Beer Blog

Lean Cafe & Bar, Jinqiao, Shanghai

The big question in China is where to go for a beer that isn’t Tsingtao or some other light Pilsner variant? Don’t rely on Ratebeer or other online content because it might not be up to date, as I found out. Shanghai Beer Factory (Jinqiao) was literally 200m from where we were staying, but apparently it closed it’s doors eighteen months ago.

Similarly Slow Boat Brewing in Dongcheng, Beijing which has closed and moved to Sanlitun, despite appearing on every search you could do; Ratebeer now have it as closed. 

As hard as I tried, I couldn’t find anything like a Pub in China; Restaurants, Tea Houses, Bubble Tea bars, in fact apart from the odd craft beer bar anything but a pub. The nearest thing I found to a proper pub was Lean in Jinqiao, part of the Pudong New Area of Shanghai.

However you look at it it’s an international craft beer bar in both decor and the beers they sell. Tea, Coffee, Cocktails and snacks are also available. The thing that made it different was that whenever you went in it was always nicely busy, neither quiet nor packed out and there was a crowd of regular drinkers who all seemed to know each other.

Not that these people were all Westerners neither. I reckoned the spilt between ex-pats and Chinese was about 40/60. A lot of ex-pats live in the area, including my lad who we were staying with. There’s also students from the nearby New York University, as well as the glamorous Princes and Princesses from Shanghai Disneyland, very nice young people who like a beer after work. 

Either way there was always someone to talk to. That or watch football on TV, although it’s quite disconcerting watching Crystal Palace v Brighton live at 8.30pm on a Saturday evening when it’s actually a 12.30pm start. The Soton v Tottingham 3pm kick off followed at 11pm local time. One amusing trivial fact someone pointed out; the modern Chinese characters for Liverpool translates as ‘Swimming Pool’?

Apart from the same old cheesy pictures of hops, how to brew beer, etc, etc the most interesting thing I saw were a large group of Chinese kids playing Uno with four decks of cards. Far more preferable to playing on the plastic dart board; there’s no point?

Although Lean is independent, the draught beers had a very AB-Inbev bias with the four beers being Goose IPA, Boxing Cat Contender, Stella and Hoegarden. The beer fridge was a totally different kettle of fish and had some decent bottles and cans with quality offerings from the USA, UK and New Zealand, as well as all the ubiquitous Belgian ones.

I spoke about Boxing Cat Contender in a previous post, it really is a nice easy drinking, fruity, lightly hopped beer and at ¥13 for two pints, plus a Stella, was just shy of four quid a pint in UK terms. It became our drink of choice in Lean.

Many groups of Chinese drinkers go for a six pint, 3L beer dispenser. A sort of Martian three legged thing that sits on your table while the beer goes warm and flat. Although it seems strange to us, it fits with the Chinese idea of sharing food and drink, something very important to their thinking.

Apart from the Craic the other outstanding feature was the insistence on providing a bowl of Sichuan pepper corn and chilli Peanuts every time you order a round. The only words to describe them are highly addictive and overpowering. Definitely not the thing to have with beer and if you chew one of the peppercorns don’t expect to taste anything else for several hours.

Lean is at No. 3620 Zhangyang Rd, Shanghai, China.

2 replies »

    • No, and China does Chinese things. Really glad we had five days with Tom & Liv in Shanghai to get used to the culture before we went travelling around. If we went out in China we would go for a meal rather than going for a drink in a pub.


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