Go Big or Go Bust | Oak & Iron Brewpub in Beijing

Oak & Iron is creating craft beer scene buzz with this video that details the two years owners Akira and Coco spent DIY-ing their space in Beijing. The pair handled everything from pouring concrete to welding table bases to torch-finishing wood panels to painting walls to adding Arctic pelts, a “last call” bell, spoon collections and more to those walls to complement the fireplace and Christmas tree. Not to mention designing a beer menu and making the beer itself. Whew. It’s something to behold and one can imagine the lessons learned and satisfaction gained from such a project.

Two days ago, I headed to Oak & Iron in Gaobeidian. I crossed the river and strode into those long fastidiously linear and near-empty narrow streets lined with tall copycat grey-bricked buildings under equally flat grey skies that were broken only by a massive plume arising from some distant factory. It all made for an Orwellian vibe. And to be honest, made reaching the comfort of Oak & Iron much more rewarding.

I spent a few hours working through Oak & Iron’s five house pours—they also source five draft beers—and talking with the owners. Akira hails from England and picked up the handyman spirit as a child, one he fully put to use with partner Coco, from Beijing, in creating Oak & Iron. (It’s the same spirit with which Zhang Bingzhai makes his hutong wines, the same resourcefulness and can-do attitude.) He explained how time-consuming are the daily tasks of brewing and how much beers can vary when made a keg or two at a time.

Oak & Iron has bar and table seating plus couches near a fireplace and a towering Christmas tree. More accurately, the Christmas tree has been smartly turned into a Chinese New Year tree. (Part of the inspiration was the thought of having to dismantle and fit it back in the box!) It makes for a cozy atmosphere on these cold Beijing nights. And it sounds like a good number of home brewers and serious craft beer fans have already popped by for some pints.

The Oak & Iron beers are 25 rmb to 35 rmb for a small and 30 rmb to 45 rmb for large. My favorites were Space Ape New England IPA, with its freshness and touch of passion fruit character hitting the spot after the jaunt to Gaobeidian, and the Stangoe Unshamed Rye IPA, which had a pleasant hoppy toasty aroma and a touch of spice—it’s named for one of Akira’s buddies back home who apparently has “no shame” when he drinks!

Other options include American Leftovers Wheat Beer, Six Toe Tiger Double IPA (that name is going to inspire lots of “what does it mean?” questions, to which the answer is, “It just sounds good”) and Dark Horse Stout, which isn’t as rich and full as some options in Beijing, instead offering a leaner and more playful profile with aromas of drip coffee, milk chocolate and Dr. Pepper. I liked it.

These are early days for Oak & Iron but it already offers fun beer options, a friendly vibe and an appealing authenticity. And no shortage of ambition—near the end of that video, Coco traces “GO BIG or GO BUST” into the wet concrete.

(Oak & Iron is open 5 PM to midnight, Tuesday to Thursday, and 5 PM to 2 AM, Friday to Sunday. Closed Monday. The closest subway stop to Oak & Iron / 铁橡树精酿啤酒 is Gaobeidian. The brewpub’s address is 北京市朝阳区高碑店东区B17-6号1层—try 高碑店东区B17 for Didi. You can also check out the Dianping page.)

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