Four years after opening opening its brewery in The Big Smoke Bistro, the ever-popular Jing A
has now engulfed that space and rebirthed it as its triumphant second pub – pardon, 'brew
pub'. Located in the heart of Sanlitun, it’s a second pub in the chronological sense only, and an instant classic for a city in cultural remission.
Those familiar with The Big Smoke’s floor plan will note an improvement in the layout and use of space in the warren-like venue, while almost everyone will note a wholly realised bar concept, featuring a brilliant menu, two bars and beers-a- plenty from a rotating cast of guest breweries and, of course, the one-and-only Jing A.
But it’s the evolution of its food game – a subject of much disagreement at the 1949 space – that confirms the brewery’s maturation. Led by Texan meatmaster Andy Dilda, the new menu celebrates the bovine wizardry of Texas BBQ culture, with smoky brisket, a short rib that is frankly Jurassic, pulled pork and a neat spread of homestyle sides standing tall in a menu that harmonises so seamlessly with a Flying Fist IPA you almost feel as though you’re cheating.
Cocktailers will be more than pleased with Jing A’s back bar, which features a white-tiled wall plugged with five cocktail- dispensing taps. At the time of writing, Beijing booze stalwarts The Tiki Bungalow
and Mao Mao Chong
both had taken over a tap each with hit cocktails the Cargo Hold and Mala Mule respectively. We’re told that the taps will change with the seasons, but for now, the Mala Mule, all abuzz with peppercorn and vodka, is worth diverting plans for.
It’s a desperate time for drinking culture in Beijing, and such an accomplished model as this is a straight boon for a thirsty, confused city. But it’s also important to keep beer in perspective; at the end of the day, its primary function is as the humble beverage of the everyman, and this remains the major criticism of craft beer in general. While sensibly priced in its market, a night of food and mirth at Jing A will not come cheap, but with a concept this tight and meat this meaty, a visit to Beijing’s best new pub is worth budgeting for.
By Fabio Greenslade