FEW WOULD ARGUE that, in Beijing, Yanjing is king. You do the maths: 640ml of beer and a two-yuan price tag (minus a five-mao refund on returned bottles). But against the odds, several local restaurant-bars offer their own in-house brews. Two of the capital's best are German import Paulaner Brauhaus and venue-cum-microbrewery Get Lucky. Brewmasters Tom Zhang Wei and 'Yao' happily speak of their mission to please the capital's pickier palates but, unfortunately for yours truly, their mission doesn't extend to talking shop over a cold beverage. When I sit with Yao, who's brewmaster at local rock palace Get Lucky and a 26-year veteran of the industry, I'm comforted by the fact that he's sipping from a beer stein. Thinking that he's taste-testing the newest batch, I hope I don't drool at the chance to play brewmaster with my own taste test. 'Which beer are you drinking?' I say. 'The dark or the lager?' Yao says: 'Neither. 'It's tea.' Having assured me that he prefers the dark brew, it's quickly clear that his penchant for hiding tea in his stein extends to his personality: in addition to declining to tell me his full name, he only describes his former brewery employer with a cryptic: 'You've definitely heard of the company - it's in Beijing.' Get Lucky is also something of a tea-in-a-beer-stein - and an only-in-Beijing kind of place. The original club, a rock'n'roll saloon, opened in 1999 and regularly hosted local punk, metal, rock and rap acts. Most of those who took in the music eschewed the house 'yellow' and 'black' beers in favour of chugging cheap brews sneaked in from nearby shops. Meanwhile, at the back, pot-bellied, leather-clutch-purse-toting nouveau-riche managers gulp red wine on the rocks and XO by the bottle and sing their hearts out, accompanied by the bar's phalanx of tight-skirted hostesses. In its brand, new digs - renovated at a cost of five million yuan - local rock still rules the main room. The back rooms have gone upstairs, and upmarket. Get Lucky, Yao is quick to say, spent 600,000 yuan on beer gear, and moves somewhere from 500 to 600 litres of suds a week. 'Beer has a culture, just like music,' he says, as the bar's soundtrack changes from light country to local underground rock. Yao barely registers the change, let alone the irony and timing of his words. Zhang, the Chinese brewmaster at Paulaner Brauhaus, began working with beer in 1992 with local brewer Five Star. He joined Paulaner in 2001, and since then he and his German counterpart have overseen the production of 2.5 to four tonnes of beer a week, depending on the season. While the restaurant normally offers two kinds of beer - lager and dark - it brews holiday versions twice a year for celebrations of the beer festivals held in Germany in October and May. Opened in 1992, Paulaner is China's first restaurant-brewery, and has maintained its reputation as Beijing's best. 'There is no way to compare our beer to others made locally, and I'm not just tooting my own horn,' says Zhang. 'I'm not a manager, and I only devote my time to brewing. It's not like that in other places.' If Get Lucky is a little rock'n'roll, Paulaner is decidedly pop. Its ubiquitous Filipino cover band play western pop hits six nights a week, while patrons - mainly businesspeople staying at the pub's parent hotel, the Kempinski, and those winding down from offices in the neighbourhood - dine on sausages, sauerkraut and other heavy-duty Deutsche delights. Stein-toting, lederhosen-laden Teutonic wonderwomen are flown in by the dozen for the restaurant's two annual festivals. Between his climbs to the top of the German-made 1,000-litre tanks, where he pokes and stirs the week's brew, Zhang says that the adherence to the German Purity Law of 1516 makes his beer the tastiest - and highest in protein and vitamins - in town. If you visit on brewdays Tuesdays and Wednesdays, you'll be greeted by a strong, but sweet, smell on entry to the restaurant. And local beer bellies aren't the only happy consumers of Zhang's work: farmers are given the leftover malt cakes to feed to their pigs. Both brewmasters have had extensive tasting experience of bottled and draught beers. Zhang says the best bottle he's had in China is American mega-brew Budweiser; Yao prefers Heineken. As for beer on tap, well, let's just say that the brewers enjoy their work. But enjoyment, not to mention 12 years in the business, hasn't improved Zhang's tolerance: 'I can only drink one bottle of beer,' he says. 'I get drunk easily.'