Were you knocking about Nanjing in 2008? If so, then you probably have fond memories of the only watering holes in town at that time; old faithful Bluesky, no longer behind anything Behind The Wall, Scarlets 1 and 2, 1912 stronghold Blue Marlin, KTV ajoined Jimmy’s and Nanjing’s after party bunker of debauchery, Castle Bar.
For expats at the time, that was pretty much it for quality drinking; one could get oneself a good pint of German brew, or if we were really lucky, Belgium or Australian beers.
Strolling the streets of Nanjing 10 years later, comparatively, options are abundant. As with a lot of trends that cotton on here, the Chinese seem to have skipped centuries of beer culture and jumped enthusiastically onto the craft beer band wagon.
Starting with Florentina, over the past 5 years micro craft beer joints have been popping up around the city, with the majority appearing in and around the back streets of Nanjing’s student dominated Shanghai Lu area. A lowering of import alcohol tax and a vested interest from local brewers such as Master Gao has also helped buoy interest.
Having recently undergone a face lift; its former look sporting a rather Spanish villa feel, with egg shell walls and rounded windows, the new Florentina has not only taken on a very minimalist factory feel, but its occupants also seem that much trendier themselves.
This might be a revamped craft experience but be prepared for higher prices and less of a selection; yet, it is spacious inside and out.
We began, back in the day, with Brooklyn ales coming in at ¥25, now going for ¥45 yuan 5 years later. While our wave of cheap or affordable craft beers was short lived, 2017 has seen the popularity of craft beer in Nanjing at such a height that one can almost find a local cave on each street corner, but as we are discovering, it doesn’t come cheap.
Next door you will walk into Like Sunday Rain a place with the least selection of beers but offers cider and probably makes the best choice for afternoon sun drinks. Right opposite that is a tiny bar offering beers on tap. This corner of craft micro pubs is just one of many that can be found around the area among others such as new Placebo, Craft and good old Shush Bar.
While serious beer drinkers will look for a sizable selection of 550ml’s at a reasonable under ¥40, there seems to be emerging a class of beer “tasters” that seek a large selection of beers from around the world, taking pleasure in tasting each one and not minding paying through the roof for their round.
With that said, one can thank these tasters for it appears to be them driving the craft beer cave craze. Starting from Shanghai Lu itself take a wander up the street and look for a large light bulb lit-up sign atop a bar that reads “Coffee Pub”, take a left and head on up the hill, your craft beer hopping night continues at Sky.
This place takes on a feeling of dingy café, cozy drinking den. Here is a place that allows one to smoke and drink as much as they fancy while cozying up to their friends on a sofa and watching the football on TV. Soft jazz music plays in the background and a little bell that reads BEER sits ready to be dinged when you’re dry. Sky offers an array of crafts at fairly reasonable prices.
Finally, the newest member on the block is of notable mention. It appears this bar is still without a name, one assumes because it is so new. But this no name bar packs a punch, it features a large industrial door that opens up into a long very British style pub/bar. Clever renovation has allowed for plenty of space in a very small area. The selection on the wall behind the bar rivals them all for variety and price and the bar also features at least five beers on tap. It has a smaller private room and there seems space for a small outdoor area. The Nanjinger shall coin this The Local, for that is exactly how it shapes up. Check it out, it is located next door to Ultra Kebab.