Modern IPA (and “double” IPA）poses a conundrum to the beergeek with historicist inclinations. A style of beer that was historically meant to survive a long journey through tropical climates, is ironically today one which nearly everybody tries to consume as fresh as possible. Such is the way human tastes evolve over the generations. For an example from the wine world: most Champagne prior to the 20th century was quite sweet (and before the 17th century were intended to be non-carbonated still wines, devoid of bubbles), but today the fashion is for the crisp, dry acidity of Extra Brut or even Brut Nature Champagnes. What we assume as commonplace today can differ greatly from that which came before.
Concurrent with improved technology and transport, as well as the seemingly unceasing development of new hop varietals, nowadays the craving for freshness has some consumers literally chasing delivery trucks to get their unadulterated hop fix. Alas, this often means that for consumers in faraway locales such as China, procuring the putative “best in world” of these beer styles, while still in their supposed “optimum” state, proves a near impossibility.
But every so often, an opportunity arises for me to share the bounty with others… I recently had to make a quick trip back to the USA, and so tasked myself with the mission of bringing back the freshest samples I could obtain of among the most highly-rated IPA’s and Double IPA’s currently buzzing in the (alas, still largely) Americentric craft beer world.
As such, NBeer and I decided early on that this tasting should predominantly target Chinese consumers, since most Westerners can much more easily seek out fresh, top notch IPA’s in their home countries…
This past weekend, Beijing East Hotel hosted the 2nd iteration of the Beijing Autumn Craft Beer Festival, organized by Slow Boat Brewery. Helped along by two straight days of miraculously clean, sunny and comfortable autumn weather – as well as the opening of a new subway line servicing the area – the crowd was reportedly bigger and more sustained than last year. This second edition also boasted 14 beer tents compared to the previous year’s 11. I tried my best to make the rounds and sample each tent’s offerings, but as I noted in my announcement about joining the NBeer 牛啤堂 team, I was largely preoccupied with helping out at their tent.
This year’s breweries/tents were: #18 Brewery, Wuhan; Amoy Brau, Xiamen; Arrow Factory Brewing, Beijing; Bad Monkey Brewery, Dali; Beijing Homebrewing Society, Beijing; Bionic Brew, Shenzhen; Boxing Cat Brewery, Shanghai; Calvin Beer Company, Hefei; Chengdu Harvest Brewing Company, Chengdu; Great Leap Brewing, Beijing; 京 A Brewing Co. , Beijing; Master Gao Brewing, Nanjing; NB Craft Brewing Company, Beijing; Slow Boat Brewery, Beijing.
A nice variety of beer eats were provided by five food vendors: pizza from Xian Bar, Japanese from Hagaki, sausages from Andy’s, falafel from Biteapita, and BBQ from Home Plate.
As readers have probably guessed by now, I have developed a good relationship with the people at NBeer. It is therefore with great excitement that I announce a 3-month temporary arrangement joining their team. I will be involved in promoting their brand, particularly to English-speaking foreigners, and representing them at events. I will also be conducting staff training and various other beer-related responsibilities at their venues.
NBeer is one of only a handful of craft-inspired brewpubs with an entirely Chinese management and brewing staff. While expat-run or -brewed operations have been, and will of course continue to be, pioneers of craft brewing in China, it is of my opinion that native Chinese brewers and consumers will be the ultimate barometers of beer culture in China. For this reason in particular, I am honored to be working with them.
In light of this new development, I want to assure readers that I intend to continue writing this blog, although now I might be somewhat busier than just a few months before. Also, I will do my best to keep this blog free of any professional biases, just as I did during my time with DXCEL. My personal hope is for craft beer to continue growing in China, regardless of whether it directly involves my current business relationships. A note of disclosure will also accompany subsequent postings involving NBeer, and will be added to the “About” page.
Ok, I guess “extravaganza” makes this sound a little more grandiose and bigger in scale than it ended up being, but it was still a selection of beers within (and some without) the top 20 rankings of “best in world” lists at BeerAdvocate.com and/or the top 100 at Ratebeer.com (which is an alphabetical list, unranked). So indulge us for just a little, ok?
Kindly hosted by NBeer’s Sanlitun location thanks once again to Xiao Biar‘s magnanimity, I was joined by Jim Boyce (aka BeijingBoyce), Tom Gaestadius of Arrow Factory and Tracy W, executive editor of Beer Link Magazine. Unfortunately unable to attend were invitees from Slow Boat and Jing-A. We’ll try not to rub their noses in it for the rest of their lives – at least not TOO much… 😉
As promised, here’s my feature on being a judge at the 4th Annual China “Master Cup” Homebrewing Competition…
[Excerpt] “Firstly, one needs to recognize that there is a relative paucity of qualified judges in China, so there were only fifteen of us and we had to taste approximately 80+ entries each. There were eight categories and each judge would be assigned two of them: one flight for the morning session, and the other in the afternoon.”
Read in full…
Per the recommendations of multiple friends, Arrow Factory Brewing’s Taproom had to be among the next destinations on my list. Only a couple hutong blocks west of the Lama Temple, the surrounding Wudaoying area is an eclectic mix of cafes, bars and boutiques, catering to tourist, upscale and/or hipster clientele, each to varying degrees. Feel free to make what you will of that description… 😉 The hutong they are situated on is itself called the “Arrow Factory Hutong” 箭厂胡同, which also hosts an art studio of the same name. The taproom was formerly their only production site, before they upgraded to a larger location in the outer Shunyi District. Immediately adjacent is Stuff’d Restaurant, whose full, UK-tinged menu is also served in the taproom.
In Chinese culture, there is the concept of moqi 默契 – an implicit or unsaid understanding between two parties. People here frequently talk about how it permeates interpersonal relationships and daily interactions. In my experience, it often seems to intersect with the general human fascination towards serendipity or fortuitous encounters. This past Tuesday evening once again saw these forces collide at the 2-year anniversary celebration of NBeer Pub 牛啤堂, held at their original location in the Xicheng neighborhood of Huguosi 护国寺.
It all started with a long-time reader of this blog, Yinhai. Contacting me promply after the blog’s revival last week, he invited me to the party. Upon arriving, I immediately encountered the co-founder, Xiao Biar, who recognized me before I could embarrassingly muster the same for him.
This summer remains a scorcher, but I [barely] braved the muggy heat to make my long overdue visits to these marquee brewpubs. On Wednesday, I navigated Beijing’s famous hutongs, first to Great Leap Brewing‘s original #6 location in Doujiao Hutong south of the Drum Tower (Gulou) and then several blocks away to Slow Boat Brewery Taproom in the Dongsi area. The next day saw me stopping by Jing-A Brewing Co., which has arguably the “fanciest” or most “upscale” location of these three, near Sanlitun in the 1949 Hidden City complex. Suffice to say, it was obvious to me why they all have done so well. Finally, after some noble-but-failed attempts, the American-style craft brewpub has carved out a solid foothold in this city.
Read in full…
It’s been a tumultuous and difficult past five years. Sometimes life just happens. I apologize to everyone for not keeping this blog up to date, and especially to those who may have tried to contact me during this extended hiatus. I can’t guarantee that I’ll find your original message, but hope that in case I don’t, perhaps you’d be willing to reach out to me once again.
Now I’m back in Beijing, and the beer scene has blossomed beyond what I ever could have imagined back in 2010. Lots of catching up to do! I have some backlogged entries I’d like to put up, but priority will be towards new beginnings. Onwards!