Just drinks this week. Japanese brewpub import Hitachino finally opened their doors; Beer Plus is serving bottles to Jing'an; and a new specialty coffee shop comes recommended (by us to you.)
What It Is: Before last week, you couldn't get Kiuchi Brewery's signature Hitachino Nest craft brew anywhere in Shanghai, apart from our city's nine gazillion beer markets and probably a spot or two in Gubei? Until now! Located in a grand but slightly cramped house in Sinan Mansions, we present: Hitachino Mansion.
The first / ground floor is mostly taken up by their brewing tanks. The manager mentioned that they were going to do this thing where a group of five or more can book the place out on a Monday (when they're ordinarily closed), and they'll fly in a brewmaster from Japan to show you how to make a special 250 liter (!!) batch. They'll even store the 245 liters you can't drink on-site for you. That's a team-building excursion right there.
The second floor is the "main battleground," a neat pub with some high and low tables, a sort-of-balcony and the main taps. They're planning on serving up a menu that looks like yakitori and other Japanese bar snacks to complement.
There's a selection of 12 on draft, including the White Ale, Amber Lager, Saison du Japon and Ginger Ale (the Amariro Session Ale isn't in yet). 58rmb apiece for 330ml, or 48rmb during happy ("nest") hour from 5pm to 7pm. There's also a selection of bottled beers, including Dai Dai Ale (48rmb) and Espresso Stout (58rmb). The beer's brewed in Hong Kong before making its way to Shanghai. There's a special promotion on now; 38rmb for any and all beers, until October 20.
The third floor holds a small, elite-looking teppanyaki restaurant (not open yet), while the fourth floor is a stylish members-only whisky bar. Memberships are 50k on a charge card, plus discounts. It's like a gym membership (ten gym memberships), except for a sweet whisky bar.
The fourth floor whisky bar, with its own still
First Impressions: A little at odds with itself over the gastro-pub / VIP treatment divide, but they're easy to treat separately. Also, it's not ready yet. In speaking with the management, "after October 20" was mentioned a lot, when their grand opening is, and the kitchens will be operational. Wait on it then. But the beer's good. The White Ale tastes like a more wholesome Hoegaarden, and the Espresso Stout (available bottled) is one of my new favorite beers.
But 58rmb is expensive. SCMP reported Kiuchi-san saying...
Importing into mainland China directly from Japan is difficult,” ... says Kiuchi. “Setting up a brewery in mainland China is also difficult."
... which I believe, but it's also difficult to pay 58rmb for 330ml of craft beer when I could stroll down the street, or try my luck at a beer market. For now, dedicated Hitachino fans only. They said they wanted to bring the prices down, so if we're looking at 38rmb during Nest Hour, I'd be happy to come back and work my way through those taps one at a time.
What It Is: Your standard beer supermarket plus bar. Wall of beer fridges? Check. Walls of assorted liquor on dry shelves for take-away? Check. Warehouse-style single room space? Check. Muted playlist in the background and a brightly lit environment? Check.
Coming to us from the concern behind Dada and C's bar and firmly in the tradition of The Beer Lady (although to be fair, she didn't come up with the whole beer supermarket bar either and admits as much), is Beer Plus, plunked down right in the midst of the bar-dry mid-range apartment housing district at Changshou Lu, near Changde Lu -- that's northern Jing'an. You seen that apartment building with the rock face built into the side of it? It's there.
Beer Plus offers the standard 9 million different beer brands and a few extra things...
...like 50rmb vodka soda buckets. BOOYAKASHA.
And they've also got a sort of Green & Safe-style meats and seafood deli supermarket at the back, which translates into cheap, cheap steaks cooked on-site and the cheapest oysters you can get. They're shucking the standard Frenchies for 25rmb per piece. That's... pretty damn cheap.
First Impressions: It does what it sets out to do. It offers that beer supermarket environment and the sundry beer bottles for people to do a little booze tourism. It's a place to drink for people who live in this area, which are rosy-faced groups of businessmen and young couples on dates evidently. The music is slightly better in this place that others (Joy Division, Beatles, indie rock). In addition to that, they've got cheap meat and oysters.
What It Is: It's a good time to be a lover of idiosyncratic coffee in idiosyncratic coffee shops in Shanghai. We're experiencing a bit of a revolution in terms of these little, quaint hole-in-the-wall coffee shops run by people with a way, way, way in-depth knowledge of and investment in the art of crafting important coffees. Along with the standard espressos, lattes, americanos, and flat whites, this place is specializing in alternative brewing coffee, specifically "pour over", "aeropress", and "French press" -- all forms of manual coffee preparation.
So, the deal with this is the "manual" preparation method for making coffee is the alternative to using a nice, big, expensive machine. The chief benefit of grinding and pressing your own coffee by the pot is it enables more control over accentuating the flavor of specific beans. I don't want to disappear down the rabbit hole on it, but if the concept interests you, read more about it here and here. Coffee In has a great selection of beans from all around the world you can select from to make your Pour Over (Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, Paraguay, even Yunnan, which is coming up in the coffee world).
We got one with some Kenyan beans - 25rmb
They also do other things. Like 50rmb-ish cocktails with coffee bases and without.
That's one of the specialties, which is a little coffee and vodka number. Really delicious. And my aortic valve was a huge fan. Loved it.
And they're also doing their own bottled Cold Brews and Kombucha, which is a very hip sort of energizing tea drink.
First Impressions: It's a great place to get a coffee. The proprietors have roots in the Russian expat community in Shanghai, and it's a nice little group of friends that are behind the whole thing, giving back to the local culture and doing something new with some passion. The coffee drinking in the afternoon gives way to cocktail drinks in the evening. The space is ideal for both with a small, leafy little patio on the ground floor and a snug little lounge space on the second.
Prices are good too. The manual press coffees are 20-25rmb and the standard options are 18-30rmb. Their line of Kombucha (brewed on-site just behind the counter in Classic, Vanilla, Coconut, Lime, and Grapefruit flavors) is 25rmb.
For something solid to go with the caffeine, keep an eye out for a Russian-style bakery opened by the same owners coming in across the street at the end of October.