SINCE ALFRESCO IS THE FLAVOUR of the month in Hong Kong - from open-air dining to barbecues at the beach to unmasked street parties and outdoor art exhibitions - it seemed like the perfect time to pop into the Beer Garden. This is a relaxed but buzzing pub sandwiched between Inn Side Out and the East End Brewery behind Sunning Plaza, opposite Lee Gardens (Sunning Plaza, 10 Hysan Avenue, Causeway Bay, tel: 2895 2900). It was a busy Thursday evening and thirsty executives from surrounding offices were flocking, laptops in hand, ties askew and masks nowhere in sight. A happy mixture of locals and expatriates at the end of a hard day's work in post-Sars Hong Kong was out to banish the blues with some fresh air and alfresco ales. Not only was the beer list equal to the task, but it contained pleasant surprises: beers I have not found in any other pub here. Pride of place was given to two house brews ($45 a pint), made for the pub by the Hong Kong SAR Brewing Company: the light-gold Aldrich Bay is made in classic British pale-ale style, with a refreshing tang and a hint of spice; the reddish Too Soo Brew has a full-bodied flavour and mild bitter after-taste. With happy hour (two for one) until 8.30pm, these brews were going down well with the peanut-munching masses and we could even hear some singing in the aisles. Other drinkers were taking their pick from the long list of American microbrews, including some of the best from the Mendocino Brewing Company of Hopland, California. The Beer Garden serves Mendocino's famous Red Tail Ale, an aromatic pale ale that contrasts sweet caramel malt with dry bitter hops, the full-bodied Eye of the Hawk and the dry Black Hawk Stout, which has roasted malt flavour like its Irish counterparts but without the overpowering creaminess or sweetness. All these beers - priced at about $40 - go well with the barbecued spare ribs ($95 for a half slab) served with 'ultimate fries' or the bangers and mash, steaks, burgers and sausages on offer. Overwhelming crowd favourites seemed to be the tart, refreshing and cloudy Hoegaarden, served in tumblers so huge they could have been used as dumb-bells, draught Stella Artois and San Miguel, and the bottled Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Beers from Belgium, the United States and the Philippines were being consumed in large quantities as the chatter drowned out the rock music played over the stereo. I decided to doff my hat to the friendship between Tony Blair and George W. Bush by forming my own coalition: the iconic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale from California with a hearty helping of fish and chips ($65) served with tartar sauce. The Sierra Nevada manages to combine the flavours of hops, malt and yeast with creaminess and it proved a fine accompaniment to the fresh, batter-fried fish. My only complaint was the ale was overchilled, masking its flavour until it could come into its own. I was impatient to try the Too Soo Brew with the Ben and Jerry's three-in-one ice-cream combo ($55): one scoop each of Cherry Garcia, Orange-n-Cream and Coffee-buzz flavours melting into one another and contrasting sharply with the mildly bitter ale. After this lip-smacking combination I was tempted to have a sip of the winey Belgian Trappist Ale Chimay (available in four varieties) but by this time my female companion had turned into 'the girl with kaleidoscope eyes' so we upped and left. Which are your favourite pubs in Hong Kong and why? E-mail me at email@example.com .