Sunday, 7 December 2014

Hong Kong Part 2 - Craft beer and sliders

Hong Kong is a great city to visit, especially for timid Brits who have never been to Asia before like myself. It feels exotic and comfortable at the same time. The remnants of its British past means traffic drives on the left, so I don't almost get run down every time I cross the road because I'm looking the wrong way. The transport system is similar to London, complete with an Oyster card system called "Octopus." But Hong Kong take their card system even further by letting you use the Octopus in convenience stores, tourist attractions and even McDonald’s. It's incredibly convenient and oddly satisfying to use your travelcard to purchase an ice cream sundae. I wish they would do something similar in London. Sadly the Octopus card isn't accepted in pubs - although this might be a good thing otherwise I'd spend all day touching in for a pint.

But I'm not here to tell you about public transport smart cards. I'm here to bore you about pubs and beer. After The Lovely Jemma and I had completed a successful afternoon of pubbing as detailed in my previous post, in the evening we visited the bustling Lan Kwai Fong district in Central. This is the nightlife centre of Hong Kong, packed full of bars and clubs, mostly populated with liquored up ex-pats. We visited Rockabilly, recommended by Time Out for its craft beer and sliders. For those who don't know what a slider is it is what used to be known as a "mini hamburger" until hipsters decided they needed a cooler name. The beer list was pretty good, mainly geared towards English brews but there were some Australian and US beers avialable as well.

I tried the Little Creatures IPA and it was an solid IPA, full of the fruity goodness you'd expect from an American style IPA. As it was Tuesday we took advantage of the "slider for a dollar" offer. As a Hong Kong dollar is about 10p we couldn't really pass it up. The sliders we tried were pretty good - well seasoned meat and tasty toppings. We also tried the poutine, a Canadian post drinks classic consisting of a bowl piled high with chips, cheese curds and gravy. Rockabillys version wasn't very authentic but it was pretty tasty. Sport was playing on the two large televisions in the bar and the music was a jolly collection of classic rock. We enjoyed our time here.

To finish the evening we went to Honi Honi, Hong Kongs only tiki bar. Situated on the third floor of an office block, not an unusual thing in Hong Kong where everything is built upwards, exiting the lift you're greeted with an atmospheric and delightfully stereotypical tiki bar. I didn't try the beer but the cocktails were excellent if expensive, served in gaudy animal shaped containers - monkeys, tigers and the like. Plenty of them involved fire and the bartenders were happy to show off their flame throwing skills while preparing the drinks. The crowd consisted of moneyed, hip and boisterous ex-pats, with the occasional local popping in. Great for a spot of people watching, but only those with fat wallets could enjoy a long session here.

On our last day we popped into the Trafalgar Brewing Co, a microbrewery pub in the busy Wan Chai area. This pub is situated in a block with two other beer temples nearby, Frites which had a large Belgium beer list, and Hop Shack which had a heavy English slant to the beer list. Sadly we didn't get to try them but this is clearly a destination for thirsty office workers surrounding the area. The Trafalgar is marketed as a English pub but inside it felt more like an American Sports Bar - high backed leather benched seating, dark lighting, and plenty of TV's showing different sports. I tried the in-house Hops and Glory, a splendid English IPA reminiscent of Fullers Bengal Lancer. At nearly £6 a pint, even at happy hour, this is not a cheap place but the beer was good and the atmosphere jolly.

It was great to see the beer scene being so embraced in Hong Kong, and me and The Lovely Jemma enjoyed our time in all the bars we visited. Of course there are hundreds of things to do in Hong Kong apart from drinking yourself silly, but it's nice to know there are some decent boozers around after you've filled yourself with dim sum and noodles. I loved the city and can't wait to go back!

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Hong Kong Part 1 - Afternoon pubbing

Last week I was in Hong Kong, affectionately nicknamed "Honkers" by ex-pats when they're not going to underground fight clubs or enjoying a Tetley's after murdering two prostitutes. If he is found not guilty for the murder he should definitely be locked up for choosing Tetley's when he could have chosen a much better beer, as it turns out that Hong Kong has a decent beer scene going on. Before the trip I did extensive research on TripAdvisor and Time Out on places to go, and after filtering out the local dives that TripAdvisor reviewers love because it's "so local," and the hipster hangouts that Time Out likes to recommend, I had a list of respectable pubs and bars to visit in this vibrant, cosmopolitan city.

First up was The Globe, a facsimile of a modern London pub, except it has table service. I love table service in pubs and I wish more places in London did it. Sure it's fine to get up and order your drinks from the bar but as I get older I prefer someone just bringing the booze to me. Usually table service means a service charge is plonked on to your bill but The Globe doesn't bother, so you can happily leave a terrible tip and run out before the staff notice. The pub is accessible from the Mid-Level escalators, a series of long escalators which whisks commuters and tourists through the hilly terrain of central Hong Kong Island. On arrival at the pub we were handed what looked like a small novel but was actually the list of beers they had on offer. It seemed endless, with draft and bottled beer from all over the world.

All the draft is keg, in fact I didn't see any cask beer in any of the pubs I visited. I started off with a Evil Twin Little B, which was about £4 a half during happy "hour" (11am - 8pm.) This is a beast of a beer, it's basically boozy treacle. It was actually pretty good but I can't imagine anybody having more than a half of this. Next up was Yeastie Boys Golden Perch. This was a light, fruity golden ale from the New Zealand craft beer scene. It was almost too fruity and could of easily passed as a fruit juice if it wasn't being served in a beer bottle. On a Tuesday lunchtime the pub was full of ex-pats enjoying comfort food (pies, burgers etc) and good beer. Service was professional throughout and prices weren't too expensive. Well worth a visit and a good start to our beery trail.

BrewDog? Euston Tap? No it's Craft Brew & Co!
Around the corner from The Globe is Craft Brew & Co. This place has lovingly "borrowed" or perhaps "ripped off" the design of BrewDog pubs with its industrial, metallic stripped back feel. There's also a nod to the Euston Tap with a beer wall behind the bar. I tried the Hitachino Nest White Ale and it was really rather good, an excellent example of a witbeir. We took a seat and had a good look at just how formulaic the design of the bar was. I could of easily believed I was sitting in BrewDog Shoreditch, except the place wasn't full of people I'd quite happily punch in the face if I wasn't such a timid nerd, and they were playing PJ and Duncan's "Lets Get Ready to Rumble" which you probably wouldn't hear in a BrewDog unless it was for "ironic" reasons. The food menu was mainly centred around gimmicky sausages made out of exotic meats like alligator or kangaroo. The beer list was pretty solid  and I would have stayed for more, but sadly the bar is situated across the road from a large construction site, and the din of constant drilling was to much for me and The Lovely Jemma so we had to head off.

The final stop on our beer tour for the afternoon was The Roundhouse Taproom, a small bar again reminiscent of BrewDog, complete with BBQ menu and beers from all over. They also brew their own beer and I tried Smoky Baby #1, which was a solid, hoppy pale ale. Couldn't taste any smokiness though. The place was empty as we were there after lunch but before the end of work, but the staff were friendly and the atmosphere relaxed. Again this was a perfectly serviceable pub that I'd be happy to visit again - and maybe try the BBQ.

Next Sunday I'll be telling you about the last two pubs we went to - Rockabilly and the Trafalgar Brewing Co. Look forward to seeing you then!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Out of office

No update this week as I've not nothing exciting to report, and no update next week as I shall be in Hong Kong. I've got my list of decent pubs and bars to visit over there ready. I'll hopefully get to try some local beers and maybe some craft offerings from the US or Australia that are hard to find in the UK. Whatever happens, I'll be blogging all about it on my return.

In the meantime why not follow me on Twitter? Just search for @bitterbloke, or click on the button on the right hand side. As well as my usual musings I might actually do some live tweeting from Hong Kong. Cheers and see you in three weeks time!