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Devin Kimble: the proof is in the beer

Devin Kimble ’85 runs microbreweries in Hong Kong and Singapore.

The Fat Farmer

The Fat Farmer

Devin Otto Kimble ’85 opened his first microbrewery in 1997, in Singapore. View full image

Devin Otto Kimble ’85 is the co-owner and director of Hong Kong Beer Co., Hong Kong’s oldest craft brewery, and he calls alcohol “magic.”

For one thing, he points out, it may have nudged us into civilization: “Anthropologists and archaeologists now think one of the reasons we stopped being hunter-gatherers was because of alcohol, and not because of bread.” But in the present, Kimble says, alcohol is part of the new artisan economy—evident in a growing movement of conscious consumers who desire a deeper connection with the people, communities, and stories behind their products. “Craftsmanship is something humans really crave,” he notes. That includes craft beer.

Craftsmanship came easily to him. “I always did a lot of things with my hands. I repaired bicycles, lighting fixtures, and built theater sets at Yale.” His early career didn’t pair well with his taste for making things. “I’ve worked in investment banking and for law firms. When I was in school there was a lot of this ‘Oh, we’re getting away from manual labor. You’ve got to work in an office somewhere.’ But when you’re dealing with physical objects, there’s a fantastic satisfaction in it. Cooking’s that way—and at the end of the day, you can enjoy it with other people. It’s hard to do that with a legal brief.”

Kimble traded legal briefs for tasting notes, starting with a master’s in hotel administration from Cornell. He began by managing a pub in Phnom Penh, eventually became the regional operations manager for Dan Ryan’s Chicago Grill in Hong Kong, later transferred to the Singapore operation, and in 1997, with a partner, opened his first brewery: the Singapore-based Brewerkz Restaurant and Microbrewery. “We saw [craft beer] expand in the west and we saw the popularity grow,” he says. “Singapore seemed like the perfect place to start that.” He’s proud that “we were one of the first microbreweries in Asia.” His timing was good. Over the past two decades he has operated eight businesses in Singapore and Hong Kong; he bought Hong Kong Beer Co. in 2013.

Appealing to Singapore’s palate is a challenge Kimble is determined to master. Early next year, he plans to launch “an iconic craft beer brand that the country can identify with and embrace”—a lager made from red rice and makrut lime. As the economies of Singapore and Asia continue to grow, Kimble expects to see more glasses being filled. “When people get wealthier, they also choose variety. We’ll see more locally made products being used, like tea and fruit. I was just talking to one guy doing a pale ale with locally roasted coffee. You’ve got to stand out.” For Kimble, home has always been where craftsmanship is. “At the end of the day, I can point to a stack of kegs and say, I did that. I created that. I made that.”

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