Shanghai has been bitten by the microbrew bug. There are at least 6 bars brewing their own and it is possible to pub crawl by microbrews, but a cab is necessary. I took it easy and went to three – Boxing Cat Brewery, Dr. Beer and The Brew. Boxing Cat and Dr. Beer area in the French Concession part of Shanghai, whilst The Brew is in the Kerry Hotel out the back of Pudong near an International Expo Centre.
Of the three I visited, Boxing Cat was the standout. Great beer, laid back feel, comfy seats and a decent happy hour. Dr. Beer has potential but was a little clinical and pristine for mine, and the beer was so-so. The Brew was dazzling in appearance, but it was A big Saturday night and the joint was pumping and it was hard to find a quiet place for sip. Needs a revisit at a more leisurely pace. I am disappointed because place that names a beer “Dugite” – needs close attention. Still – I’m the 3rd BackoftheFerry correspondent to darken its doors.
Boxing Cat is a very unassuming place on a typical French Concession boulevard. There’s a a combination of indoor and outdoor seating, sofa, lounges and barstools. The menu looked solid and Evil Knievil would have struggled to jump over the nachos that was delivered to a nearby table. The tasting rack comes with a very helpful menu with full descriptions provided. I’ve included the final beer of the six – a stunning Imperial Stout that was as smooth as Lou Rawls. Many of the beers have a pugilistic reference in their name. The six beers were Standing 8 Pilsner, TKO IPA, Brewer’s Choice (a red ale), Belgian Witbier, Glasgow Kiss Scottish Ale and the standout King Louie Imperial Stout. The stout was a crippling 8%, whilst to Glasgow Kiss was a robust 6.4%. All places are worth visiting, but at Boxing Cat it was worth buying the shirt and misappropriating a glass.
This beer is travelling at 309km on an engineering masterpiece – otherwise known as the Beijing-Shanghai Express. The beer is yet another “variety” from the Beijing Yanjing Brewery Co. Ltd. I’ve seen about 8 versions of Yanjing Beer since I’ve been here. I’m convinced it is all the same weak, watery beer flavoured fizzy water – just in different designed cans and bottles. It’s tough to avoid, due to its often exclusive ubiquity.
The Beijing-Shanghai Express is a fabulous way to travel. The 1318km journey is covered in a little under 5 hours and a ticket costs 555RMB or AUD$85. It flies along at over 300km for much of the journey and second class is very comfortable. The dining car is a cool place to hang and even has the smallest of bars. It could improve its menu, but then again they aren’t catering for laowei like me. There is no better way to travel between Shanghai and Beijing, particularly with the domestic air travel being so prone to delay. Given this isn’t run by NSW State Rail, everything here runs like clockwork.
One of the highlights of Sydney’s Level 41 restaurant was taking a leak. The men’s urinals had the most amazing view and it felt like you were pissing all over the Eastern Suburbs. Well, I’ve got to say I’ve found a better and higher place to bleed the lizard.
On the 94th floor of the Shanghai World Financial Centre building is one of the world’s great bathrooms. The view on the day I strained the spuds wasn’t the best, but it still took the breath away. On a clear day, there would be no better place to drain the main vein (thanks Barry McKenzie).
The SWFC stands at 492m tall and is known as the bottle opener. According to a local, the shape was supposed to be a circle, but the building’s owner is Japanese and the authorities felt it would look like a japanese flag. The observatory walk is on the 100th floor and there is glass in the floor, which is at the top of the bottle opening bit. A must do in Shanghai. They’re building one next door which will be 200m taller!
The beer of the day is a real surprise. It is a dark lager from Vietnam. I think the standard pale lager has graced the pages of BotF before. Beerlao Dark Lager is a thick, treacly drop, which packs a 6.5% punch. A bit sweet for mine, but given I’ll be drinking gallons of pale Chinese lager, this was a welcome diversion.
This BofF correspondant, whilst looking for some afternoon relief from a rather uninspiring first day of a conference, marched with purpose to the taxi rank of the Pudong Shangri-La. “Kerry Hotel!”, I demanded. Fortunately Peter Brock’s Chinese cousin sensed my need of oral irrigation and in a cloud of diesel smoke we tore out of the driveway, heading East.
15 minutes later we arrived at the Kerry Hotel, RMB30 (AU$5) was thrust into Chan’s hand and in I went. The Brew is very central to the foyer of this rather pleasant and modern establishment. The hotel itself is set against Century Park, south-east of the centre of Shanghai
Enquiries were made for Leon the brewer, but he wasn’t in. Righto, show me the menu then.
The menu is clean and crisp with names like White Ant and Razorback Cider stirring the mind. The Indian Pale Ale was my choice for a hasty imbibing.
The Indian Pale ale was a very enjoyable drop with a lot of throwbacks to some of the fine brews at The Australian Hotel in Sydney. Served in a floating glass (think pot size). The surrounding interior of The Brew was extremely pleasant. Dark timbers, leather and a Steinway being gently caressed in the corner made a very pleasant change to a Wednesday afternoon.
Whilst the foam was clinging to the glass this drop was very light and quite sweet. I’m tempted to draw parralels with a James Squire Golden Ale for obvious reasons, but I think a Little Creatures or a Beez Neez is more appropriate.
It was time to head back and as I departed I felt a sense of sadness that Sydney and other Antipodean locales don’t do the micro-brewery thing with a little more sophistication like The Brew.