the urbanist: beijing

Craft Beer Is a Big Deal in Beijing Now — Here’s Where to Drink It

Jing-A Brewpub. Photo: Courtesy of Jing-A Brewing Co

Largely thanks to the influence of brewers from the U.S., Beijing’s pedigreed craft beer scene is one of the strongest in Asia. Debbie Ma, a beer-loving traditional Chinese medicine doctor and member of the Beijing Homebrewing Society, gives us her guide to the ultimate weekend craft beer crawl, moving west to east across the city.

First round: NBeer Pub
“Opened in 2013, this was the first purely Chinese-run craft beer venue in Beijing, and co-founders Xiao Biar and Yin Hai are the longest-serving beer geeks in the city’s craft beer community. They opened the third NBeer Pub in Wukesong — it’s also a kind of beer museum, with a massive collection of beer bottles from around the world. Xiao Biar has been to over 70 countries in 13 years and collected more than 8,000 bottles; he made an exquisite artwork out of them. Forty-two taps, including four nitrogen taps and two hand pumps, guarantee a lot of local draft craft beer is on offer, plus draft guest beer and hundreds of bottled import beers. NBeer doesn’t just take pride in the number of beers it has — the owners take pride in the quality of the beer they make. In the 2017 Brussels Beer Challenge, their Beijing Gose Modern beer defeated 1,512 competitors to win a gold award. This sour beer is proof that the standard of China’s craft beer has greatly improved.”

Second round: Great Leap #6
“For many Beijingers, Great Leap’s hutong branch was their first craft beer experience in the city. It’s always great sitting in their quiet yard with a beer, whatever the season. Great Leap is the pioneer of Beijing’s craft beer scene, using mainly domestic hops and malt they successfully make beer with Chinese elements. Honey Ma Gold is spiced with Sichuan peppercorns, Iron Buddha Blonde is infused with oolong tea, and they often have seasonal drinks worth trying.”

Arrow Factory Brewing. Photo: Courtesy of Arrow Factory Brwing

Third round: Arrow Factory Brewing
“This branch, just off Wudaoying Hutong, is in the same courtyard as Stuff’d: a small restaurant that sells handmade sausage. Arrow Factory started in 2012 as a mini-brewery with only two fermenters, but through boss Will Yorke’s research efforts, their beer got more and more delicious. This, the smaller of their two branches, is unpretentious and has antique decorations. The quality of the beer is stable and nice; I like their Hefeweizen and Belgian Ale. The food is typical British pub-style with sausage, salad, and burgers, plus fish and chips every Tuesday.”

Fourth round: Peiping Machine Taphouse
“This is located in an old factory space near Fangjia Hutong. Originally a workshop, now the bar area is a lovely place with an excellent combination of Chinese-style barbecue, jianbing [a kind of chicken wrap], and craft beer. They have two branches; this one has 32 taps and their Gongti branch has 64, which is the highest count in Beijing. Peiping is often the first choice for international brands’ entry into China, such as BrewDog and Logsdon.”

Jing-A Brewpub. Photo: Courtesy of Jing-A Brewing Co

Fifth round: Jing-A Brewpub
“Jing-A is my favorite pub and this is their newest venue, on Xingfucun Zhong Lu. Their craft beer has Beijing flavor and taste—for example Duck Rye’der, a rye IPA, has a strong aroma of hops that really cheers you up, and they have wheat beer brewed with watermelon from Beijing’s Daxing district. Their seasonal specials really excite us beer lovers.”

Last call: Design Beer Pub
“This is a tiny, cute pub hidden on the 28th floor of Wangjing Hesheng Kylin Club overlooking Wangjing Soho: a complex consisting of three curvilinear skyscrapers which includes offices and retail spaces, making it an excellent spot to view Wangjing at night. During the day the venue is a studio where craft beer lovers share, learn, buy materials, or simply experiment with beer. At night it turns into a lively pub with over 200 imported beers, a couple of craft beer taps plus two or three local craft beers on tap.”

Still thirsty? Try these taprooms …

Slow Boat Brewery. Photo: Courtesy of Slow Boat Brewery

Slow Boat Brewery
They’re introducing new beer constantly, and it was a real shame when their smaller hutong venue shut down because of the Beijing ‘bricking up’ campaign.”

Transmountain Taphouse
“It’s a small hidden pub in a residential community. They have an isobaric filling machine, which allows them to deliver fresh craft beer to your dinner table, plus Japanese food.”

Steamrhino Brewing Co.
Besides their own craft beer, they often invite homebrew lovers to experiment here. It’s a spacious bar and restaurant with well-prepared roast lamb.”

“It opened in 2017 and is part of Hotel Jen; it’s a relaxed place with live music. Their crisp dry-hopped cider, which uses Shandong province apples, is worth a try.”

Where to Drink Craft Beer in Beijing