Cheers to the memory of a watering hole
The Great Leap Brewery in Beijing’s Dongzhimen has been something of a local institution for quite a while now, and as the nearest bar to my apartment, it’s also my de facto “local”. All this changed early this month after it suddenly closed down, prompting an outcry from its regulars.
While it’s always been a handy place to drop in on my way home, I’ve never really been a fan of craft ale — or the carefully crafted shabby-chic of the contemporary brewhouse.
And, as a wine drinker, the bar clearly wasn’t designed for those seeking a tipple that did not involve malt,
This Day, That Year yeast, hops and barley — or for that matter fennel, caramel or coriander.
While this often saw me venture further down the street to a little courtyard bar with a bigger wine selection, I would from time to time — when I was feeling lazy, or when it was cold, or when the air was bad (often all three) — pop over there for a house white.
A popular haunt with locals and weekenders alike, the bar attracted people of all ages and professions.
You could swing by for a drink and end up chatting to a person — a professor, a circus performer or a TV executive — from quite different walks of life.
As convivial as the atmosphere was, I usually found the bar too noisy (it’s vast interior tended to amplify the chatter into an all-consuming din) and like many other noise-averse types (read: “older people”), I usually ended up outside in the smog and cold.
This said, the Great Leap was a much-loved bar, so it was as much as a surprise to me as its legions of loyal customers when I happened to walk in on its closing night.
Full to capacity and with scores more spilling out onto the street, the Great Leap faithful flocked to bid the bar farewell in increasing numbers as news of its closure circulated.
Conspiracy theories abounded about the reason for this, but many guessed the bar was the next closure in a Beijing campaign to clean up the city’s night spots, as was the case for a strip of nearby bars that were forced to close last year.
Others suspected the site was due for redevelopment, which would also not be beyond the realms of possibility.
But as the night wore on, I decamped to the new wine bar next door, which had opened, somewhat presciently, just weeks before.
Away from the ensuing revelry, I found myself warming to the relative tranquillity of the chichi establishment and soon got chatting to the manager about the promising looking wine list, before the conversation turned to the situation next door.
“It’s a shame ... but I think we might switch to selling craft beer soon”, the manager said with a broad smile. I know I shouldn’t say this, but I really hope he was joking.
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Braving the elements, a woman and children, who seem to be enjoying the rain, wait to cross a busy road in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Sunday.