Founded by a husband-wife team in 2010, Great Leap has a focus on incorporating Chinese ingredients in their beers. Their “Honey Ma Gold” uses both Chinese-sourced honey and Sichuan peppercorns. That’s the tip of the iceberg.
The names of all their beers have deep historical and often poetical ties. “Great Leap” itself is a head-nod to a very famous Chinese poem. It’s symbolic of the “craft” movement. It’s about striking out on your own in your own way.
There is a stigma in China that foreign-produced beer is superior to the macro brews available. This is why it’s so important and commendable that Great Leap Brewing is making sure that its products are all Chinese. It’s a beer that the Chinese can be proud of.
When I visited Great Leap in 2017, it was the first time I’d ever seen an all-Chinese craft beer. It made use of the lovely Qingdao hop variety and included Chinese malted barley.
Carl Setzer, the founder, and head brewer, is a creator and member of the China Craft Beer Association. He is passionate about ensuring the craft industry has the legal pathways it needs for success.
Great Leap is a must-stop for anyone who wants to get a feel for what it looks like to be passionate about producing quality Chinese craft beer.
Kris and Alex kicked off their brewery in 2013. They are expats from North America. This is after they’d been homebrewing for some years and had a reputation for making great beer.
They have a knack for the odd and unusual. But it’s not all just wacky stuff…they’ve won some serious awards on the international scale.
Among the award winners is “Death by Passionfruit”. A hazy pale ale loaded with new world hops and fresh passionfruit.
Jing A has also done a lot of collaboration projects. Some have been with local breweries in Beijing. A few of the collaborators include Breakside Brewery, Elysian Brewing, 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Nøgne Ø, and To Øl. It says a lot about quality to have great names collaborate with you.
Glancing at their tap list you’ll see that they’re keeping pace with brewing trends and probably setting a few. Lots of options mean lots of fun. It looks like Kris and Alex have a lot of both.
Their location in Sanlitun is picture-perfect and conveniently close to Slow Boat Brewing if you have a second stop in mind. If you’re looking to enjoy a quality brew while soaking in a killer atmosphere make sure to check out Jing A.
Slow Boat Brewery
Slow Boat was started by a couple of American expats in 2011. One runs the business and the other the brewhouse. They have a classic core offering and their attention to detail and quality shines.
As opposed to chasing trends, Slow Boat is more about setting out to brew beer that can be used as a standard of the style. That’s not to say that you can’t find a fruity IPA on tap. They have plenty of variety and whatever their offer is definitely high quality.
If you’re looking for a killer hop experience, try their Monkey’s Fist IPA. And for something thirst quenching their Tip the Cow cream ale is crisp, light, and refreshing.
NBeer Pub (Niu Pi Tang)
Niu Pi Tang was one of the first Chinese startups in the craft beer scene. They may have started a few years after the expat breweries but they’re making their own mark.
In keeping with demand, Nbeer offers a constant stream of new releases. A lot of the styles reflect trends in North America…but with a nice Chinese twist. It’s hard to make a recommendation when the tap list is as fluid as theirs. From tropical hazy IPAs to fruited sours they’re guaranteed to have something to satisfy.
All of their locations in the city provide a modern pub environment. The attention to detail is obviously not only in the beer.
Another great thing about Niu Pi Tang is they’ve taken steps to offer brewing courses for those seeking to learn the craft and start their own brewpubs. This probably has something to do with their homebrewing roots.
They may have had humble beginnings but Niu Pi Tang is expanding rapidly and has many new locations around China.