As a general rule, Houhai isn’t good for much beyond churros and ice cream. It’s the kind of place you want to like, but can’t – shuffling crowds, rampant noise pollution and tasteless neon lights rob the place of any vestiges of tranquility or beauty. As a place to go for a drink, it’s even worse. Nearly every establishment lining Houhai’s shores serves alcohol, but not one of them hits the mark. Overpriced beer and obnoxious service are the rule.
So the fact that we are sitting contentedly on the rooftop of a Houhai bar as we write this review is a surprise. Typically, the time it takes to speed-walk past the storefront is longer than we’d like to spend in such a place. But in the case of the Beer Shop Bar, a Heaven-style liquor store and bar, you’ll want to stick around– and get a little tipsy in the process.
We’re sharing our scenic spot with a tabby cat who, after padding along sloped rooftops and slinking in-between chair legs, has plopped down nearby to bask in the sun. A group of four friends sit across from us enjoying foreign brews, comparing sporty toe shoes and gazing out over the water. At a corner table, a young Chinese girl slowly explores the ridges of her boyfriend’s hand with the tip of her finger.
It’s so refreshing, the beer selection almost doesn’t matter. But luckily that’s great, too. Beers on tap include a cloudy, summery and very drinkable Schöfferhofer (35RMB), a German wheat served in a slender glass. On the shelves you’ll find as good a bottled beer selection as anywhere in Beijing, with low prices to boot. Better yet, bar staff don’t pester you while you decide. Darts are free to use; just be prepared to lose face if you’re as bad as us.
Beer Shop isn’t perfect, but its faults aren’t entirely its own. Arrive later in the day and you’ll find that the noisy neighbors will have begun their nauseating live music for the night– have a really engaging conversation prepared just in case your stay overlaps with the cacophony. The dim interior isn’t decorated to Western tastes, but the bar owner has told us that may change. We couldn’t care less, really. Beer Shop Bar’s cosy rooftop and exhaustive selection have done more than enough to make it arguably the best Houhai bar.