Drinking in Chongqing – because you need to

So 4 days in Chongqing. What a place. Big, boisterous, bloody hot and brilliant. This epic city, which 30 years ago, according to my erstwhile colleague @illiards, had a four story department store as its apex, is now the Shanghai of the West. The vast expanse of this city is incomprehensible. And all of this in a mountainous cityscape. Chongqing is the only Chinese city in which I don’t recall seeing a bicycle. Even at his most juiced, Lance Armstrong couldn’t get a Malvern Star around here – but the Chongqingians have built roads, bridges, subways, skyscrapers, cable cars and temples at a density that is hard to fathom. There’s also the history. Chongqing was China’s capital during WW2 and the former residences of Zhou Enlai and Song Qinglong are preserved.

The other thing about Chongqing in July is that it is punishingly hot and humid. So there is a constant need for refreshment. Fortunately there are a number of options.

Street Drinking

Beers with meals are wonderfull cheap. 5RMB – 8RMB for a longneck of Chongqing Lager (Gold, Green, Red). Half of Chongqing seems to be employed cooking for the other half and street restaurants abound. The locals are amused by foreigners and it is a friendly vibe. Emphasise “bing” when ordering your beer. That way it’ll be cold. One evening as I was walking home I bought a long neck and just sat amongst the locals shooting the breeze.

Riverside Craft Brewing

Now we carry on about #fortuitous discoveries, but the discovery of Riverside Craft Brewing was a total fluke. I had just been up Eling Tower to look at Chongqing’s skyline at dusk (a great place to do so). I noticed a cluster of restaurants down below called “Testbed 2”. Strolling through them, a beer glass neon loomed. “Bar” I thought. “Oh wow – Brewery!” as I got closer. #fortuitous indeed.

It is a funny place. 18 taps, only 6 going. 2 of their own, 2 from Great Leap in Beijing and 2 from “Sweet Well”, whim I just couldn’t track down. No point asking the staff. They could confirm that Riverside brewed on sight, but that was largely blocked from view. The Sichuan Pepper beer was acceptable, but the Grape Beer really resembled sweet soft drink – but hey, that might appeal to Chinese clientele. Very quiet all around, and this would be better with more people and an owner talking about his/beer beer.

Testbed 2: 1 Eling Main Street, Yuzhong, Chongqing

Hops Craft Beer Bar

Hands down, Hops Craft Beer Bar is Chongqing’s best craft beer venue. Bloody hard to find, but rewarding. Passionate owner and an intriguing and eclectic range of beers from Estonia, Taiwan, NZ and China. Bubble Lab is from Wuhan, just down the Yangtze from Chongqing. Heard good things, so I was happy to try one of their beers – beautiful. Doesn’t open until 8pm, so my tip is to find it while still light and then have a local feed – tons of options.

Get to the Kempinski Hotel and head up the hill. Turn left where you see a sign saying “Yatai Rd” and a basketball court and head up the escalators. Keep ascending though at least 3 sets of escalators which go through a complex of buildings. You are looking for Building 23, but there is no logic to the sequencing. Just keep looking left for the door on a balcony as per the photo. Persevere – it is very worth it.

No 457 Building 23 Yataishanggu, Nan’an District, Chongqing

+86 186 8080 5109

Trip Smith

The owner of Hops very kindly tipped me off to the fact that Guiyang’s outstanding Trip Smith has opened up a Chongqing branch. My last night in town would finish there. Very easy to find on Zi Kang Road. Best bet is to get the Metro to Huangnibang Station line 6 and walk from there. Trip Smith’s Chongqing venue is much Nigeria than their Guiyang home. Very stylish and lots of coin spent. Love how each beer gets its own coaster. Beer is terrific and the menu is solid. The reason I rated Hops higher, is that the owner of Hops was so warm and friendly. Sometimes hard to catch the staff here let alone talk to them about what’s good etc Still, you can’t miss this place if you visit Chongqing.

Zi Kang Lu, Huangnibang, Chongqing (western end near Zijing Road)

And you should visit Chongqing. And that’s where the China Odyssey concludes. Thanks to Great Hop Forward for his tips during the trip. See you out the Back of the Ferry.