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Best Hong Kong beer purveyors
It’s easier than ever to get top-notch brews, thanks to a growing number of beer bars, importers and retailers dedicated to quality
Good news for craft beer lovers in Hong Kong: there is more quality quaffage than ever before.
Depending on the hops, yeast and malts used in the brewing process, beer can range from thick, sweet and rich, like the high-alcohol German Doppelbock, to crisp, citrusy and bitter like an India Pale Ale (IPA).
Along the way there are beers as diverse as Lambic (a dry fruit ale made in Belgium) hefeweizen (a perfect refreshing summer treat) and stout (like Guinness, but with many even tastier options).
Craft beers are made in small batches with special attention paid to the quality of ingredients and the nuances of style.
“Craft beer is amazing because it has this awesome array of flavors that still can surprise and amaze you 20 years after you have had your first,” says Jeff Boda, a journalist and beer critic whose new company, Hop Leaf, imports American and Japanese craft brews like Rogue and Baird.
“These are artisan foods, made with love and skill and top-notch ingredients by people who love what they're doing.”
But first, start a beer-ploration at these five Hong Kong beer bars that serve some of the finest brews on earth.
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Hong Kong’s leading beer bar by a few dozen miles. The Globe has a large and varied selection of British and Belgian beers in a setting that is both spacious and intimate.
There are twelve beers on tap -- the largest draught selection in Hong Kong -- including the city’s only hand-pumped cask ale, the Lantau-brewed Typhoon T8 English bitter. This sells out quickly, so call ahead to see if it’s available.
It’s the selection of roughly 75 bottled brews that really stands out. Some worth trying include the rich and chocolaty Fullers London Porter, the crisp, hoppy Thornbridge Jaipur IPA and Theakston Old Peculier, a bittersweet old ale with hints of dried fruit.
Prices are reasonable given the quality and lack of service charge, with pints between HK$60 to $80 during regular hours and roughly $20 cheaper before 8 p.m.
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The Globe, 45 Graham St., Central, +852 2543 1941 www.theglobe.com.hk
The Hop House boasts a locally-brewed house beer from Hong Kong Brewery and nearly 80 excellent bottled beers.
The house beer, Aldrich Bay Pale Ale, is passable but forgettable. Turn your attention instead to several craft beers from American breweries like Anderson Valley, Mendicino and Pyramid. The bitter, somewhat piney Anderson Valley Hop Ottin’ American IPA is outstanding.
Also worth checking out: several good German beers from Allgäuer and a variety of good British beers, like the Gale’s Prize Old Ale, a high-alcohol aged brew with notes of raisin.
Hop House is part of a chain of seven bars with nearly identical menus. The Lan Kwai Fong branch, known as the Hong Kong Brew House, has the highly-quaffable Fullers London Pride and Organic Honey Dew beers on tap.
Most bottles range from HK$42 to $55, with a slight discount before 9 p.m. and a 10 percent service charge.
Hop House, Shop 14, 1/F, Causeway Centre, 28 Harbour Road, Wanchai, +852 3100 0545
East End Brewery Causeway Bay, 10 Hysan Avenue,+852 2577 9119
Hong Kong Brew House, 21 D’Aguilar St., Central, +852 2522 5559
Cochrane’s, 46 Cochrane St., Central, +852 2849 4222
Slim’s, 1 Wing Fun St., Wanchai, +852 2528 1661
Happy Valley Bar and Grill, 38 Wong Nai Chung Road, Happy Valley, +852 2250 5722
Fatt’s Place, 2 Hart Avenue, Tsim Sha Tsui, +852 3421 1144
The Beer Bay
If you want to drink good beer on a budget, make a trip down to this pint-sized beer stall on the Central waterfront, which has six beers on tap and dozens of excellent British bottled brews.
There aren’t really any seats here, unless you count the nearby steps, but there are a few standing tables that are popular places for evening commuters to gather with a pint of ale.
The offerings on tap are fairly standard, with the exception of Old Speckled Hen, a creamy, malty English pale ale that makes for an excellent everyday tipple. Look behind the counter for the real treasures, including many of the same great brews as the Globe but at nearly half the price.
Try the Durham St. Cuthbert, a hoppy, citrusy American-style IPA from a small brewery in the northeast of England. Also worth drinking is anything from Brew Dog, a Scottish brewery that has made a name for bitter, edgy ales.
Draught beer goes for HK$30 to $35 a pint and bottles between $30 and $45.
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The Beer Bay, Central Ferry Pier 3.
You’ll find the widest selection of Belgian beers in Hong Kong at Frites. Belgian brews range in style from generic Stella Artois-type lagers to impossibly complex tripels. Some of the most famous are brewed by Trappist monks; these are usually robust in flavor, full-bodied and high in alcohol.
The restaurant and beer hall has an enjoyable lowlands-theme with lots of mirrors, tile floors and big projection screens where you can watch the latest football match. Popular food items are the mussels and fries.
The selection of roughly 80 beers ranges from the mass produced Leffe and Hoegaarden to the ever-popular Trappist beer Chimay, along with many rare brews like Artevelde and Montagnarde.
However, you will need deep pockets to go on a real beer adventure at Frites, with most bottled beers ranging in price from HK$70 to $100. There is a 50 percent discount on draught beers before 7 p.m. and 10 percent service charge.
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Frites Central, 1/F, Queen’s Place, 74 Queen’s Road Central (entrance on Pottinger St.), +852 2179 5179
Frites Quarry Bay, G/F, Oxford House, Taikoo Place, 979 King’s Road, +852 2250 5188
Frites Wan Chai, Shop 6, 1/F, Causeway Centre, 28 Harbour Road, Wanchai, +852 2877 2422
Five stories above Lockhart Road, Trafalgar lets you escape Wan Chai without actually leaving it. This is a likeable, easy-going place, with TVs for sports-watching, dart boards and a big terrace with fans and an awning that make it pleasant even in the summer heat and rain.
The draught selection is expansive, with 10 taps, but no particularly interesting options aside from the reliable Marston’s Pedigree, an English Pale Ale, and the sweet, floral Kronenbourg Blanc, which is a summertime guilty pleasure.
Where Trafalgar really shines is in its large selection of more than 60 British bottles. Try Castle Rock Elsie Mo, a hoppy, fruity summer beer, or Wells Bombardier, a well-executed rendition of an Extra Special Bitter, with malty biscuit notes.
Most bottles range from HK$60 to $75, with a $20 discount on most beers before 9 p.m.
5/F, 62 Lockhart Road, Wanchai,+852 2110 1535
Biere von Irene
This is an unusual place for a few reasons. First, there’s the location, on a busy pedestrian street in the heart of Yuen Long, a place not normally associated with anything other than ice-cold Blue Girl.
Then there’s the fact that it’s little more than a stall with fold-up tables, like a dai pai dong that only serves drinks.
But mainly it’s the beer list that sets Biere von Irene apart. This is currently the only place in town that has draught beer from Rogue, the renowned, boundary-pushing Oregon brewer. There’s also a good selection of bottled Rogue beers, as well as some from California’s North Coast, like Old #38 Stout, which has a dry finish and a lightly roasted, slightly fruity taste reminiscent of Chinese herbal tea.
Biere von Irene is also the only place in town where you’ll find stuff from thousand-year-old Austrian brewer Eggenberg, including the very potent Sanmichlaus, a doppelbock with 14 percent alcohol.
Aside from the Rogue on tap, the selection of which varies, there’s also the unremarkable but refreshing Fürstenberg Weizen Hefe Hell, a German wheat beer.
Draught beer starts at HK$40 and most bottles range from HK$38 to $68, with even higher prices for those high-proof Austrian beers.
Shop 17B, 7-25 Yau San St., Yuen Long,+852 2477 0166
This upscale supermarket has Hong Kong’s best retail selection of beer. Even better, it constantly rotates its selection, with seasonal beers and new imports from craft breweries around the world.
There are plenty of beers here you won’t find anywhere else. Keep an eye out for anything from California brewery Sierra Nevada, which produces the hop bomb Torpedo Extra IPA and the malty, intense Bigfoot Ale, a barleywine that gets better as it ages.
Also worth checking out: Anchor Steam, a unique style of lager pioneered in San Francisco, which is light, hoppy and extremely easy-drinking; and La Goudale, an earthy, sweet example of a French bière de garde.
CitySuper Central, 1/F, IFC Mall, +852 2231 7128
CitySuper Causway Bay, Basement, Times Square, +852 2506 2888
CitySuper Tsim Sha Tsui, 3/F, Harbour City, +852 2375 3777
CitySuper Sha Tin, Plaza, 2/F, New Town Plaza, +852 2603 3488
Hong Kong’s newest beer importer brings in brews from four fantastic breweries in California, Oregon and Japan, which you can order online and have delivered to your home.
All of the beers are excellent, but standouts include the extra hoppy Big Eye IPA from San Diego brewery Ballast Point; Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale, a German-inspired Maibock made with Rogue’s own strain of Pacman yeast; and Red Rose Amber Ale, a hoppy American-style red ale from Baird, a highly-acclaimed brewery south of Tokyo.
Beers can be purchased individually, in cases or in thoughtfully selected variety packs. There are also 30 liter kegs of Rogue Brutal IPA, Yellow Snow IPA and Double Chocolate Stout.
Belgian Beer Company
Cut out the middleman by ordering some of Belgium’s best beers for delivery straight to your home. Some of the beers available at the Belgian Beer Company’s online shop include the incomparable Trappistes Rochefort 10, a nearly indescribably rich quadrupel made by trappist monks. You can also find the Saison Dupont, a funky, citrusy farmhouse ale, and the Champagne-like Deus Brut.
Beers are available individually or in cases, with free delivery for orders of HK$800 or more.
Americraft imports a handful of interesting American craft brews from Anchor, Big Sky and Lost Coast. Try the Big Sky IPA, a straightforward take on the American IPA, and the Moose Drool Brown Ale, a well balanced brew with chocolate notes.
Beers are available in cases of six, 12 and 24, with a home delivery charge of HK$50.
(Story updated April 2012, first published August 2011)