Late Boat to China (Beijing and Shanghai)
I meant to provide what I learned about the craft beer scene in China several months ago- which is why this is the Late Boat. But the first beverage isn’t beer- it’s yogurt. Everywhere around Beijing, street vendors sell room-temperature clay vessels with paper strapped across the top. Once you pay for it, you get a straw to break the paper. You have to stand there and finish it- no keeping the clay cup! It’s fantastic- tangy, creamy- and definitely alive- as yogurt (and beer) should be.
I met Chandler Jurinka, General Manager of Slow Boat Brewery, at one of his customers in an expat part of Beijing called Home Plate BBQ. The all-Citra hop IPA (called mango IPA, as a head-butt instead of a nod to the distinctive flavor and aroma characteristics) was refreshing and clean. He pointed to the keg sitting directly next to the hot brick BBQ oven and explained that much of his job is educating about proper beer care and service.
I had hoped to try the beer being brewed by Carl at Great Leap Brewing Company, but was told it was “closed for a little while” which apparently happens sometimes in China. So instead I took a cooking class at Black Sesame Kitchen, which is located within one of many walled communities in Beijing called hutongs.
The four hour class had room for 10, a Chinese chef, and an interpreter. After the knife work portion, the beer came out. Not very good beer, which prompted me to ask the interpreter about craft beer in China. That question opened many new doors. It turned out that the Beijing Homebrew Society was meeting that night – at Great Leap – around the corner!
That night I met some amazing homebrewers, joined the club, and finally sampled some of the Great Leap beers I’d heard so much about.
I also engaged in another of my travel pursuits in Beijing: offal. Pig brain hot pot at Hai Di Lao– yum! I will spare you the photo and instead introduce you to the best beer I had in China. I really wanted it to be at Boxing Cat, a fine twin set of brewpubs hugging the French section of Shanghai.
And while Boxing Cat’s Winter Warmer in bourbon barrels and its King Louis Imperial Stout were excellent- it was the subtle Kelly Green, the perfectly balanced IPA, and the Pils at The Brew in Shanghai’s Kerry Hotel by handsome brewer Leon Mickelson from New Zealand that stole the China show.
A few months after the trip to China, a couple of members of the Beijing Homebrew Society descended on Cambridge Brewing Company to sample Will Meyers’ beer- and then buy homebrew supplies at Modern Brewer.
I would love to hear from people who’ve found craft beer in China!