Since we are passionate about beer/ beer culture, we share insights, experience and information. We’ve interviewed Mike Sherretz, Founder of My Homebrew Store, a shop in Shanghai that supplies wine & beer brewing goods to clients in China. He is an educator and a scientist with a mission to provide the resources in knowledge and supplies to allow the people in China to enjoy this great hobby.
CDBeer: What got you started in brewing?
Mike: I was on assignment in Canada and my buddies were making wine at a Brew Your Own store near Toronto. I visited this store and decided to try making some wine. While I was there, I saw others making stuff in Copper kettles and I asked them what they were doing. They were making beer. The next time I went back to bottle my wine, I also made a batch of beer. This beer was the best I had ever tasted so I continued. That was in 1990. Prior to that I had been making a lot of homemade things in my kitchen since the 70’s and this was just a natural extension of my passion for home-crafted items of all types.
CDBeer: What’s your impression of the craft beer market in China?
Mike: The Craft beer market is very new. Probably the first ones were the Paulaner Restaurants. However, they sold their beers only in their restaurants and things progressed slowly from there. Since there is not much variety in the commercial beers available here, it was only natural that passionate guys would try to fill that gap. So, now there is a fast growing trend of microbreweries springing up in China. This is really helping the public to be better educated about good beer and is increasing the interest in both the expat communities and the upward mobile locals.
CDBeer: When will a website be launched or shop opened?
Mike: My Homebrew Store is already open for business and the website is under construction. I am trying to focus on the supply until it is secure and then turn my focus towards the online market via websites and other online buying options. However, I am not really a fan of most of the Chinese online buying sites right now since there are too many fakes and poor quality suppliers represented there. I’m looking for a better forum to promote my products. Next year my website will be fully functional and it is www.myhomebrewstore.cn but under construction right now. Most of my business is actually done my e-mail currently. My e-mail is [email protected] .
CDBeer: How do you market your company?
Mike: My focus is on keeping this a hobby-based approach and not turn it into another job. I am doing this for the enjoyment and satisfaction of teaching a new generation and another culture the joys of having great hobbies like brewing beer and wine themselves. The profit motive is secondary to me right now. So, we attend local beer fests and hold Brew Days at my place twice a month to give free classes, answer questions and introduce new people to this wonderful hobby. We are now in many magazines with adds in the Homebrew Store listings area and we’re on TV with segments like the one running now on ICS in Shanghai.
CDBeer: From where do you get your supplies?
Mike: All my ingredients are imported right now. This is because I need to keep my customers comfortable with the idea that they are receiving top quality products from the world’s best suppliers. I do not want to ever be accused of substituting local or fake ingredients for the good stuff. So malts are from Briess in the US, Weyermann in Germany and Patagonia in Chile. The hops are from the Hops Union and the yeasts are from the major yeast manufacturers including the specialty yeasts from White Labs and Wyeast. At the same time I am trying to source the equipment locally. I use locally made brew pots and other hard items, but sensitive things like hoses and plastics that are certified as food-grade and safe are still all imported.
CDBeer: What’s the average profile of your current clients? Do you see this changing in the future?
Mike: My clientele is mostly expats right now. But we see the locals getting more interested in hobbies and their inquiries are getting more frequent. I see this business starting off first in the first tier cities and then quickly expanding to the second tier areas when people find out they can do these sorts of things. The Chinese have a very long history of craftsmanship and innovation and I believe they will soon take this hobby to new heights with unique ingredients and methods. I think they will soon have trademark beer styles that are totally Chinese just like their foods and handmade crafts. I hope I can assist making this happen.
CDBeer: Has this become your only job? If so, how long did it take until you could support yourself?
Mike: I hesitate to call this a job. This is a hobby and a love of mine, more than a job. I left the corporate world as a VP Manufacturing for a global medical company and more than 30 years in the chemicals industry to pursue my lifelong desires, not for another job. My wife and I formed a consulting business first to try to help the Chinese become better global leaders and that is our main business. The homebrew business is closely tied to this since our message to China is that leaders need to be well rounded and this requires a lifestyle where you can live the life that matches your dreams and keep your passion alive. This is why our company name is composed of Leadership and Lifestyle, Leader styles. The lifestyle part is teaching leaders how to enjoy life and have a passion outside of the office too. My Homebrew Store is still in the startup mode and it does not earn a profit right now. That will come in years ahead if we do things right.
CDBeer: Anything you’d do differently if you had to do it again?
Mike: For the moment, I can’t think of anything I would do differently. It is still early and I have much to learn about importing into China and the journey has always been the exciting part for me, not really the destination. I just wish things could happen faster and that is a common feeling with most foreigners in China. Learning the bureaucracy and changing business climate here is a real challenge (for sure in my more than 15 years China), but rewarding at the same time.
CDBeer: Anything you’d tell home brewers who are thinking about going pro?
Mike: Well, for Homebrewers who want to branch out and “go pro” as you say, I would caution them to make sure they assemble as much knowledge as they can before they invest. The business laws and regulations here are strange and often hard to find. My experience is that nobody tells you what you have to do, you just get told when you do something wrong, so watch out and ask lots of questions. Attending a university with a brewing school should be a requirement so you don’t get blindsided by the things you should have known but you don’t. So, be careful but go for it if that’s your passion.
CDBeer: What are your plans for the future?
Mike: I would like to see my products available in some of the better grocery stores and microbreweries throughout Shanghai. I would like to have places where customers could pick up their orders close to home and I could be there at certain times to give demos and answer questions. I believe this is a better model than just opening a storefront. My ultimate goal is to open a Brew-on-Premises location where customers can come in and use my equipment to make their beer and wine and don’t have to buy the equipment themselves. In addition, I plan to continue to be the first and the best One-Stop-Shop for all your brewing needs in China, not just Shanghai. In years to come, this may involve stores in other cities and maybe franchises. In addition, I am looking at the large market out there for a contract brew house where restaurants and microbreweries could come to make and bottle on a larger scale. This way, I could provide economies of scale and the right automated equipment to really make the craft brewing industry accelerate into the average household and have more “made in China” beers on the shelves in the supermarkets. My philosophy is when I do things right, everyone wins.