Great Leap Brewing #6 – located in a hutong, this brewery was a bit tricky to find – thank goodness for working GPS! We grabbed a table in the nearly empty tasting room and ordered a sampler to split: Dan Cong Dark Ale (6.7%), Chai Masala Stout (6.5%), Aggressor (7.0%), and the Imperial Pumpkin (7.5%). All the beers were solid but we both liked the pumpkin one best so we decided to split a full pour to bide our time before going out in the cold again.
After we secured our beer sweaters, we walked about ten minutes north to Mr. Shi’s Dumplings and… encountered a very rambunctious birthday party! As the eponymous Mr. Shi was toasting shots of wine with all of his employees in turn, we enjoyed plate loads of fried dumplings. Eric tried the pork and chive while I ordered a sampler of pork & potato, potato & leek and beef & chive. The atmosphere was lively, with notes (and money) from around the world displayed on the walls and under glass of the tables.
As with many (if not all) restaurants located in hutongs, there are no inside bathrooms, only public restrooms in the alley with varying degrees of privacy. Most were squat toilets and some had partitions. As a woman, I got used to carrying toilet paper with me at all times.
Our fancy meal for the trip was an all-you-can-eat dim sum lunch at Jing Yaa Tang (in the Opposite House Hotel). For about $20 pp you got a sheet with a variety of items to order. Pricey for dim sum but the setting was pretty swanky and full for Saturday lunchtime so I would suggest reservations. The wine was expensive, I though the draft beer was a better options but Eric’s lychee passion fruit lemonade was memorable also. Overall I think the quality was pretty good… the bbq pork bun, pork puff, and steamed shrimp dumplings were very tasty, but the soup dumpling skins (xiaolongbao) were too thin to pick up easily. I managed a few bites of a delicious egg tart before I declared myself completely stuffed.
Later that evening we needed to warm up again after spending a few hours at the 798 Art District, so we made Jing-A Brewery our next destination. We were still relatively full from lunch so we really just wanted beer and snacks. The brewery was busy, but they had a few tables available when we arrived. Eric ordered the Monster Mash Pumpkin Ale first, then an El Hefe (hefeweizen) for his second. l had the Black Velvet Vanilla Stout and then a Nine Rivers Imperial Chestnut Ale. We split a mixed nut bowl for snack which had tasty pecans with Asian spice and other nuts. Their beer was surprisingly good, and the atmosphere was lively for the 2+ hours we were there. It would have been an even better deal for IPA lovers, as they offer a discount on their double IPA depending on the smog levels; given the the conditions we would have had a 30-40% discount if we liked that style!
We couldn’t leave Beijing without having some soup dumplings, so for our last dinner (and lunch the next day!) we headed over to Din Tai Fung. The subway exit into the large shopping mall was a bit squirrely, but we eventually found the restaurant on the 6th floor. Amazingly, there was no wait either time and we settled in for a feast of xiao long bao. Yum.
Slow Boat Brewery – We had one more brewery left on our list, so we found ourselves heading down a very dark hutong alley to the mark on our Google map which was a barely lit sign. The other side of the door couldn’t have been any different – a lively tap room with bench seating and a ton of beers to sample, way more than they listed online. Eric opted for the Northern Drift Sour, which was gingery with a subtle sour twist, very refreshing. I had yet another vanilla stout (Sea Anchor Imperial Vanilla Stout) which was dessert-like with lots of vanilla and a bit of salt spray. We would have loved to try more but we were pretty worn out from the day so we stuck with one each.