Spring is a great time to embrace the Shanghai craft beer scene with great local brews, an ever-appreciative audience of locals and expats, and local festivals heralding in warmer months ahead. Here are some of the top spots you should be headed to.
You may not realise this but China is the world’s biggest beer market. The Chinese drink more than US$80 billion in brew each year, with beer second only to tea in terms of consumption. Consequently, younger savvier Chinese gents are getting a taste for small-batch craft beers, with the scene seeing a 25% growth year on year, both for off the shelf products, and for specialist drafts found at the best craft brew joints.
One of the Shanghai originals, Boxing Cat was founded in 2008, and now has three locations in Shanghai. The two former French Concession branches are in cosy colonial-style buildings. On tap are their own beers courtesy of brewmaster Michael Jordan. Winners of countless awards including gold medals in the Asia Beer Cup, the bar also does a reasonably good selection of pub grub.
Connoisseurs should head for the Hongqiao branch for the greatest selection of draft beers – usually around 10 compared to 6 at the other branches. Bonus mention goes to Liquid Laundry by the same team, which is a hipper gastropub complete with DJ and guest beers on tap along with the Boxing Cat staples.
World of Beer
One of the newest on the Shanghai scene, World of Beer has the largest selection of craft beers in town with 41 draft and around 300 bottled. This Florida chain transplant has a central location close to Jing’an Temple and a Filipino band belting out rock classics.
Happy Hour selection is limited with eight drafts consisting of fairly mainstream choices such as Goose Island and Brewdog. The venue also serves up typical American pub food staples with prices to match. A second branch is set to open in the summer.
If you want to try Chinese craft beers this is the best place in town. The Fuxing Xilu (West Road) branch almost opposite a Boxing Cat has 60 beers on tap and around 50 bottled. These include some of the best Chinese brewers such as Master Gao and Shantown from Nanjing and Bubble lab and 18 Brewpub from Wuhan. There’s also a reasonable selection from craft brewers across the world.
The large outdoor terrace area is ideal for summer drinking. Food tends to be more on the miss side of hit and miss. Another branch (the original) on Tai’an Road has a more limited selection with 18 taps.
The Hop Project
One of the smallest bars on the list it’s located on happening restaurant street Dagu Lu. Regular beers tend to be headed up by Beijing based Jing A drafts. There are though regular tap takeovers, often with bargain prices to match. If toasties are your idea of food heaven then the partnership with Co. Cheese is a winning combination.
Unfortunately, if you want anything more than a grilled sandwich you’ll need to look elsewhere. The same team (Camel Hospitality) are behind newly opened Hooked which matches craft beer and fish and chips – a definite one to watch.
The cosiest number on the list, this is not a full out craft beer place but more of a bar with a good craft beer selection. Brews are largely from Little Creatures, Flying Dog, Karl Straus, and Founders plus there are regular guest beers. Thursdays are craft beer nights with prices from RMB35. Food is largely pub snack-type with some unusual options such as poutine. Be sure to look out for their annual scooter wash, which raises money for local charities.
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