The Best Beer Bars and Bottle Shops in Hong Kong
The city calls beer gweilo leung cha—“gweilo herbal tea”—thanks to beer’s cooling properties. But this hoppy brew is for more than just gweilos.
Our Top 11 Beer Bars
- 65 Peel: Brand new gastrobar with only locally brewed beers on tap. 65-65A Peel St., Central.
- Captain’s Bar:The Captain’s Bar at the Mandarin is a Central institution, and it’s also got a custom-brewed Young Master Ales beer—served in their distinctive pewter mugs.Mandarin Oriental, 5 Connaught Rd., Central, 2825-4006.
- Craft Brew & Co: Neighborhood craft beer bars with regularly rotating beers from all over. SoHo: 17 Old Bailey St., Central, 2885-0821. SYP: 36 High St., Sai Ying Pun, 2559-0498. K-Town: 27-31 Catchick St., Kennedy Town, 2246-8782.
- Kowloon Taproom: With 11 taps rotating every couple of weeks, this open-fronted bar is a sorely needed TST watering hole. G/F, Astoria Building, 24-38 Ashley Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, 2861-0355.
- Little Beer Room: Does what it says on the tin: Diminutive and full of good beer, with 20 rotating craft beer taps. Shop 1, 15 Bridges St., Central, 2799-4899.
- The Globe: The big daddy of good beer in Hong Kong still has one of the best selections in town. Shop A, G/F, Garley Building, 45-53 Graham St., Central, 2543-1941.
- The Roundhouse: 25 craft beer taps, with a strong selection of local as well as international craft brews. The new Wan Chai outlet serves up Southern fried chicken too. The RoundHouse Taproom: 62 Peel St., Central, 2366-4880 The Roundhouse Chicken + Beer: 29 Amoy St., Wan Chai, 2866-3330.
- TAP — The Ale Project: Offers a wide range of Hong Kong beers, particularly Young Master brews.15 Hak Po St, Mong Kok, 2468-2010
- Tipping PointBrewing Co.: This gastropub and microbrewery rocks the experimental brews with a regularly changing roster of tipples. 79 Wyndham St., Central, 2868-2892
- Trafalgar Brewing Company: This pub has four house beers, all brewed on-site. Shop 10, 1/F, Brim28, 28 Harbour Rd., Wan Chai, 3102-9438.
- WOFT: Not one, but two craft beer places in Mong Kok? Now you KNOW it’s getting popular. G/F, 7-8D Yim Po St., Mong Kok, 2116-1786.
Our 5 Favorite Bottle Shops
- The Bottle Shop: Longstanding Sai Kung beer joint. G/F, 114 Man Nin St., Sai Kung, 2791-1600.
- HK Brewcraft: Homebrew store that stocks everything you need to craft your own ale. Also sells beer and runs workshops. 4/F, 15 Cochrane Street, Central, 5925-2739.
- Craftissimo: Stocks craft beers from all over the world.Sheung Wan: Shop D, 22-24 Tai Ping Shan St., Sheung Wan, 6274-3130. TST: Shop 166, 1/F, Tsim Tsa Tsui East,, Peninsula Centre, Mody Rd, 6274-3130.
- The Tramline Liquor Co.: Mostly international beers, with a few Hong Kong brews too, including very limited-edition Young Master beers.78 Catchick St, Kennedy Town, 2387-1230.
- The Artist: Brewed-in-Belgium beer specially for the Artist, the selling point here is that you can customize the label with your own photos or images. Also does the same with chocolate. Offers next-day delivery. 7A, Genesis, 33-35 Wong Chuk Hang Rd., Wong Chuk Hang, 2658-8818, www.mrtheartist.com
Zero to Hero: A History of Hong Kong Beer
From thirsty desert to a boozy oasis: In the short space of just four years, Hong Kong’s gone from lager-obsessed city to bubbling craft beer central. In the beginning, there was none. Or maybe just a handful: think bars serving craft beer like The Globe in SoHo, or the Hong Kong Brewhouse in Lan Kwai Fong. In terms of local brews, there was just Hong Kong Beer Co., which “was not so creative back then, they only made one generic lager,” says Jonathan So, the founder of Beertopia. The city’s craft beer festival has gone from some 1,200 visitors in its 2012 inaugural event at Western Market, to around 13,000 at last year’s event at the Central Harbourfront.
A little later came the now-defunct Typhoon Brewery, a passion project created by a Cathay pilot operating from Lantau Island, making British-style ales. But the opening of Young Master Ales, the revamp of the Hong Kong Beer Co. and the launch of Beertopia—all within a year of each other—sparked off a craft beer renaissance. Today there are more than 10 craft breweries in Hong Kong, from little homebrew setups to larger warehouse operations.
“The local breweries are being embraced—they’re all doing very well, better than what anyone expected,” says So. “Obviously we don’t grow the hops and malts here, but people are trying to make beers with Hong Kong honey or chili or ginseng, which is pretty neat.” What does So hope is next? “To see people realize there’s good beer out there other than mass market lagers: you don’t have to go to a specific branded ‘beer bar’ any more.” If doing our part means ordering another pint of brewed-in-Hong Kong beer, we’re on board.
Six (Almost) Interesting Beer Facts
Facts to impress or bore your friends with as you work your way through a pint or four.
- A pint of craft beer averages around 250 calories per pint, or 1/10th of your recommended daily caloric intake if you’re a man—and 1/8th of it if you’re a woman. Normal lager has fewer calories—but as craft beer is strong, you drink less of it, making it almost a healthy option.
- The strongest beer in the world is Snake Venom, made by Scots brewery Brewmeister. It clocks in at 67.5% ABV, or, “way too much.”
- Until 2013, beer was not considered alcohol in Russia. All drinks under 10% ABV were classified as “foodstuffs.”
- The Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew, also known as the Temple of a Million Bottles, is a Buddhist temple in northeast Thailand constructed from over 1.5 million empty Heineken and Chang beer bottles.
- About 40 percent of the world’s Guinness is brewed and sold in... Africa.
- After physicist Neils Bohr won the 1922 Nobel Prize, Carlsberg gifted him a house right next to their brewery—with a pipeline running free beer straight into his home.
The Breweries and Beers You Need to Know
1. Black Kite Brewery
Established: Brothers David and Daniel Gallie started selling beer in May 2015.
Ethos: Easy on the palate. “Our core beers (golden, wheat, pale, IPA, amber and porter) were designed to be well balanced and easy to drink, but they’re also playing around with different flavors and styles with special brews.”—David Gallie, co-founder.
Signature Brew: The IPA (5.7% ABV), which is citrusy, fruity, and slightly floral. If you’re lucky, you can nab a bottle of their limited ‘Oh, Bacon!’ smoked beer, made with smoked malt.
Brewery Visits: None scheduled, but weekday visits can be arranged. They haven’t started opening up on weekends (yet). 11B Derrick Industrial Building, 49 Wong Chuk Hang Rd., Wong Chuk Hang, www.blackkite.hk
2. Hong Kong Beer Company
Established: Originally founded in 1995 as the South China Brewing Company; reborn in 2013 when the brewery changed hands and brought on award-winning brewmaster Simon Pesch.
Ethos: Accessible beer for all comers, especially newbies. “We see ourselves as pioneers in the South China craft brewing industry. We feel like we are making bold strides towards educating the market without brewing one-dimensional beers.”—Simon Pesch, brewmaster.
Signature Brew: The Hong Kong Beer (5.1% ABV), a fresh and hoppy amber ale, with citrus and floral notes to balance out its malted body.
Brewery Visits: By appointment, email [email protected] for details. Unit 5A, G/F, Wah Shing Centre, 5 Fung Yip St., Chai Wan, 2580-2360, www.hkbeerco.com
3. Gweilo Beer
Established: Founded by Brit homebrewer Emily Jebbitt and fellow craft beer enthusiast Joseph Gould in July 2014.
Ethos: Bringing fresh, exciting beer to the city. “A name that was fun, catchy, local to Hong Kong and that made craft beer approachable was the aim. Once the tagline ‘A Redefining Beer’ was decided, ‘Gweilo’ seemed perfect as it has undergone a redefinition of its own.”—Emily Jebbitt, co-founder.
Signature Brew: English “session” ales with a hint of local flavors and tropical fruit: try the IPA (4.8% ABV) and the Pale Ale (4.5% ABV). A wheat beer called “Gweilo Wit” launches soon.
Brewery Visits: Nope: Gweilo Beer’s recipes are contract-brewed by the HK Beer Co. www.gweilobeer.com
4. Fat Rooster
Established: Longtime Hong Kong resident James Dwyer began producing Fat Rooster beer in Wong Chuk Hang in 2014.
Ethos: More Hong Kong beer for all. “We wanted to give people the choice and access to great, locally produced beers.”—James Dwyer, founder.
Signature Brew: The Fat Rooster IPA (4.5-5% ABV) is a light golden/copper ale with an intense, full hop bitterness, characteristic of American IPAs. With the focus on the hops, it’s a medium-bodied beer with a subdued malt profile. Has a powerful citrusy, flowery aroma and flavor, with a dry finish and a lasting hop bitterness that leaves you wanting more.
Brewery Visits: None currently. www.fatrooster.hk
5. City Brew
Established: City Brew started out in December 2014 teaching homebrewing, before branching out into selling beer in September 2015.
Ethos: Infusing Hong Kong personality and flavor into its beers. “We hope to make the craft brew scene more colorful and more full of variety by making a beer that belongs to Hongkongers.”—Koey Chan, founder.
Signature Brew: The Gong Lui “Tough Lady” IPA and the Gong Nam “Gentlemen” Stout (both 7% ABV). The Gong Lui is opinionated, layered, and a bit of a challenge. Peppercorn and citrus peel make it spicy with a zesty finish. The Gong Nam uses the mellow ingredients of Chinese medicine and desserts: longan and red dates.
Brewery Visits: By appointment only. City Brew also holds regular brewing classes (Cantonese only). 101C, Wah Tat Industrial Centre, 8 Wah Sing St., Kwai Hing, 5448-0530, www.citybrew.hk
6. Kowloon Bay Brewery
Established: September 2015 by Ging Van and Mike Bardill.
Ethos: Good, classic brews for everyone. “While infusing local twists to traditional beers offers something unique to the region, we feel expats miss good, locally produced, preservative-free traditional beer styles. As for Hong Kong locals, it’s time for them to experience why beer got so popular in the western world.”—Ging Van, co-founder.
Signature Brew: The American IPA (7.4% ABV), intensely hopped with citrus, fruit and floral tones. They’ve also just launched the city’s—and probably Asia’s—first gluten-free beer.
Brewery Visits: By appointment. Drop them a line at [email protected]. Unit 12, 10/F, Block B, Hi-Tech Industrial Centre, 491-501 Castle Peak Rd., Tsuen Wan, 2559-8218, www.kowloonbaybrewery.com
7. Lion Rock Brewery
Established: This Kwai Chung brewery opened in September 2015.
Ethos: It’s all about the Lion Rock Spirt. “We emphasize Hong Kong people’s industrious nature, perseverance and spirit of solidarity, which has existed from the 50s until now. We brew our beer so that people can feel this.”—Terence Chan, founder.
Signature Brew: The 獅子山下 Lion Rock Pale Ale (5.2% ABV) delivers a complex yet refreshingly fruity taste, with notes of mandarin, passion fruit, peach, gooseberries.
Brewery Visits: Tours are at 11am every third Saturday of the month and cost $150. Reserve via Facebook or email [email protected]. Unit 2, 14/F, Man Shing Industrial Building, 307-311 Castle Peak Rd., Kwai Chung, www.facebook.com/lionrockbeers
8. Mak’s Brewery
Established: February 2015 by Lo Tak-chi and cousins Mak Po and Mak Ho-lun.
Ethos: Hong Kong beers for Hong Kong palates. “At the very beginning, there were a few local breweries but the founders were foreign. They did a good job of brewing beer, but the flavor was not suitable for local people: Some were maybe too hoppy and some were too strong. So we hope to brew craft beer with a local flavor.”—Mark Mak, co-founder.
Signature Brew: The Longan Pale Ale (5.5% ABV), brewed with dried longan, wolfberries and preserved fruits.
Brewery Visits: Yes, email [email protected] for details. Room 1603, Block 2, 166-168 Texaco Rd., Tak Fung Industrial Centre, Tsuen Wan, 6174-7740, www.maksbeer.com
9. Moonzen Brewery
Established: Beginning of 2014 by husband-and-wife pairing Laszlo and Michele Raphael. Named for the Chinese “moon sun” door gods.
The Ethos: Moonzen combines Chinese ingredients with craft brew techniques. “We want to explore new frontiers in brewing using ingredients and stories that are inspired by the rich tapestry of Chinese culture.”—Lazlo and Michele Raphael, founders.
Signature Brew: The Yama Sichuan Porter (8% ABV). Named for the King of the Underworld, this porter boasts smoky, cherry malts with a touch of mala Sichuan peppercorn and chili.
Brewery Visits: Moonzen has just moved to a new brewery in Kwun Tong and will start tasting tours this summer. www.moonzen.hk
10. Yardley Brothers Beer
Established: March-April 2014 by brothers Luke and Duncan Yardley on Lamma Island.
Ethos: All about the attitude. One of the logos is (literally) a middle finger: “It’s a fuck-you to generic, commercially-led watered-down shite. We’re not really a commercially-led enterprise. Our goal is to make some really interesting and challenging beers. We’ve got a real belief in the craft and we’re trying to make something as good as we can.”—Luke Yardley, founder.
Signature Brew: The Hong Kong Bastard imperial IPA (7.2% ABV)—so named because it’s the “illegitimate brewchild” of Hong Kong. This very heavily hopped IPA surprises with some tropical notes of citrus and pineapple, around a malty core.
Brewery Visits: Yardley Brothers is right now kitting out a new brewery and tap room in Kwai Hing, which will open to the public in June. www.facebook.com/YardleyBrothersBeer
11. Young Master Ales
Established: December 2013 by Rohit Dugar, investment banker turned-brewer.
Ethos: Young Master pushes the envelope by seeking out new styles and flavors, from barrel-aged beers to smoked or sour brews. “Our goal is to help define an authentic identity for the local brewing movement in Hong Kong. We make truly distinctive beers that are either a take on a traditional style or a completely new innovation.”—Rohit Dugar, founder.
Signature Brew: Dugar says that they’re not defined so much by a signature beer as by variety. Take the Cha Chaan Teng Gose (4% ABV): This sour beer is inspired by cha chaan teng classic the ham ling chut: salted 7-Up. The sour beer is mixed with sea salt, coriander seeds and salted lime for a refreshing summer brew.
Brewery Visits: Saturdays from noon-5pm, with more planned for summer. Unit 407, 4/F., Oceanic Industrial Centre, 2 Lee Lok Street, Ap Lei Chau, www.youngmasterales.com
Coming soon: Hitachino Nest
In December 2014, homebrew shop HK Brewcraft co-founder Chris Wong teamed up with the Japanese Kiuchi Brewery—which has been making sake for two centuries and Hitachino Nest beer for 20 years—to help set up a brewery in Hong Kong to meet the demands of the Asian market. The brewery is still under construction, and but is slated to start accepting brewery tours in July. hitachino.cc/en