Thanks to its huge population (nearly 1.4 billion as of July 2014), China consumes more beer than any other country — 54 billion liters this past year. That’s good news for homegrown craft beer producers, who are brewing locally and serving up their suds all over the place. Here’s where to go for some of China’s craftiest pints.
Boxing Cat Brewery
In a brewery in suburban Shanghai, American brew master Michael Jordan toils over his tanks. Jordan came to Shanghai by way of Copenhagen and, since starting at Boxing Cat in November 2010, he’s raked in a number of awards for his brews. Of the Cat’s six core options, the fruity Sucker Punch pale ale took home the gold at the 2013 Asia Beer Cup. Jordan and his team brew seasonal selections like the wonderfully autumnal spiced pumpkin ale; they also collaborate with other craft brewers like Washington state’s Harmon Brewing Co., with whom they produced a double chocolate chili stout.
From the gleaming tanks at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Kerry Hotel, Pudong, Shanghai, Kiwi brew master Leon Mickelson pulls a thick vanilla stout. It’s one of six varieties on offer at The Brew, which has the feel of a chummy neighborhood pub gone upmarket. The IPA and pilsner are the most popular, and Mickelson gets bonus points for offering a low-carb beer and a superb crisp cider. The Brew is at its most crowded after work and during weekends, when parents — sprung from play dates at the hotel’s Adventure Zone children’s area — cool off with a drink.
Great Leap Brewing
What started off in 2009 as American Carl Setzer’s tiny home-brewing operation has today grown to a brewery producing a range of 40 beers and three brewpubs. The original location is still open, tucked in a hutong near the Drum and Bell Tower; the other two much larger branches are near and in Sanlitun. Great Leap uses local ingredients to make its craft beers truly Chinese. The Honey Ma Gold, for example, is made with Sichuan peppercorns and honey from an apiary in Shandong owned by Setzer’s wife’s relatives.
Jing-A (京A) Brewing Co.
Jing-A takes its name from the jing in Beijing (京, meaning capital), where it was founded by pals Kris Li and Alex Acker. The duo started off home brewing as a hobby before borrowing brewing space to set up shop in 1949 The Hidden City, a former factory complex. Jing-A has nine of its own beers on tap — like the Blushing Geisha Koji Red Ale, brewed in collaboration with local restaurant Hatsune — and two guest brews, one from Norwegian brewery Nøgne Ø. Among Jing-A’s most popular pours is its Airpocalypse Double IPA, which comes with a twist: the higher the air quality index in Beijing (meaning the more polluted), the lower the beer’s price.
Tipping Point Brewing Co.
Brewmaster Troy Foo goes wild with his craft beers, utilizing flavors such as kumquat, hazelnut and ginseng. Tipping Point’s house-made brew selection rotates and includes a cream ale, an American pale ale and a West Coast IPA. Look out for limited edition beers like the double IPA Tipping Point, brewed for the Asia Pacific Dragons and Hong Kong Football Club Rugby 10s. In addition to its own brews, Tipping Point has a handful of beers on tap, including BrewDog’s Punk IPA and Rogue Dead Guy Ale.