Beijing’s craft beer scene has grown by hops and bounds during the past decade. Ahead of the 2008 Olympics, brew pub options were limited to Paulaner, Okhostk, the former Saddle Cantina and a few others. The arrival of draft Stella excited many people at the time given they had little but Carlsberg, Heineken, Budweiser or Tsingtao, and occasionally Guinness and Kilkenny, for draft. As for bottled beer, few options were available beyond big brands and Belgian brews, thus more than a few people went gaga when Rogue, Saranac, North Coast and the like started to pop up around 2006.
It’s hard to believe how much has changed since then. Beijing now has a thriving brew pub–and home brew–scene, with a wide range of options and lots of experimentation. And there are numerous beer bars with more than 100 options from a dozen-plus nations.
Below I’ve listed some places to get that beer. I started this page due to readers asking me where to find beer in our fair city: this will allow me to centralize the information. Given this, it is a work in progress. I have a half-dozen spots to add and will no doubt find more and aim to update slowly but surely. Finally, please note that I do not claim this list is comprehensive nor do I claim to be a beer expert. Constructive comments are most welcome–you can also reach me at beijingboyce (at) yahoo. com–but snooty ones are not..
Get quality suds and sausages at the two Arrow Factory locations. One is a cozy taproom off Wudaoying Hutong and beside sibling establishment / sausage specialists Stuff’d. The other is a two-story venue — brewing downstairs, drinking upstairs — that opened beside Liangma River in January of 2016 and offers those same links as well as other sustenance. Core beers include:
- Two Birds Lager
- A Whiter Shade of Pale Hefeweizen
- Back in Black Stout
- Blonde on Blonde Belgian Ale
- Heart of Darkness Belgian Bruin
- Man with the Golden Hop Country Ale
- Pilgrim’s Progress Amber Ale
- Guanxi Pale Ale
- Longbowmen English I.P.A.
- The Bitter End Rye P.A.
- Seeing Double I.P.A.
I’m a fan of Two Birds, a pleasant lager with which to start or even to stick to as a “session” beer, and enjoyed the full-bodied Back in Black Stout on my last visit. Friends who like some sweetness told me they enjoyed Heart of Darkness Belgian Bruin. For food, if you enjoy fire in your belly, try the ‘Spice of Life‘ sausage platter, then splash it with Hot Balls sauce for even more heat.
Arrow Factory Taproom (map), beside Stuff’d, 9 Jianchang Hutong / 箭厂啤酒屋, 箭厂胡同9号“塞”餐厅院内
Arrow Factory Brewing (map), Liangma He South Road / 箭厂啤酒 河边店, 亮马河南路
Note: At time of posting, Frost (后街小馆), Distillery (首都酒坊), Punk Rock Noodles (鼓楼吃面) and 8-Bit were listed as selling Arrow Factory beers.
Known for using local ingredients–from hops to honey–Great Leap has a trio of establishments. The hutong location requires a trip into the side streets off busy Nanluoguxiang strip and is a nice break from the cit’s hustle and bustle. The second venue, north of Workers Gymnasium, is much bigger and includes a solid pub grub menu, including what some consider to be the city’s best burgers. And the third venue is further north, near where Sanlitun Road and Xinyuan Street cross, and has a focus on pizza. You could do a pub crawl with those three venues alone.
Core brews include Pale Ale #6, Cinnamon Rock Ale, Honey Ma Gold and Edmund Backhouse Pils. If it’s available, try the Iron Buddha, which includes oolong tea.
Great Leap #6 (map) | 6 Doujiao Hutong, Dongcheng District, 5717.1399, Sun-Thu, 2 PM-11 PM, Fri-Sat, 2 PM-12 AM
Great Leap #12 (map) | 12 Ziming Mansion, B12 Xinzhong Street, Dongcheng District, 5712.4376, Sun-Thu, 11 AM-1 AM, Fri-Sat, 11 AM-2 AM
Great Leap #45 (map) | 45 Xinyuan Street, Chaoyang District, 5947.6984, Sun-Thu, 11 AM-1 AM, Fri-Sat, 11 AM-2 AM
Facebook, weixin: BJ_greatleapbrewing
This home-brew operation is known as much for cider, including Bad Apple and Perry Pear, as for beers. The owner makes a honey ‘alt”, which he describes as a “beer style traditionally only available in and around Duesseldorf, Germany. As a local Duesseldorfer… I have combined a tasty Alt beer with… you guessed it…honey to make a delicious combination between sweet and hoppy.” See this link for more on iBrew and product availability.
Jing-A steadily went from a couple of guys brewing for fun in a kitchen to a perpetually busy taproom in Sanlitun South. Their first commercial operation was in The Big Smoke in early 2013, with the taproom launched about 18 months later. Core beers include:
- Mandarin Wheat
- Tuhao Gold Pilsner
- Workers Pale Ale
- Koji Red Ale
- Full Moon Farmhouse Ale
- Flying Fist IPA
- Black Velvet Vanilla Stout
- Airpocalypse Double IPA
My favorites are the flavorful full-bodied Black Velvet Vanilla Stout and the Koji Red Ale. If you like beer with a spicy bite, try the Smoked Chili Porter if it’s available. You can also mow down on tasty eats like the sliders, grilled cheese sandwich or Wednesday night chili.
Jing-A makes seasonal beers like Lucky 8 Lager for Chinese New Year, Beijing Bikini Watermelon Wheat for the summer and Uber-Jing Oktoberfest Lager in the fall. It has collaborated with breweries inside and outside China and done experimental brews, including one using qu, the fermentation agent for baijiu, for World Baijiu Day last year.
Jing-A Taproom | 1949 The Hidden City, Courtyard, 4 Gongti Bei Lu, Chaoyang District / 朝阳区工体北路4号院, 6501.8883, Mon-Wed, 5 PM-Midnight; Thu, 4 PM-Midnight; Fri, 4 PM-2 AM; Sat 11 AM-2 AM; Sun, 11 AM-Midnight | Facebook, Instagram,
N Beer Pub
N has two venues, including a flagship operation near Pinganli that has some 20 taps with both house brews and those from other craft brewers, plus hundreds of imported bottle options. (At least that’s what I found last time I went: it’s been more than a year.) There is also a less-frequented venue in Sanlitun Soho.
N Beer Pub | 1F Huguo Xintiandi, 85 Huguosi Street, near Exit B, Pinganli Subway Station, 8328.8823, 3 PM-2 AM, weixin: NBeerPub
N Beer Pub | B1, Building 6, Sanlitun Soho
It started as a cramped twelve-seat (at best) venue on the north side of Beixinqiao subway stop and evolved into a huge shiny three-floor behemoth on the north side. In between, they managed to bottle their own beer. I don’t have much to say as I’ve only been to the new place once and felt quite ho-hum about the beers. That means another visit, and an update, are in order soon!
This operation started in 2011 and ranks among the key craft brewers in Beijing. You can pair the beers with pub grub, including the highly regarded burger. Core beers include:
- Captain’s Pale Ale
- Endeavor Vienna Lager
- Sea Anchor Imperial Vanilla Stout
- Malty Dog Red Ale
- The Helmsman’s Honey Ale
- Monkey’s Fist IPA
Slow Boat also makes seasonal beers, including Safe Harbor Christmas Ale, Oregon Steam Boat Lager, Slutty Mermaid Triple IPA, Sea Level Chocolate Stout and Motorboat, a Belgian Blonde.
Slow Boat Taproom | Dongcheng Qu, 56 Dongsi Ba Tiao / 东城区东四八条56号, 6538. 5537, Mon-Thu, 5 PM-12 AM; Fri, 5 PM-1 AM; Sat, 2 PM-1 AM; Sun, 11:30 AM-10 PM. | Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, weixin: SlowBoatBrewery
(Directions from the website: “The closest subway station is Zhangzizhonglu on Line 5. From the subway stop (Exit C), walk south to the second alley (Dongsi Batiao) and turn left. The Taproom is 300 meters down the hutong on the right.”)
- Beer Mania | The Belgian beer lineup includes eight options on tap and 100-plus by bottle, including many in large format. Buy one, get one draft on weekdays from 4 PM to 8 PM and on weekends from 5 PM to 7 PM. That means Chimay Red for 25 kuai. The owner has a big beard. (1F Taiyue Suites, 16 Sanlitun South Street, 6500.0559, contact (at) beermania.asia, weixin: BeerMania.)
- Drei Kronen 1308. An impressive three-floor Bavarian-themed brew house with massive gleaming copper tanks as a centerpiece. Core beers include a lager, a wheat and a dark, with occasional seasonal beers. Traditional German fare available. Workers Stadium East.
- El Nido. One of the first bars to nail the “bunch of fridges filled with quality craft beers” concept, covering everything from BrewDog to Brooklyn Brewing, then moving on to more arcane options. Fangjia Hutong.
- Eje: A beer bar, both draft and bottle, popular with the rock and mountain climbing set as well as those catching nearby musical performances. Gulou.
- Groovy Schiller’s. Another Beijing bar veteran with 20-plus years, it has a decent range of beers, particularly Belgian. Hungry? Try the massive pork knuckle. Liang Ma River South Road.
- Heaven Supermarket. A love it or hate it place with fridges packed with a wide range of–sometimes too warm–beers and ciders. (Spirits, wines, cigars and Tex-Mex food also available.) Sloppy drunk central. Xindong Road.
- Morel’s. A veteran restaurant that helped establish the Belgian beer scene in Beijing. Across from Workers Stadium Gymnasium North.
- Paulaner. The longstanding brew pub in the Kempinski Hotel. Use your brew to wash down traditional German fare like sausages and pork knuckles. 11 AM-1 AM daily, 6465.3388 ext 4212, paulaner.beijing (at) kempinski.com.
- Passby Bar: Dating to the last millennium, this place has a row of fridges chock full of goodies. On a given day, you might find rare beers from Japan or a bottle or two from Vermont. Try the hutong pizza topped with chuanr. Nanluoguxiang
- The Tree. Along with Morel’s, an early driver of Belgian beer–and wood-fired oven pizzas–in Beijing. Sanlitun.
As noted, this is a work in progress and there are obviously details to fill in and places to add. You can reach me via the comments or by email at beijingboyce (at) yahoo.com or via weixin at ‘beijingboyce’.