Don’t be fooled when you walk in 京A, or Jing A in pinyin, walking through the unassuming entrance you just see a small bar in front of you. Keep going, turning left into the long crowded corridor, everyone looking for a seat, a table, a ledge, anything to put their beer on.
The noise is deafening with people trying to make themselves heard above the disco beat. Struggling along the corridor you see rooms off to the side, a brewhouse, a room with tables and people eating and then whoooa! A larger room with a bar and twenty or so draught lines and people clambering to get served.
Forget the Brewdog style tap lists behind the bar, they’re mainly the core beers and not the full range, which includes boat loads of experimental stuff often using local ingredients.
Once we’d got a beer from the bar we wandered along the almost endless corridor and found an oil drum and some stools. If you keep going to the end you come to a small cocktail bar and a smaller door than the main entrance, leading back onto the street.
Over the space of a long weekend I went in a couple of times, the busiest being late Friday night when it was rammed, if you just want a quiet drink it’s best to come in the late afternoon before it gets really busy. Happy hour is 3 – 7pm, Mon – Fri, when there’s ¥10 off all draught beers and cider.
Like most Chinese drinking places there is a big emphasis on food which has a Smoked Texas BBQ theme here. There’s a definite branding correlation between ‘craft beers’ and North American styled food wherever I went in China.
You can see why Carlsberg have bought into 京A, with the amount of action and the quality of beer. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I’m not sure but you can find 京A beers in lots of bars in lots of cities across China and if you’re looking for somewhere decent to go for a beer, the list of stockists on the 京A website is as good a place as any to start.
All I will say is don’t write a brewery off just because they are connected to a global producer because 京A make some excellent beers. We tried the core range and things like Workers Pale, they were good. I could have drank the 8.8% DIPA Airpocalpyse Now all day and every day. When it first came out it’s price was geared to the Beijing pollution index, the higher the pollution the lower the price!
The stars of the show were the small batch and experimental beers though. Imperial Kojj Red Ale is brewed with the same red koji rice as the standard version and the addition of wasabi and ginger make it a pleasant but very strong oriental tasting drink, nothing like most people would think beer should be like, but we’re in China, so why should it?
Big Brother Baltic Porter (8%) was another favourite and neither this nor the other special beers seem to be properly listed on Ratebeer.
What about Mi was a 6% sparkling sour mijiu (glutinous rice wine) brewed with god knows what to produce a mind blowing naturally fizzy, funky beer which Mrs C enjoyed as much as the 6% Tis the saison, a cardamom, jasmine tea, saison style that was also very good. Both examples of brewing that were pushing the boundaries of what one might be used to.
I could go on, I won’t, instead I’ll just say, don’t go to Beijing without going to 京A. You’ll find the brewpub at 57 Xingfucun Zhong Lu, Chaoyang District, Beijing.