Brew­ery serv­ing up drinks fit for a panda

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By YANG FEIYUE yangfeiyue@chi­

The new­est face of craft beer in Beijing is mak­ing a furry splash.

Panda Brew Pub — with its feisty-eyed mas­cot on the logo and la­bels — cur­rently serves about eight ales in the Amer­i­can, Bri­tish and Bel­gian styles. The set­ting is dra­matic: Huge metal tanks loom on the right side of the wall at the en­trance. The pub has two floors, each high-ceilinged and cov­er­ing about 200 square me­ters, as well as a roof ter­race for sip­ping al fresco when the weather warms up.

Metal­lic chairs, wooden ta­bles, steel door frames and gray con­crete give an in­dus­trial fac­tory feel to the whole space.

The Too Young Wheat (35 yuan or $5.60) flaunts a bright yel­low ap­pear­ance and car­ries a strong fruity aroma and sweet taste, which makes it a pretty com­fort­able choice for Chi­nese drinkers as well as for­eign beer fans. It’s easy to swill and a treat for those who don’t fancy bit­ter beer.

The Too Naive Pale Ale (38 yuan) is an ac­quired taste for me, be­cause I’m not a fan of the sharp hoppy taste of pale ale. The strong bit­ter­ness hits on the palate in a flash after the ini­tial sweet­ness fades away. It looks clearer than the Too Young Wheat.

It takes about 20 days to make th­ese malt bev­er­ages.

A sur­prise was the black Bri­tish Too Old Stout (45 yuan), which re­quires more than a month to pre­pare. Cof­fee and choco­late fla­vors min­gle on the palate with a hint of sour­ness, which is rapidly masked by fruit when the beer is al­lowed to sit in the glass for a bit.

The Too Fool In­dia Pale Ale (55 yuan), branded as the most bit­ter of all at the pub, was ac­tu­ally eas­ier to drink and more pleas­ant for me than the Too Naive Pale Ale.

Tang Dy­nasty bar­ley wine (75 yuan) is the most ex­pen­sive. It has a soy sauce kind of taste. The Bel­gian-style beer boasts twice the amount of raw ma­te­ri­als of the other beers. Brew­ing lasts for two months. It’s 10-per­cent al­co­hol by vol­ume.

The Pure Red Honey Ale is the pub’s most popular of­fer­ing. It’s the only beer that con­tains honey.

Guests can or­der a flight (75 yuan) of five small cups to sam­ple what the pub of­fers.

Agarden-va­ri­ety food­menu nicely com­ple­ments the panoply of beers. Pa­trons can choose from fried chicken wings cov­ered in six dif­fer­ent sauces, french fries, spring rolls, sand­wiches, pasta and pizza.

Live per­for­mances are held two nights a week.

A shared in­ter­est in craft beer­brought­to­geth­er­founders Xia Yu and Pan Ding­hao. They started with a very small home­brew­busi­ness at the be­gin­ning of 2013. By the end of that year, they were sell­ing bot­tled Panda beers, though that decision cost the team its third found­ing part­ner, Han Xiaopeng, who is now mak­ing draft-only beer else­where, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal me­dia.

“Our bot­tled beers have been sold in wine bars, cafes and up­scale restau­rants in 31 ci­ties across China,” says Xia.

After the suc­cess of the bot­tled beer, Xia and his friend opened the pub’s for­mer lo­ca­tion in Oc­to­ber last year to boost the Panda brand. The brand-new­pub is im­mense by com­par­i­son.

“Gen­uine beer should carry a mul­ti­lay­ered and lush taste, rather than the wa­tery and bland fla­vor of most in­dus­trial beers,” says Xia.

Good beers also need qual­ity in­gre­di­ents and pa­tience. The pub’s ma­jor in­gre­di­ents, such as yeasts and hops, are all im­ported from abroad, Xia says.

“I only want the best in­gre­di­ents for mak­ing my own craft beer, and I’m not afraid of tak­ing time and trou­ble in the brew­ing process,” saysXia.

For­eign­ers are ma­jor con­sumers of craft beers in China at the mo­ment, Xia adds.

“But we see the Chi­nese are warm­ing up to craft beers, thanks to their dis­tinc­tive fla­vors.”

The beers avail­able at the pub are all de­vel­oped by trial and er­ror to en­sure op­ti­mal taste.

“The fun of mak­ing craft beer is that we get to de­cide which fla­vor should be the best ac­cord­ing to our palates,” says Xia. Mike Peters con­trib­uted to this story.

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