NBeer Pub 牛啤堂

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 promptly 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.  As chance would have it, he distinctly remembered me from my days peddling the wares of Brooklyn Brewery, North Coast et al, via their Chinese importer/distributor DXCEL, back in 2010.  I had given two training presentations for his staff at PassBy Bar, on how to present and serve craft beers, along with technical and historical information on brewing and beer styles.  Included was a 15+ page bilingual powerpoint printout by the Brewers Association – which Xiao Biar says he still keeps on hand as a reference source!

Soon [thanks to moqi 默契?] I was sitting down with him and another beer buddy Zhao Chen, both of whom had already started popping open bottles from their myriad recent travels.  As we shared these liquid travelogues, the discussion naturally focused on the recent explosion of craft beer and overall beer appreciation in Beijing and China generally.  Graciously, I was not empty-handed and had my own liquid “journal entry” to share with them: Heady Topper DIPA from The Alchemist, frequent competitor for BeerAdvocate’s #1 spot against once longtime titleholder, Pliny the Younger of Russian River Brewing.  Yinhai also soon joined in on the fun.  Let’s just say there ended up being some very happy people sitting around this table…

NBeer’s original Huguosi location is known for their expansive, glass door beer fridge.  Probably half the beers in there are imported by hand, given that formal channels remain much more limited in selection and speed (remember – for most beers, the fresher the better).  Highlights include beers from Stone, Founders, Flying Dog and Dogfish Head, and even 8 Wired from New Zealand.  But the star of the show is the 30-tap draft list, featuring both NBeer creations and those from brewpubs and nanobreweries all over China, including Nanjing, Chengdu and Wuhan. This feat is even more remarkable considering these operations usually don’t pasteurize or filter their beers, and cold-chain distribution is a significant obstacle in a still-developing nation.

One of NBeer’s new concoctions was a Raspberry Berlinerweisse 树莓小麦酸啤Yes,  you read that correctly – a locally-brewed sour beer making the rounds, on draft in a craft beer pub in China!  Straw gold with a tint of ruby, with clean lactic acidity and gentle fruity sweetness from the raspberry, they brewed it with the intention of ready-made consumption as an off-dry, faintly-sweet thirst quencher without the need for additional flavored syrups.  Xiao Biar handed a sample of it to me without my asking, and just when I was craving something unusual. (There’s that moqi 默契 again!)  I had numerous more servings of this easy-drinking 3.5% ABV nectar as the night wore on.

NBeer Raspberry Berlinerweisse

NBeer Raspberry Berlinerweisse

Wuhan’s No. 18 Brewery, aka Bubble Lab, impressed with a delightful milk stout.  They also had a helles that was clean and flavorful, although the bitterness was a bit strong and lingering, possibly more befitting of a pilsner or pale lager moniker.  Nonetheless, it was satisfying to know that people in the smoggy urban behemoth on the Yangtze had a tasty way to beat the oppressive summer broil.  The stout was also a great way to accompany NBeer’s classic Beijing street snack: yangrou chuanr 羊肉串.

Wuhan Bubble Lab Helles

Wuhan Bubble Lab Helles

I’ll finish this post with an announcement and another thanks to the magic that is moqi 默契: with a quick decision from Xiao Biar, I will be a guest judge for the upcoming 4th Annual China “Master Cup” Homebrewing Competition (第四届“大师杯”中国家酿啤酒大奖赛将) in Qinhuangdao this weekend of August 22!  Full report to follow!

(FULL DISCLOSURE: most of my drinks and food were compliments of the management.)

(DISCLOSURE UPDATE 9/28/2015: I have now joined the NBeer team for at least a 3-month stint, handling promotional and educational duties.)

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