I became curious about Bell Banger after trying a few of their guest beers at Cafe de la Poste, so manager Justin Barthélemy connected me to the crew behind these brews—Chris DaBreo and Andres Quiro–and I asked them a few questions by email. By the way, if you are also curious about this brewing operation, Cafe de la Poste is hosting a Bell Banger beer tasting this on Thursday night (see poster below).
I’ve had several of your beers, including Sexy Biscuit and Silent Sally Blonde Ale, and liked them very much. What other brews do you guys regularly make?
We usually have five or six staple beers, which include two different pale ales, two different IPAs and a smoked porter, a blonde ale and a hefeweizen during the summer. We also love experimenting so we often try out a lot of different styles and flavor profiles.
I also understand you guys are doing some interesting beer experiments.
That’s right. Recently we have been experimenting with different types of spice infusions as well as different strains of yeast. We also love sour beers so we have experimented with those for a while now, trying to refine our recipes for traditional Belgian and German sours.
Since we both love cooking, we experiment with a lot of different spices that are usually not available in Beijing, but we also try to cater for local tastes and fuse local and imported ingredients.
There are three partners in Bell Banger. How did you guys meet and how did you learn to make beer?
Right now, there are two partners. We have been good friends for a while and we both love beer, so it was only natural to start brewing. We started very small scale and have been trying to grow organically—the more you brew, the more you learn.
To understand the science behind the chemistry and biology of making beer, it is necessary to study textbooks. The craft beer community is quite nice, everybody is very friendly and helpful, and it is great fun to share notes with fellow brewers.
What do you think of of the growth of home-brewing and brewpubs in Beijing during the past five years?
It is very encouraging to see how the craft beer scene is growing in Beijing, not only brewpub-wise but also the home-brewing scene is quite big. It has definitely changed a lot from the early days when there were only a couple places in which you could get craft beer. The market knows what it wants and the bigger the beer offering, the better for all of us!
Right now, it is easy to find good imported beer at decent prices as well as local produce of great quality. Please don’t forget the importance of drinking locally produced beers!
What are the biggest challenges for you guys when making beer?
Until recently, sourcing ingredients was quite difficult, especially controlling the variability of the sources for grains and hops.
Where else can craft beer fans get their hands on Bell Banger?
For the time being, anybody interested could get our beers at Cafe de la Poste or by contacting us directly. We could provide kegs for parties or events depending on our stock, or as long as we get a notice with some time in advance in case you want a specific kind of beer that we don’t have at that particular time. We also like doing outdoor events when the weather permits.
Note: If you’re interested in Bell Banger beers, contact Chris at cdabreo (at) live.com or Andres at aquiros63 (at) gmail.com.