Munich and… Brazil(?!) in Beijing

In early December 2009, I came across a restaurant/brewpub called Golden Hans 金汉斯 in the Wangjing area of Beijing (in Chaoyang District).  I figured I would give it a shot.  Lo and behold, it was one of the weirdest and surprising beer experiences in my life.  They brew three German-style beers: a “pilsener”, a dunkel, and a weissbier.  And for less than 50 RMB per person, you can partake in a mixed buffet of generic [sub-par, but usually edible] “Western” and “Chinese” food… WITH… (get this…) …Brazillian churrasco!  Well, at least it TRIES to be churrasco – to be fair, it’s probably the most palatable food on their menu.  Adding to this bizarre cultural amalgamation, the waitresses are dressed in Bavarian dirndl and the waiters making the rounds with skewers of meat are decked out in cowboy-like gaucho attire.  Um… yeah…

But onto the BEER… it’s actually rather decent (especially considering the price)!  The weissbier is cloudy, straw-colored, and uses a proper Bavarian yeast strain – imparting the classic flavor and aroma characteristics of banana, clove and bubblegum.  The dunkel is clean and malty, mildly to moderately hopped, with notes of coffee and cocoa.  The only “off” notes came with the so-called “pilsener” (that’s indeed what they called it in Chinese: 比尔森啤酒) – it came to my table cloudy, with funky, raw, sulfurous notes that are actually more like a kellerbier/zwickelbier or landbier from Franconia.  If you think of it as such, it’s actually not that far off the mark.

The brewing equipment on site does not seem to include an actual mashtun, so I have a feeling that they are using malt extract syrup within the brewpub, instead of actual barley malt in kernel form.  However, I soon found out that Golden Hans is a HUGE chain with over 100 locations throughout China.  So perhaps they actually do have some centralized control over the quality of the extract produced, before it gets distributed to all their brewpub locations.

Other quirks with regards to beer include the fact that they are instructed (by their promotional materials) to serve the “pilsener” in a weissbier glass, and the weissbier is served in a mug/stein.  This is generally the opposite of what is “supposed” to be done.  But whatever, not a big deal.

Atmosphere is actually quite raucous during peak hours, as local Chinese flock to the buffets.  There is also usually a live band, or a saxophonist playing renditions of that insipid, Kenny-G-style “jazz” which the Chinese absolutely loooooove for some ungodly reason.

The below photos are from a later visit to one of their EIGHT other Beijing locations, this particular one in Haidian District.  NOTE: turns out the beer is not included in the price of the buffet – at least not at the Haidian location.  I forget the price, but it’s not expensive (unlike Paulaner or Drei Kronen).  You can actually order it in a faux-wood mini-keg, probably 2 liters in volume.

Full write-up and beer reviews forthcoming.

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