In most corners of the world, pubs that specialise in craft beer attract a certain type of bloke; usually middle-aged hirsute gentlemen with cagoules stretching over their swollen paunches and a notebook at hand to keep a record of the tipples they try. Not so in Beijing, where onsite-brewed beer is sure to pull in a young crowd that crave to quench their thirst with something more than the usual cheap Chinese suds.
So it’s no surprise, then, that Malty Dog, on Beiluoguxiang, has a pretty trendy set up, with its bare-bones aesthetic, elegant lighting and eclectic playlist. We’d expect nothing less from the owners of the popular Mai Bar, which is just a few metres down the hutong.
The smell of yeast – emanating from the giant vat bubbling away behind the bar – is notable as soon as you walk in Malty Dog. The cheerful bar staff pour out six taster glasses – one for every homebrew on their blackboard – for us to have a snifter and make our selection. So far, so good: this place feels like the real deal. Unfortunately, the hops don’t live up to the hype, at least for the moment. Despite rumours that have been circulating, Beijing Homebrewing Society
’s Jake Wickham isn’t involved in Malty Dog’s brews, which is a shame as it would have given much-needed experience to these amateurish tipples.
Most Malty Dog beers either fall flat or overpower the senses. The cranberry summer (35RMB) was sweet enough to be an alcopop and the Christmas in July (35RMB) certainly had Yuletide flavours – but the heavy taste of clove, orange and cinnamon affronts the senses rather than gently tickling them. The microbrewers’ art of deft flavouring has been lost here. Nonetheless, there are encouraging signs: the British bitter (40RMB) was as it should be and the IPA (40RMB) in particular was a hoppy highlight. There is an expansive range of bottled beers that will do for now, but there’s nothing here you won’t find elsewhere in the city.
Once Malty Dog gets its brews right we’ll be regulars. As it is, someone needs to teach this new dog some old tricks.