You could debate the merits of the city’s noteworthy breweries till the cows come home, but at the end of the day, your choice for pints is going to come down to proximity to your current location, food on offer and subconscious desires formed from the morass of your life experience. Only those with the staunchest of allegiances would contest that any one far outstrips the others. In terms of price, taste and quality, the top contenders – those being Jing A, Great Leap
and Slow Boat
– all have their individual strengths. As a brewer, position yourself within a couple of furlongs of that pack in terms of quality, and you’re as golden as a pale lager.
Sadly, Han Xiaoping, formerly of Panda Brew Pub
and current proprietor of Lark Brewpub, still isn’t anywhere near close. His figurative boozy baby (Han’s English name is Lark), the bar offers beers brewed in small batches, ciders (apple, pineapple, and ‘something like watermelon’) and a fridge with about two dozen different bottles. A recent move has seen the space grow to twice its former size, which isn’t saying much, considering what a hole-in-the-wall it was before. The new location, outside Beixinqiao subway Exit B, offers more seating in a café atmosphere, but takes it one table too far; we had to think skinny thoughts to squeeze through to an open corner. A foul stench from the food stall just next door reminds us at once of stinky tofu and cat piss.
The beer itself is served perfectly chilled in a glass smaller than a standard pint. The Red Ale (35RMB), with it’s rosy hue, and the Imperial Stout (50RMB), coffee-dark and with a frothy head, comprised our first round. The former is bitter, bordering on sour, and thick. Moreish it is not. The stout fares better, with subtle notes that call to mind the sweetness of a ripe banana. Despite a menu featuring eight beers, our second round was limited to just one, an unremarkable Brown (35RMB); everything else was unavailable. A range of coffee and other non-alcoholic beverages adds variety, but not the sort we’re after. Best head to nearby Slow Boat; Lark doesn’t offer any reasons to jump ship.