And lo, Beijing took another step towards craft beer credibility with the recent opening of a taproom by Slow Boat Brewery.
‘Taproom’ is industry speak for a flagship bar operated by a brewery, which pours an extensive range of its products – just as the brewmaster wants them poured, with no middlemen compromising quality. Slow Boat boss Chandler Jurinka had been searching for a suitable space since starting the business in 2011, but also charted a course supplying its tasty ales to other bars.
The downside of distribution is that a brewer’s painstaking work rarely reaches drinkers in perfect condition. Unpasteurised beer like Slow Boat’s puts exacting requirements on those charged with storing and serving it. Anyone familiar with Chinese quality control won’t be surprised that pints all too often end up not at their best – stale, wrong temperature, wrong carbonation, watered down.
When a beer is poured in a true taproom, however, you know it’s been escorted from the brewery gates to the glass by experts with a vested interest in ensuring it hits the high notes.
And that’s why the Slow Boat Taproom is set to become a Beijing favourite. There’s plenty to praise in the considered surroundings (under-floor heating, functional benches, the hutongs’ cleanest sit-down toilet), and Jurinka promised simple pub food would be available by the beginning of this month. But this is really a place for concentrating on the artisan beers on offer for 30-55RMB.
Highlights are the fruity Monkey’s Fist IPA and Sea Anchor Imperial Vanilla Stout, which has a herbal taste giving way to bitter, coffee-like notes. With seasonals regularly added and tasters available at half the price of pints, there’s something to please all palates here. Beijingers should be happy this boat is at last sailing at full speed.
By Nick Yates