A big disappointment of this trip to Beijing has been the demise of Nanluogu Xiang or NLGX (from a bar perspective). This wonderful alley was jammed with all sorts of crazy little bars. I reckon there were at least 20 and each had their own shtick. One bar, which had no discernible name, offered patrons a free drink if they’d kiss each other for 1 minute without break. A Polaroid would be taken of the smooch and the front window was a gallery of kissers. It became lazily known as Kiss Bar. There was also Australian representation. Neds (as in Kelly) was a cheap boozer selling VB with lashings of Ozzie paraphernalia that probably isn’t missed. 12SQM Bar (named for the size of its floor space) was allegedly Beijing’s smallest bar and served up Coopers Pale and real Australian meat pies. It was the full stop on a couple of NLGX pub crawls, including my farewell from Beijing in 2009. A handful of bars remain, but only Salud has any real pull.
To a some extent, the nearby Wudoying Hutong, has stepped up to fill the void. I had been tipped by Henry, the Vermont Brewer at Drunk, to a tap room close to Wudoying – and a pleasant surprise was a number of quaint little bars offering some unique experiences.
Ben bar is decorated head to toe in Tibetan stuff and served up a Tibetan Green Barley beer. V Bar is a Vampire Bar which was Halloween themed all year around. And Panda Brew has a tiny 18 seat bar serving 5 of its beers on tap.
My target however was the Arrow Factory Brewing Tap Room, which shared premises with a restaurant (Stuff’d) specialising in sausages. This was a lovely Beijing beer experience.
Arrow Factory Brewing and Stuff’d can be found down a Hutong that comes of Wudaoying Hutong. A light beckons you to what is quite a small space.
There’s a number of tables at the front for dining and there’s a bar at the back. The bar offers more than just beer, but four taps provide four Arrow Factory Brewing beers. Sausages dominate the food menu, although pizzas are available. The sausages are big and packed with spices and chilli depending on your choice. 8 or so standards and that week’s special. The standard way to eat the sanga is is a bun with caramelised onion, but I opted for stand alone. Stuff’d is generous with its condiments.
The taps take a similar approach – 3 standards and the latest limited batch. A ginger saison was the batch when I visited. Plenty of ginger (my favourite rhizome), but not much saison – pleasant nonetheless. Of the three standards – a Hefe, a helles and an IPA – the standout was the unctuous, piney “Seeing Double” IPA. After the overwhelming choice of Slow Boat and Great Leap, Arrow provides a lovely, simple beer experience. So, if you make it to Beijing, cop Henry of Vermont’s tip and it a visit.
Ben Bar, V Bar, Panda Brew. Wudaoying Hutong, DongCheng District, Beijing (Between Yonghegong Street and Jianching Hutong)
Arrow Factory Brewing: 9 Jianchang Hutong, Dongcheng District, Beijing
Salud: 66 NanluoguXIang, Dongcheng District, Beijing