so they like to see some color, beautiful color. So that's why it's not the house. So that we turn out to be a hard soda.

Alex Violette:

Yeah. And then you get to use, all of the awesome fruits that grow around here. And it sounds like all of the ones that you do have some sort of fruit in the soda.

Wayne Su:

Yeah. Yeah. All, all the fruit base.

Mischa Smith:

Can we talk about White Claw for a second? I just tried my first White Claw the other night. It was fucking terrible. I don't understand, like this is like the craze that's like taking over America. Whitelaw. It's fucking awful.

Alex Violette:

it doesn't taste like much.

Mischa Smith:

It was like black cherry heart sauce. I'm like, what tastes like fizzy water? Like it tasted like kinda like soda water with a tiny bit of flavoring. But yeah, I don't get

Wayne Su:

it. Yeah. Yeah. that's why I think the Hawaii, so it won't work. So that's why we make it more Sweden.

Mischa Smith:

Right.

Alex Violette:

Yeah. I think with the hard seltzers it's low calorie. And just various, there's almost nothing there. So it's something to drink

Mischa Smith:

Oh, that's the appeal.

Alex Violette:

Yeah. Kinda like a vodka soda.

Mischa Smith:

Okay. All right. Maybe I just didn't know what I was still, it was bad and then but yeah, like hard sodas. That's interesting. That funny. I never made the delineation in my mind between hard sodas and hard seltzers, but now I get it. Okay. So Wayne, you mentioned earlier that uh, your target audience was always Vietnamese people, local Vietnamese people, which is great obviously. but have foreigners reacted well to your beers as well

Wayne Su:

in the beginning?

Mischa Smith:

including you're a foreigner,

Wayne Su:

Yeah, I'm foreigner. Yeah. Right Now you realize that.

Mischa Smith:

I realize it at some point.

Wayne Su:

Yeah. I think more and more the foreigner takes our page, curious about our product, especially when we start to run a, so it's good to have some, expat, but our main focus still the willingness.

Mischa Smith:

Sure, of course, you don't wanna exclude anybody who's a potential customer, but then also you gotta know who your target audience is.

Alex Violette:

yeah, this has come up quite a bit on, on the podcast and it's always trying to get locals into it. And this is just now, just now thinking about it, in the United States, when craft beer was gaining popularity, it was just people that didn't know about craft beer being exposed to craft beer. And I think it's the same here. I guess it's not, um, specifically like locals or expats. It's just exposing, people who haven't tried flavorful beer to flavorful beer.

Mischa Smith:

It's raising

Alex Violette:

Yeah. It's not, anything specific to, where you're from or what you're doing. It's just specific to, you haven't had beer with these sort of flavors before? I don't know. Yeah. I'll have to write that down somewhere, man. But yeah. so the tap rooms, we were looking at that location, because that's a place where we see a lot of people drinking, but not a lot of people drinking craft beer. So that street, there's, other craft breweries are putting tap rooms. we weren't the first one to be in that area, obviously. there's a beer craft has been there for a while, but there's a lot of people that go there to drink beer. But it's almost all just mainstream beer. And then having a craft beer place right in the middle, it's like you're already having people go there to drink beer. And then, so you know, the experience, I guess the occasionally is there and then maybe it's easier to just make that choice like, Hey, I guess I'll try this different beer. So are you still looking for a tap room and is that why you were looking at that location?

Wayne Su:

Yeah. That's why, you know who doesn't live Riverside, right? It's a riverside and it's already full of the drinking vibe there. So that's why I think it's, is a, its a very good location and since aircraft in that area, couple years already and you know, I bureau they just opened another Teon right on the right beside

Mischa Smith:

it. I saw that the last time I went to aircraft Iber was like right

Wayne Su:

to, yeah, right next to it. So I think it is building a good community on the

Alex Violette:

Absolutely. I don't know if it's public knowledge yet, but I know of other people that are moving into that neighborhood as well and I think it really just helps out, when you have three different places, four different places, all next to each other, then it becomes a destination where you can say, Hey, I don't really know, but maybe we'll start here and then walk to the other place and then walk to the next place.

Mischa Smith:

Yeah, for sure. Most of my friends don't go to one bar and then spend the whole night there. The slowly, if they have more good options in one area, they're more likely to go to that area so that they can bounce around a little bit and try a few different things. I think smart f and b people understand that. I get worried when people are like really territorial. It's oh, I sell craft beer, but somebody is else's gonna sell craft beer down the road and they're trying to come in on my territory. It's No That's not no. Build it up. It's all about the community. Build it up stronger. So Wayne, I mentioned, I talked to your partner Ben, before the interview to just get some, get some ideas about what to talk about. And he told me I should ask you about the village that you grew up in, in Taiwan and what it's famous for.

Wayne Su:

this, yeah, this is the interesting thing in town. News crab scene is like each. Brewery in each province, they will work with the local, a local province, government. For example, one of my favorite town is brewery called j d. They are in located in Eastern Taiwan. And the province is famous for the com cor. So the government will gather the best conco for them to brew the beer, and they will promote the Conco beer for them. So it's kind of win-win situation. Oh, that's awesome. Yeah. So these happen very often. And somewhere they're famous for peach. So they, peach beer. I think that's a very interesting way to, to grow a business, but I think it's, far away from doing that in.

Mischa Smith:

Yeah, I was, you, I was thinking when you were saying that the local government is helping the craft brewers,

Wayne Su:

Yeah. They're working with amazing, they're working for this, they can, the local government for their like tourist spot, they can sell this to earn money, They can promote this and also can help the local brewery.

Mischa Smith:

I've never been to Taiwan actually. That's what's one country I've never, uh, traveled to yet. is the government there like known for helping small businesses or is that specific to the craft beer industry?

Wayne Su:

industry? This, uh, just recently, just recently, uh, people, the craft beer is picking up and the local government, they notice it. So they do a lot of collaboration between the, and they also can help the local farmer.

Mischa Smith:

Yeah, no, that's awesome. So yeah, It's literally great for everyone involved.

Alex Violette:

Have you sent any of your beers back to Taiwan?

Wayne Su:

Yeah, actually that was, that is my dream to sell back to Taiwan. I tried to reach out some distributor, but no one really care about me, so so you guys, you guys are one of the pioneer in when square beer scene for us, like we are trying to grow. what kind of advice will you, you guys give me at the moment?

Mischa Smith:

I've had people give me compliments about, the work that I did as a salesperson and, oh, you must be very good. You're a very good salesman. I'm like, I don't think I have any particular skill at it, it's just, I just worked really hard, back then, I was working for, John, our other, our co-founder and, uh, you know, he gave me the job and taught me how to do it and I saw how hard he worked and how passionate he was. And I loved the beer and I loved the brand and I wanted it to work. And they were paying me to drink beer. So I took the role very seriously. Cause I, I didn't want anyone to take that job away from me. yeah, I just, I woke up and I worked hard every day and I made sure our clients were happy and they were getting everything they needed. And, I've had, I've hired sales people who were like, oh, I can't wait to go in the field with you and see how you are with clients and. there's no like trick, there's no secret sauce. I'm not like Don Draper in here, like telling people what they want to hear. It's just, it's really just go to work, work hard every day, love what you do, be passionate about it, and people are gonna see that. And it's the genuineness of that, that you're passionate about. your product and your brand that's gonna come through. yeah, I wish I had better advice, like, take this pill and your brewery will grow. But no, it's just about doing the work.

Wayne Su:

Good. Yeah. Thanks.

Alex Violette:

Yeah. Basically the same advice I would have except maybe just stated a little bit differently. Um, for me, going back and thinking about like why you did it in the first place and what you cared about and making sure you're still, um, on that same path is super important. just like we wanted to make these beers that you couldn't make anywhere else that had these cool flavors and also. introduce people that had never had the flavorful style of beer before to a whole world of beer. So there, there's definitely gonna be some things that are ups and downs, in the business, the sales are good, the sales are bad, or something like c or all of the hurdles when you're trying to expand the business. But if you can look back and just remember what it is, why you got started, and then that still rings true. It'll just, it'll make it easy, I think, to continue on, having a purpose on what you're doing it for.

Wayne Su:

Cool.

Mischa Smith:

and yeah, for you as the owner, like you mentioned, you have a sales team now, I would just recommend like when, as much as you can going out in the field with your team and showing your face and telling your story. Cuz that's what customers want to hear. Like they want to hear the story behind the brand like that, the story about your mom's painting, that's awesome. You know, and if you can connect people to that and show them your passion and why you started doing this and why you're still doing it, despite all of the shit you had to go through during Covid. Like people will connect to that and then they'll connect you to the brand and then they'll be passionate about, no one's gonna be as passionate as you are. Obviously it's your thing, it's your baby. But that'll rub off. People will get that.

Wayne Su:

makes sense.

Mischa Smith:

so Wayne, you mentioned that, early on, that the, the first craft beer you ever had, I was here in Vietnam. Obviously you've been back to Taiwan a bunch of times since then. What's the craft beer scene like in Taiwan now? compared to what you see here in Vietnam.

Wayne Su:

it's been quite popular. I've been do research before. Crab beer is account for like, if I remember correct, it's like 3% compared to the commercial beer. So its, its actually pretty good compared to ve and, but by the way, Taiwan is Square Beer Brewery. They do, is a little bit different from here. People we, here we try to grow distribution, and let more people try out beer. But in Taiwan, people, the main base is taru. So they start with the restaurant and try to appeal, appeal, fancy or beautiful teran restaurant and try to appeal more people come to try and by that chance to let people know what this. Instead of to just reach out to all kind of restaurant. that's my opinion. So people compare who's more rich and to be more fancy and bigger tain. So those big player, like some might, like ta, they all have very fancy and very good tavern in the very low, like CBD area.

Alex Violette:

I think that's similar in Saigon as well. compared to the US there's a lot more, preference for drinking outside of your house. Whereas in the US a lot of like craft beer would be, you go to the store and you get the mix, six pack of some different beers and you go home and you're hanging out with friends, sharing some different beers. But in, I guess a lot of the, the cities in Asia that I've been to, there's a lot more of a social drinking culture. Just a lot of bars and restaurants. It's, not nearly as common to be drinking at home, from what I can tell with craft beer at least. And just, reflected in our sales too, I'd say.

Mischa Smith:

yeah. But even within that, like it's. I always find it interesting to go to other countries and see what the craft beer scene like is there compared to Vietnam. Cause obviously we're used to it. Here it's ingrained and it's very it's very homogenous across the country, across Vietnam, like kind of what happens in the scene as opposed to Hong Kong for example. When I go there, if I go to a craft beer bar there, it's rotating taps. It's constantly changing. Like in Vietnam, for the most part, if you have four craft beers on, you're gonna have the same four craft beers all year round. Except for like certain places that have, 30 or 50 and they like to rotate. But yeah, in Hong Kong it's just, it was really hard to get full-time taps anywhere. Whereas in Vietnam, like you get a tap and that's you're there, you're set. It's weird. It's different, it's interesting to me.

Alex Violette:

I think it might have something to do with having to buy your own ator.

Mischa Smith:

Well, yeah. So you mentioned that earlier that I think you were a bit ahead of yourself, you said in 2017 most places or a lot of places had their

Alex Violette:

I think I meant like 2020. That's when you were getting started, right? 2020, No, 19. Yeah,

Mischa Smith:

even then, like it is happening more now. Definitely. And it was starting before Covid. But yeah, the large majority of customers still expect the breweries to provide the draft machine and that's just something that's become the industry norm. And it's great to see other places building their own cold rooms, buying their own keg so that they can control their tabs and they're not like beholden to the brewery to, it's great to see. It's great for, and it's great for obviously the breweries. We don't have to buy this expensive draft machine and send it to the client. We just send them beer and then when they're done with the keg, we take it back. It's much better. All right, Wayne. So at, I mentioned we do two segments on every show. This one is called Fact or Fiction. So I'm gonna make a statement that I've prepared. It's either about you or about beer in general. And you're gonna tell us if it's a fact or if it's fiction. And if there's like a story coming out of it, you can tell the story or you can just leave it to one word and then we'll move

Wayne Su:

on to that. Okay?

Mischa Smith:

So Wayne, factor fiction, there are actual bees in the flying bees. Beer

Wayne Su:

fiction.

Mischa Smith:

No. Your sales team told me that there's bees in it.

Wayne Su:

really that freak me out.

Mischa Smith:

There's honey,

Wayne Su:

there's no yeah, there's honey. Yeah.

Mischa Smith:

Wayne Factor Fiction. You usually drink at least five beers before you start brewing.

Wayne Su:

fiction.

Mischa Smith:

Oh really? Ben told me to ask you how many beers you drink before you start brewing.

Wayne Su:

The that depends on of course, every time go every, I would taste all the beer. I can taste there, but sometimes it's not up to five, Yeah, if it's, we have five beer brewing at the moment, I would drink five, but

Mischa Smith:

So you start by just testing what's in the, what's in the

Wayne Su:

yeah.

Mischa Smith:

that makes sense. Ben made it sound like you're, you get drunk and then you do your work.

Wayne Su:

I see I'll ask him

Mischa Smith:

Yeah, you can talk to him.

Wayne Su:

I'll talk to him. What the hell is that?

Mischa Smith:

that? oh, we covered this one already. Factor fiction. You used to work in a shoe factory Yeah. when in factor fiction, you started home brewing in your college dormitory.

Wayne Su:

Fact. Yeah. So back to the time, damn dormitory is not allow us to use the fire. So we used the ill electric. stove, electric Stove, then it's cooking bowl super fucking slow. It took me just a five liters, bro. It took me the whole day, seven hours, like for whole process. Yeah.

Mischa Smith:

Nice. So at that time did you have like college buddies who were there doing it with you or you just doing it

Wayne Su:

yourself? I do. Myself, my roommate, think I'm just crazy. I get room super messy and the smell weird, for them, the hop smell, mob smell,

Mischa Smith:

Who's fucking crazy now you got your own brewery in Vietnam. Fuck those guys. No, I'm sorry. through your friends. next one, factor Fiction. You're a massive New York Kns fan Okay. What's your basketball team?

Wayne Su:

Lakers.

Mischa Smith:

Oh, okay.

Wayne Su:

Yeah. I'm Kobe Brian Finn.

Mischa Smith:

Yeah. Having a rough year this year.

Wayne Su:

Yeah. So pretty sad.

Mischa Smith:

sad about Kobe or sad about Kobe, or sad about the, how your Lakers are playing this year.

Wayne Su:

Yeah, the won Chi, right after Kobe passed away, but recently they played soccer.

Mischa Smith:

that was the bubble championship. that's, there's a, there's an asterisk beside that one.

Wayne Su:

Yeah. But I still happy with it. I have a question. you know, When I meet some people, for example, Alexia guys who say, Hey, where you from? for the people from the state usually say it's from USA from the state, but people who live in New York, they'll usually say, I'm from New York. is that true?

Mischa Smith:

having traveled around a bit and met a lot of Americans overseas, I think you're right. People from New York say I'm from New York. I think a lot of other Americans though would also say the state that they're from. First, it's just, I think it's just depends on the person.

Wayne Su:

Oh, okay.

Alex Violette:

When I say I'm from the United States, usually the follow up question is, are you from New York or California? So I think like they're just very recognizable states. So you know that if you say New York, you know what you're talking about. And if I say, Hey, you're from t. People might know, maybe not, but it's just easier to say The United States.

Mischa Smith:

Last one. Wayne Factor Fiction. Vietnam has some very good Taiwanese restaurants.

Wayne Su:

Oh. that's a good one. Fiction. I, I couldn't find a very decent, Taiwanese restaurant. They are some. There's one inify, but they close,

Mischa Smith:

there's not enough good Taiwanese food in Vietnams. You need to open tap room and have a time in his menu.

Wayne Su:

Yeah. I'm fighting for that.

Mischa Smith:

I love it. Good luck with that.

Wayne Su:

Thank you. It's, it's not easy.

Mischa Smith:

Nothing worth doing is ever easy.

Wayne Su:

True.

Mischa Smith:

Awesome. That's been enough, their episode of Beer Stories. thanks to our producer, Niall, thanks to Lewis for our theme music. Alex, thanks for coming along again.

Alex Violette:

Yeah, thanks Misha. Thanks Wayne.

Mischa Smith:

thanks for coming and talking to us

Wayne Su:

tonight. Thank you guys. I feel very pleasure to get invitation from

Mischa Smith:

Yeah. Awesome. it was our pleasure to have you on and, as always, thank you for listening.