When I first came to Shanghai a few years back, the old Shanghai Brewery on Hengshan Lu was the spot, at least for me. Actual craft beer, some of the best burgers in town, OK prices, and a real Western chain-pub feel. It was heaven for a new transplant with an “entry-level” salary.
Times have changed though. Craft beer and burgers are everywhere. There’s real competition out there now. It feels like Shanghai Brewery, despite the move to buzzing Donghu Lu, hasn’t quite managed to keep up.
Weirdly, nowadays Shanghai Brewery is a brewery that doesn’t seem to actually brew much beer. They have their own Donghu White IPA on the menu, but other than that you’re looking at macro beers like Stella or locals like Mad Dragon IPA. That last one is pretty good. But it’s a pretty lackluster beer selection, and at a time when you can’t walk down the street in Shanghai without spilling someone’s Saison, that’s not a great look for a place with the word ‘brewery’ right there in the name. You get the sense that it’s busy all the time for its comfortingly generic vibes and central location more than anything else.
As a beer bar, they play it straight down the middle. Lots of space, wooden tables, sports screens, a decent enough street-side terrace. In terms of food, they do the same. It’s bar food. Burgers with toppings like chili or feta cheese and pepperoni, Tex Mex, pizzas, you know the rest.
It doesn’t do anything wrong, but it doesn’t really knock anything out of the park either – everything on the menu (food and drink) you can find better elsewhere. You don’t expect fine dining or inventiveness on a bar menu, but when you take that into account the fact that other comparable venues are really putting the effort in – Liquid Laundry is a 2-minute walk away - the pricing starts to feel a bit aggressive. RMB 98 for a just-OK burger doesn’t really cut it anymore.
Still, those burgers taste pretty good. The nachos too. Inoffensive. When I come here for the trivia nights they host every Wednesday, I’m not mad when I have to grab a bite here. Basically, it’s not something you’d travel to for dinner, but it might be the kind of place that you find yourself three beers deep and in need of some quick grub. Given its location, it’s likely you’ll find yourself in there at some point, and if that’s your situation, I guess you could do worse.
Price: RMB 150 – RMB 200 per person
Summary: Popular, inoffensive craft bar on the buzzing Donghu Lu strip. Slightly lackluster beer selection for somewhere with “Brewery” in the name, and the food is just-above average bar grub, but it’s fine for casual drinks.
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