Brew Review: Living the Hangzhou High Life at Midtown Brewery

By Chris Foste, May 22, 2019

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201804/foste.pngThat's columnist Chris Foste is a bearded beer fanatic whose frothy pint glass of knowledge flows over with wisdom on the wetting of one's whistle. 

Kra-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka. Ba-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta. Wee-woo wee-woo wee-woo. The sounds of city life can be seen as harmonious tunes that lull sleepy city dwellers into a sense of calm relaxation. Or, they can be seen as the absolute opposite, with the drilling of skyscraper foundations being pounded into the ground, a sound that’s reminiscent of a drunk Skrillex bashing his head into the synthesizer.

Sometimes the buzz of the concrete jungle loses its glamorous flair. Sometimes this wash-rinse-bang-bang-repeat lifestyle grinds at one’s very soul. Sometimes you just need to escape the growing megalopolis.

Sometimes you just need to go to Hangzhou.

Image courtesy of Midtown Brewery

Hangzhou is a laid-back city, where cars actually stop for pedestrians. What a relief when the drivers caught in traffic aren’t fixated on flooring the gas pedal for 25 meters before smashing the brakes in front of the next waiting red light. It’s not only the casual lifestyle, but also the natural serenity of West Lake surround by emerald green mountains all scattered with secret pagodas and tranquil temples. The only thing that could make this experience better would be washing down the sunset scenery with a freshly brewed craft beverage…

Image courtesy of Midtown Brewery

But wait, there’s more!

Located a short stroll from the banks of West Lake is Midtown Brewery, a high-end brewpub nestled into the heart of Hangzhou. While there isn’t a coffee machine in sight, there is more brewing equipment than a drunk can shake an empty pint glass at, without needing to wait long for a refill. 

Image courtesy of Midtown Brewery

Towering over every patron, the brewing machinery quietly glows under the spotlights, revealing the central focus of this restaurant: the beer. Featuring six core beers and two seasonal brews, the drinkability is high in these concoctions. Good thing Midtown has a buy-one-get-one happy hour because four beers seemingly disappeared down the gullet after a solid afternoon of hiking. 

Headlining with the classics of porter, pilsner, pale ale, red ale, IPA and wheat, these core beers all possess a uniquely satisfying flavor. The seasonal beers include one beer on nitro-tap and one beer brewed with local culturally influenced ingredients. Brew Master Eric White looks to life in Hangzhou for infusion inspiration in his exquisite creations. 

Image courtesy of Midtown Brewery

“We do quite a bit of flavored beers with our special beer program because it’s delicious and the market in Hangzhou is not so familiar with craft beer,” Eric said when talking about introducing his brew to the local population.

"We want the people of Hangzhou to feel comfortable when we introduce them to something new. We also want to keep it a well-balanced beer so that it's still a beer first and then a fruit beer second."

The current seasonal tap was labeled Afternoon Wheat, a light and wheat ale infused with a revitalizing mixture of raspberries, lychee and rose. This was the beer that was much needed after a warm day of mountain trekking and temple hiking. However, the most popular beer at the brewpub was none other than the IPA. The Wengmei IPA is a fantastic combination of bitter, citrus and crispness. Topped off with a hint of pine and pineapple, this 6.5% champion hit the nail on the head to satisfy those fresh IPA cravings.

Image courtesy of Midtown Brewery

The personal favorite was the Pengbu Porter, a medium-bodied black ale with smoky notes of roasted coffee. None of the flavors were too overbearing and each played off each other perfectly, as a porter should. Another crowd pleaser, the Wulin Wheat was crisp, tasty and refreshing. A light fruitiness along with a touch of wheat that doesn’t crowd the palate, this delicate ale floats on the taste buds before settling in with a smooth but slightly hoppy finish. Then Eric mentioned one of his favorite beers he brewed while at Midtown.

“The Hangzhou IPA was a beer we did last fall. This was a cool beer because it incorporated the city flower of Hangzhou, Sweet Osmanthus,” explained Eric. 

“IPA is a really popular style in Oregon, where I am from, so it was cool to share that style with the local HZ community by using something people are already comfortable with. This beer was a big success in terms of popularity but also went to win a medal in the International Beer Cup 2017.”

Image courtesy of Midtown Brewery

Since its inception in 2015, Midtown Brewery has been brewing Hangzhou classics behind the mastermind of Eric White and his detail-obsessed brew team. Closely observing every aspect of quality control, from ingredient procurement to kegging and canning, Eric and Midtown Brewery pay homage to the scenic Hangzhou and its natural beauty. Influenced by the delicate and relaxed culture around them, these brews complement the fine tranquility experience while enjoying the resting sunset over West Lake. 

Next time you are in Hangzhou, or just for a quick getaway from the boxed-in city life, grab a crowler of Midtown brew, take a seat on the shores of West Lake and just enjoy the fresh air as life sails on into the twilight.

Thirsty for more beer knowledge?  Follow the Bearded Bear to stay tuned-in to all his Chinese beer adventures!

[Cover image courtesy of Midtown Brewery]

Read more of Foste's columns and brew reviews

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