I came across this place entirely by accident. I’d heard of Panda brewing before, but didn’t really have any intention of visiting their tap room from what I’d read.
First impressions; glitzy, flashy, all black and chrome, western styled burger, pizza and beer joint. More cocktail bar feel with a big emphasis on the food as much as anything. The pleasant waitress was surprised when we said we only wanted a drink and would like to sit at the bar.
I only went to the second floor to visit the toilets, there’s also a feature pizza oven and people sat at tables eating. For the rest of the time I sat gazing at the twenty taps poking out of the back of the bar. Only nine of them were in operation, serving Panda Brewing beers and a draught cider. There were some cans and bottles in a couple of fridges but I didn’t take much notice.
I tried a, more than a half, less than a pint, glass of Aviator (5.5%) at ¥36 before I noticed they did a tasting flight of four beers for 68 Kuai. I couldn’t do the Yorkshire style, if in doubt go for the strong ones, as they were all 5.5 or 5%, or not on the list. I chose Jack Back, McCartneyPorter, Floral Drum and Harrison Brown Ale. Mrs C drank and enjoyed Panda Eyes Honey Ale, a dark, malty, honey sweet beer, a sort of very sweet (too sweet for me) brown ale.
The Aviator was quite hoppy, for China and I thought it pretty decent, despite the slight sweetness, although your typical UK craft beer fan would instantly dismiss it as being crap. The appearance of a Verdant Cloudwater collaboration hazy 9% north east, west coast DIPA style beer in mainstream China is, I reckon, some way off yet. And mainstream is what I perceived Panda Brewing’s target audience to be.
Floral Drum was my favourite Panda beer, hopper than Aviator and packing quite a punch for 5.5%. I could have happily quaffed it all evening. Harrison Brown Ale was my least favourite and lived up to all the reviews I’d seen of Panda Brewing.
The middle rankers out of the six I tasted were Jack Back, a sort of flowery, bitter, melon tasting affair. McCartneyPorter was a dark, toasty, coconut, uncomplicated sort of stout that was okay, without being anything special.
Verdict? Better than I’d expected. Almost Brewdog style, ‘craft beer for the masses’ sort of thing. Nothing that would impress an out and out craft beer fan, but a bit of something for everyone, all with that residual malty sweetness. I learned later that anyone wanting to make it in the Chinese market has to tailor their beer to the Chinese taste. Yes, you can make a couple of beers that are really out there, but you have to have a core range that suits everyone whilst still keeping it just a bit edgy.
Best bit, the beer mats, tactile, flashy, awesome, everyone should do beermats like this.
Panda Brewery and Kitchen is at Dongsi N St, Dong Zhi Men, Dongcheng Qu, China, 100006, although I saw no evidence whatsoever of an on site brewery.