Jing A: An 'A' for beer, and a 'B' for prices

By Steve George, July 2, 2013

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For the last two years or so, Jing A has played the role of shadowy pamphleteer of Beijing’s so-called “craft beer revolution” (or whatever the newsmakers at CNN are calling it now). They were the mysterious guys who slid dubious encrypted messages under your door at night, or scrawled phone numbers on the sides of bus shelters. Occasionally, they would host pop-ups unannounced and serve beer – sometimes for free – to whomever happened to turn up.

Now, the enigmatic Jing A have gone legit. No more hiding, no more secrets – everything’s out in the open. It’s the homebrewers’ Wikileaks moment: full-on transparency. From here out, Jing A beers will be served in a real bar, by real people during regular working hours.

Some will no doubt accuse Jing A of selling out – of going mainstream. OK, so Jing A was your favorite underground indie beer, that no one had heard of but now they’ve signed to a major label. But, seriously, who cares? Jing A has always produced some of the best-tasting brews in Beijing and now they’ve got the type of platform that allows more people to enjoy them. It’s what studio executives like to refer to as a “win-win.”

So let’s start with the basics: the Mandarin Summer Wheat (RMB33). For our money there is no better beer in town, we could literally sink this all day long. We may not be ale experts – we don’t profess to know a great deal about Humulus lupulus (hops to you and me) or yeast, apart from the fact that one is cone-shaped and the other causes fungal infections if left untreated. But we do know a smooth refreshing well-rounded Belgian-style wheat beer when we try one, and we've tried many... It has a zing, is has a note of citrus, it tastes of a pollution-free summer far away from Beijing.

Unfortunately, it’s served in a small European half-pint high-necked glass, rather than a large German-style jug or British pint. Which is a great shame, because it transforms what appears to be a reasonably priced beer, into a very expensive one.

The same goes for the other frankly oustanding beers: the sweet English brown Smoke on the Beach ale (RMB35); the pale and malty Flying Fist IPA (RMB33); and the so-ridiculously popular that it’s never in stock Xinjiang raspberry-infused Pretty in Pink (RMB33).

Did we mention that Jing A is located inside one of the city’s hippest restaurants, the excellent Big Smoke? We didn’t? Well now we have. See you there (after we've been paid, our budget only stretches so far).

// M-Th 11am-12am, Fri & Sat 11am-1am, Sun 11am-10pm (in Big Smoke) Lee World Building, 57 Xingfucun Zhonglu, Chaoyang District, 날捺혐妗르닷櫓쨌57뵀짜적各짜 (6416 5195)

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