I’m surmising my experience with stale beer at Tap House, Jing’an is one of the reasons the well known AB-Inbev owned Chicago brewer opened up a brew pub in Shanghai. And a brewpub this place definitely is, with acres of shiny kit behind the bar and that reassuring smell of recent brewing.
I couldn’t find out how much or exactly what beers they brewed on site from the very friendly waiters, who’s English, although stratospherically better than my Mandarin, was restricted to; please, thank you, how can I help you and other stock phrases. They did however respond with ‘Leeds United!’ When I told them where we were from, and they knew that Manchester was a small village near Liverpool.
Non English speaking bar staff are the norm in China, even in Western styled glitzy bars. Like an ex-pat in the trade explained, there are plenty of far better paid jobs for English speaking locals than bar work.
You might be forgiven for thinking that AB-Inbev have got Shanghai sewn up with this place, their Boxing Cat branded bars and their presence OTB in lots of bars selling what is being pushed as craft beer. But they’re many hundred miles in terms of volume behind the established local beers like Tsingtao.
If I’m honest, I right enjoyed an hour or two in here, catching up with my lad on a Tuesday afternoon. It seems that even in a city of 23 million souls, weekday afternoon drinking is a bit like it is in the UK. Apart from us there weren’t more than a dozen others in the sizeable two storey, more restaurant than bar, with every table set for dining.
We sat at the bar taking advantage of the 3 -7pm Happy Hour and core draught beers at ¥48 a pint, normally ¥68, essentially a 480ml glass for the price of a 330ml one. I had Loose Goose IPA (6.5%) and Wujiang Porter (5%). I enjoyed both, the porter was everything you could have wanted from a pint of porter in the afternoon.
I could have gone ‘off piste’ and had some of their in house ‘Special Release Craft Beers’ or ‘Vintage Ales’ both of which included esoteric barrel aged stuff, but they were priced accordingly and not in the Happy Hour offer. Their Vintage ales were ¥188 (about £17) for a 330ml bottle and the last bottle of Bourbon County Stout they had left was ¥888!
As in most public places like shops and restaurants it was ‘No Smoking’ but there was a smoking balcony on the second floor that looked out onto the street below. I wondered if it was big enough because many Chinese, particularly the men, are prolific smokers.
Despite being very quiet, my son reassured me that Goose Island does get very busy at weekends and the Western styled Burger and BBQ food is seen as a novelty to many. This sort of explained the premium pricing, compared to what you would pay for a Chinese beer in a good quality restaurant serving local delicacies.
Although I make no claim to being an expert on China, my experience and talking to lots of people over several weeks and five cities, told me that Western styled craft beer is seen as a superior product for which you have to pay luxury prices, if only to guarantee the product maintains it’s market position.
Goose Island is at 209 Maoming N Rd, Jing’an, Shanghai