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We Visited The Beer Lady's Giant Beer Kingdom In Songjiang

Onwards, to ever bigger fridges.
2020-07-24 12:00:00
Photos: Brandon McGhee
Offbeat: "Offbeat" is a column about stuff to look at or do in Shanghai that's interesting or weird (relatively, of course), that doesn't fit anywhere else.
The owner of Shanghai's original beermart has opened a brand new location. It's meant to be the biggest yet, which sounds great, and it's in Songjiang, which sounds less great, but isn't far enough to deter us. On a sunny afternoon, we hitched up the horse and buggy and headed out into the deepest part of the suburbs for some beer.



The latest location for the bottle-o that started life on Fahuazhen Lu is located inside an expansive, government sponsored redevelopment project on the grounds of the old Yunjian Granary. The collection of grain mills, granaries and warehouses is a thirty minute walk from the Zuibaichi Park metro station, the penultimate stop on Line 9. Miles outside Homeslice delivery radius.





The Yunjian Granary is a historic site dating to the 50s, when it was called the Nanmen Granary. The various low and long warehouses used to house rice, flour and feed mills up until the 90s or so, though there are hints at more contemporary history, like decaying drop ceilings and some abandoned convenience store shelves. If you're curious, the entire length of the canal at the back of the complex has little placards outlining Songjiang's history going back to the Song Dynasty, from the Kangzi Emperor to the arrival of its newest Queen.





Most of the complex stands empty, except for a coffee shop, a tiny guesthouse, a museum of classic painting, and an artist's studio, but there are plans for all sorts of tenants.





One of the placards says that Shanghai Bridge 8 Investment & Management Company, which took over the space in 2019, plans to "introduce the internet celebrity format, with art exhibitions, cultural and creative markets. To drive popularity and create Songjiang's cultural innovation landmark."





I mean, I guess it worked? It got us out here.



But We're Here for the Beer Lady



The Beer Lady occupies three of the twenty-some buildings near the Songjin Gong Lu entrance to the Yunjian Granary development. There's the actual Beer Museum, which doesn't appear to have opened yet, and an enormous restaurant with a full wall dedicated to live seafood tanks. That's not open yet either.



When they are, the Beer Lady's entire 4,000sqm empire could house, feed, and educate a village. In, with and about beer kegs.



The actual Beer Lady, the one you can drink at, occupies a graffiti'd warehouse around to the left as you enter the complex. The outside has a giant Beer Nun logo, and is covered in a Yue Minjun-looking mural advertising Sydney Lager. Not sure if that's a permanent feature, or if they'll change it out for new partnerships.





The inside is, indeed, big. Really big.







The tap bar alone is like fifty meters long. Doing a light jog along the length of the fridges will take you fifteen-twenty seconds from end to end. It's longer than a five-a-side football pitch. "Beer Lady" is spelled out in like ten thousand Chimay bottles on the wall, and the giant ceiling fans look they could lift the building of the ground. We haven't been to the one in Baoshan to see if this is actually the biggest Beer Lady in Shanghai, but does it need to be bigger than this? This is already pushing hard into "we get it" category.





The Beer Lady told us that she could display ten thousand beers at the new location. She probably has that many on display right now, with the shelves standing half or even two-thirds empty at the moment. Once logistics are running more smoothly than we imagine they're doing during COVID, the max capacity far exceeds that. It backhands that capacity and tells it to get its shinebox. By our count (92 fridges, six shelves apiece, seven or eight bottles deep and nine across) there's space to stock 40,000 beers just on the front shelves. Each of the fridges is actually just the front half of a gigantic walk-in cooler complex that could stock tens of thousands more bottles, so...



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That's one "beer" for every bottle that half of one fridge could hold. Repeat that 183 times. Look, it's a LOT of beer.



The shelves way, way down at the south end are stocked with Sapporo and Carlsberg and Asahi where you can get your beers for under 15-20rmb, but the average price in the fridges for the sort of imported goods beermarts like this are built on, is 50rmb and rises dramatically. Just for fun, we calculated how much one shelf of Snake Venom came to: 76,916rmb.

Always good for a laugh, that Snake Venom.



There's also a long, long food menu of mostly familiar Chinese dishes coming from the kitchens in the alley across from the beer library: dozens of dishes, including so-so lamb skewers, decent fried rice and, naturally, pizza. We didn't try any pizza, because we had to make space for all this delicious BEER.





So much beer! All of it worthwhile, except this Tsingtao 0.0%, which tastes like a mall bathroom.



As we stumbled out, the grounds of the Yunjian Granary had started filling up, mostly with the elderly from surrounding apartment blocks taking the kids for a walk. Many were happy to take advantage of Beer Lady's outdoor seating, but few were having any beer.







Is it worth a trip out? Absolutely. Worth a pilgrimage. The granary itself is a cool historical relic in the midst of redevelopment and a good spot for photography. Even if you don't care about that, if you've ever gotten drunk on Fahuazhen Lu or spent a day in Kaixuan Lu, you owe it to yourself to come out here and see what your beer dollar has funded. Organize a bus out, and have someone collect your carcass at the end. They can deposit you on a park bench somewhere downtown where you can sleeping the gentle sleep of a noble contributor to Songjiang's development, and The Beer Lady's empire.



*

The Beer Lady (Songjiang) is located at Yuanjin Granary, 10053 Songjin Gong Lu, near Songhui Dong Lu / 松金公路10053号云间粮仓, 近松汇东路. It's open daily, 10am-2am (not 24/7).

TELL EVERYONE