My Beijing Beer Quest

How I Visited 55 Craft Beer Establishments in China’s Capital So You Don’t Have To

With 35 craft breweries and counting, Beijing is clearly the craft beer capital of China. However, that’s not to say you can swing a cat and be assured of hitting a pub or bottle shop that offers something other than Chinese industrial light lager or “premium” imported suds. It’s still early days in the industry’s development. The capital city’s brewpubs and taprooms are also spread out, requiring some guidance and planning to fully appreciate the local brews without fruitless searching wasting your valuable time.

As part of my research into China’s craft breweries for my book, The Great Hop Forward, I recently visited Beijing to evaluate each of its local producers and their various branded taprooms. Beginning with 京A Brewing’s excellent 8×8 China Beer Project, I resolved to evaluate 50 establishments in 14 days. Setting aside two days for the festival, this amounted to an average of just over four stops per day.

By the numbers, my Beijing Beer Quest may not seem to be extraordinary. However, take into consideration the language barrier, the need for accurate location information, the necessary travel between stops, and having to drink for hours daily for two full weeks. It’s not as easy as it seems. As it were, this turned out to be an unprecedented achievement for even those who live there.

How did I do this? Continue reading

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TAPS and Parallel 49 Create First China-Canada Collaboration

In craft beer’s never-ending quest to create something new and different, collaboration beers began as an expression of friendship and mutual respect between two or more brewers. For example, when I learned that the brewhouse from DIX BBQ & Brewery in Vancouver had been bought by the owners of Brassneck Brewery, I proposed to their brewer/co-owner, Conrad Gmoser, that he, Derrick Franche, and Tony Dewald do a brew together on the system they had each used.

So was born the Spirit of DIXmas Past IPA, a bold West Coast IPA that DIX was legendary for. Today, it is brewed at an annual gathering of the three brewers at Brassneck, timed to come out just before the Christmas holidays. Its release at Brassneck spawns an impromptu reunion of DIXheads, the hophead regulars who held their own New Orleans-style funeral wake when the Mark James Group brewpub closed.

These days, collaborations – like brewmasters dinners and tap takeovers – have become rather everyday. To make a statement, you need to come up with a unique angle, such as the Red Racer Across the Nation Collaboration for Canada’s 150th anniversary. This was a 12-pack of collaborations Central City’s brewer, Gary Lohin, made with one brewer from each province and territory in the country, which I shared at the China Craft Brewers Conference Industry Night in Shanghai in May. Continue reading

Where This All Began

Guangzhou street scene.

Men play Go on a Guangzhou street in 1992.

I first visited China on January 25, 1992. It was also my first time visiting a communist country. Even though the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone had been in existence for nearly 10 years, a sense of unease sat in the pit of my stomach as my train plodded through the Guangdong countryside en route to Guangzhou from Hong Kong. I suppose part of it was the butterflies one may get when venturing outside your comfort zone. The other part likely came from the staff’s uniforms which reminded me of the power officialdom can bring to bear on the perceived wrongdoer, agitator, criminal, or spy. I was going to Red China!
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