Craft beer seems to be expanding everywhere in Shenzhen as of late, but what exactly is all the fuss about? Is it really any better than cheap commercial lagers? Is it worth the price difference? For that matter, what exactly is craft beer?
In the US, there is a legal definition as to what constitutes “craft beer”. Unfortunately, in China, there less of a universally accepted standard and the word can often be applied in questionable circumstances. Sadly, most of what’s out there still leaves a lot to be desired.
Beer is unlike wine or whiskey in the sense that it is far more susceptible to travel stress and it’s quality can rapidly decline if handled poorly.
As a general rule, the closer you can get to where it’s made, the better it is, at least in terms of it not having been subjected to travel stress. You’ll have a better chance of having a beer as it was intended to taste if it was brewed on site, but might also find a good experience with a beer made off site providing it was transported right. The further and further you get away from where it was made, the more risk there is that it no longer tastes as it was intended to, especially when it comes to crossing the border with potentially lengthy customs delays.
We are of course talking about the good stuff, fresh beer, which is unpasteurized and often unfiltered. Fresh beer needs to be kept cold, time and temperature are far less forgiving to it than its mass-made pasteurized counterpart.
A few red flags to look out for when searching for a craft beer bar;
1) If they serve beer from flash chillers and the kegs aren’t always kept cold, don’t pay the extra money for it. The way to spot this is to see if the kegs are kept outside of a fridge or coldroom on the floor. In these cases the beer is chilled only on demand by a flash chiller as it is sent to the tap.
2) If the bar doesn’t put the brewery name on the menu, you might not be getting what you expect. Is it really a craft beer, or is it a commercial beer with an inflated price tag?
3) If the bartender doesn’t know which brewery the beer came from, find another place to frequent. An educated barman will not only give you a better more educational craft beer experience, they’re more likely to know how to take care of the beer and how to recommend a suitable beer for you based on your preferences.
4) Be careful with the imports. No matter how great the beer tasted when it was first made, it often gets ruined by the transportation process. Importing beer into China is notorious for its difficulty in making sure the proper temperature controls are in place. Fresh unpasteurized beer should be kept cold as overheating can cause flavors to go off and also spoilage.
Over the past year, we’ve seen an increase in awareness regarding the transportation process and overseas breweries have started to manage their own product transportation to China. Even with the best efforts, however, imported craft beer will never be able to compare to a product of equal quality that is freshly made locally.
That being said, let’s take a look at some of the top brewpubs in Shenzhen…
- Bionic Brew
Their taproom features guest taps from all over China and they organize the Shenzhen Craft Beer Festival, which is now in its 4th year.
Address: Shang Ye Bu Xing Jie, Baishizhou, Nanshan, Shenzhen (深圳市南山区白石洲沙河街商业步行街)
- Taps Brewpub
Address: Shop 136-137, Anwanwu Rd, JunHuiXinTian Garden, Nanshan, Shenzhen (Behind All City North) (深圳市南山区岸湾五路君汇新天136、137号商铺（太古城北区后面）)
NBeer originates from Beijing, brewed in Chengdu, but you can find all their latest beers at the bar in OCT Loft right here in Shenzhen.
They are most famous for their sour Goose Beer, but they are no one-trick pony, and make dozens of other styles of beer. Don’t be surprised to find these beers pop up at other locations across the city, but to get the full NBeer experience, head to their bar in OCT Loft.
Address: OCT Loft, Building A2, No.101, Nanshan, Shenzhen (深圳南山华侨城创意园北区A2栋101)
- Plus Nine Brewery
One of the more recent bars to burst on the brewpub scene is Plus Nine Brewery, situated in the up-and-coming area of Shuiwei. They brew onsite to fuel their 11 drafts, but they also have some guest taps on rotation.
It’s worth noting that the taps are not always well marked so be sure to ask the bartender who made the beer if you want to know if it’s one of their own brews or one of the well-known guests beers.
Address: 1368 Intl Culture St, Shuiwei Village, Huanggang Park 1st St, Futian, Shenzhen (深圳市福田区皇岗公园一街水围1368国际街区144栋)
- ET Brewery
Located in Houhai between the shops of Coastal City and the offices of Tencent, ET Brewery is a great little option for those looking for a pint or two. Although this brewpub has tanks onsite, most of their beers are actually brewed at their place in Foshan.
The drafts available often take inspiration from the extra-terrestrial nature of the brewpub with drinks like Starfrunova and Space Cow Porter. They don’t usually carry guest beers on tap, but occasionally you will find other great beers from around the city or China.
Address: No.60 Haide 3rd Road, Nanshan District, Shenzhen (深圳市南山区海德三道60号 )
The 4th Annual Shenzhen Craft Beer Festival!
November 9th to 11th, Bionic Brew presents Electric City, the 4th Annual Shenzhen Craft Beer Festival. The festival, which is an invitation only event for Guangdong and Greater China craft breweries, began in 2015 with just six breweries and expands this year to 21 of China’s best craft breweries. As well as great beer, expect plenty of food vendors and live DJ sets all weekend.
Halo Plaza, No. 8 Liyuan Road, Luohu District, Shenzhen (深圳市罗湖区梨园路8号HALO广场)
Friday 9th November, 17:00 – 23:00
Saturday 10th November, 12:00 – 23:00
Sunday 11th November, 12:00 – 19:00
1 Day Ticket (includes entry, 3 beer taster coupons, 1 commemorative beer mug, 1 beer koozie) – Pre-sale RMB80, At door RMB100
Weekend Pass (includes entry, 6 beer taster coupons, 1 commemorative beer mug, 1 beer koozie) – Pre-sale RMB120, At door RMB150