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Meet the Young Trio Behind Macau’s First and Only Craft Brewery

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“Macau has a dream. The city can have its own manufacturing, and it has its own culture,” says Crystal Kwok. “It is more than just tourism and gambling.”

Kwok is the marketing director for Funny Eye Brewing, Macau’s first and only craft brewery, which she founded alongside friends Alison Tam and Lucas Lio. The company is independently owned and produces a variety of small-batch beers with unique flavors.

“We want to proudly say that we’re a brand from Macau, and it’s also 100% made in Macau,” says Kwok.

Made in Macau

The three young friends, all born in the 1990s, started Funny Eye in 2018 while attending the University of Macao. With 700,000 MOP (about 87,000 USD) in funding, a mix of personal savings and prizes won from various startup pitch contests, they set out to create a brand representing today’s Macau.

In the beginning, Lio studied brewing techniques in Hong Kong and produced all the products there to be shipped to Macau. Meanwhile, Kwok and Tam stayed in Macau and sold the beers at the Hong Kung Night Market every Saturday.

The trio opened their first brick-and-mortar location in Macau, Funny Eye Tasting Room, in June 2019 to better connect with their customers.

Nestled in the city’s historic center, just a few minutes’ walk from the Ruins of St. Paul’s, the tasting room is a cozy and relaxing space with seats for about 15 patrons. The bar only operates from 8 PM to early morning, as the space is shared with Triangle Coffee Roaster during the day.

funny eye brewing macau brewery

Before getting a brick-and-mortar location, the trio used to sell their craft suds at a street market

When Covid hit in 2020, mailing between Hong Kong and Macau became tricky, which pushed them to finally establish their own brewery in Macau that same year.

Ever since, they’ve been selling craft beers that are 100% made in Macau to local restaurants and bars.

A Taste for Booze

None of the three founders grew up drinking alcohol. In fact, according to Kwok, Macau doesn’t have much of a drinking culture.

“I think people who are passionate or live in big cities and are under much pressure tend to develop a habit of drinking. But life in Macau is too stagnant,” she explains. “Also, in Asian cultures, especially in China, we are taught that drinking is a bad thing.”

Kwok grew up as a “bad kid,” she says jokingly. She drank for the first time in the summer after graduating from middle school, when her friend took her to a bar.

Macau craft beer funny eye kwok

Crystal Kwok holds a bag of Funny Eye craft beer in the brewery

“I didn’t enjoy drinking when I was younger,” Kwok says. “It didn’t matter what you drank, the goal was to get drunk and have fun together.”

But now, she enjoys casual drinking at home — she likes to taste the unique flavors of different liquors.

“I like the feeling of tipsiness and relaxation after drinking. It feels good because that time belongs to myself,” she says. “When I’m tired or stressed, I’d rather have a glass of wine than go to bed earlier, because that makes me feel more relaxed, like a sovereign remedy.”

Macau craft beer funny eye founders

A photo of the three friends in Portugal

When Kwok and Tam first started to sell beer at the night market, their family and friends didn’t support their entrepreneurial project.

“[It was] because we were two girls, and many people had a negative stereotype about women selling alcohol on the street,” Kwok says. “A steady job, such as working at a hotel, casino, or the government, is always more preferable. In fact, Macau is a very stable society, and few people opt for new lifestyles.”

But that’s precisely what the three ambitious entrepreneurs are trying to do: embrace traditional techniques while taking a different approach.

Flavors of the East

Funny Eye Brewing’s main products are tea beers, Kwok tells RADII, as they represent the image of Macau as a city where East meets West.

“Macau is unique in the way that different cultures peacefully coexist here. For example, a building with a Chinese-style facade might have a European-style roof, or a church just unapologetically sits right next to a temple,” Kwok says.

“So, even though the brewing techniques were brought from Western countries, we wanted to add something special from China: tea.”

They try to make their craft beers with diverse and unique flavors. So far, the eclectic list of libations includes Lychee Black Tea Ale, Osmanthus Pilsner, Passionfruit Cider, Rose Ale, Funny Dog Pale Ale, Lucky Cat IPA, and the newly invented Coffee IPA and Draught Beer.

Kwok introduces the Lychee Black Tea Ale, infused with lychee skin and black tea, as their most representative product.

“It smells like lychee and tastes like tea,” she says. “The multiple layers represent our brand culture that introduces new flavors to a traditional field.”

Macau craft beer funny eye lychee black tea ale

Lychee Black Tea Ale is the most representative product of Funny Eye Brewing

With the local design studio WWAVE Design, Funny Eye rebranded itself last year with a new visual identity. Just as the new logo shown below depicts an eye looking to the stars, the team is determined to “explore the unknown and create interesting things with no constraints.”

Macau craft beer logo funny eye

Kwok says that they rarely make concrete plans before they take action. Most of the time, they just follow their hearts. That sometimes generates random results but also sparks unconventional ideas and imagination.

“The advantage of being young is that when you make mistakes or there’s a new trend, you can catch it quickly. Our brand has indeed changed a lot in the past.”

In 2022, they hope to expand their product line to the Chinese mainland market. As for more specific plans, they have none yet, and they are quite alright with that.

“Yes, we’d stick to that spirit of impulse, recklessness, and stubbornness. We’ll continue trying even if we hit the wall,” Kwok says.

All photos courtesy of Crystal Kwok

Lu Zhao
Lu Zhao is a bilingual and multimedia journalist with a focus on human interest and social issues. Her work has appeared in USA Today, UPI, SupChina, Pandaily, Chicago Reporter, and other publications.
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