De Refter is bucking the town’s dominant beer trend. Sichuan peppercorn-infused, bearded craftiness is out; old-school flavour profiles are in. Rather than pouring locally brewed craft ales with all that brass and equipment on show, De Refter focuses on quality Belgian brews served in a modern, fashionably appointed space.
A bizarre combination, you say? We thought so too, but upon entering the two-storey bar, the recipe goes down more smoothly than you might expect.
Hexagonal accents, emanating a soft red glow, blend curiously with hardwood panelling, reminiscent of a cathedral’s gallery. The cave-like first-foor bar area seems more like a mixologist’s lair than a taproom, but the lofty second-storey seating fairs better, with comfortable tables and crimson high chairs lining the bar. As for the beers, if you’re into Belgian-style brews, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better spot. The sheer variety of bottled and draught options will be enough to make you spin. Be warned: De Refter’s menu has nearly as many pages as the Beijing phone directory. The draught Amber Palm (330ml, 50RMB) is well drawn, with a nice head and served in a thoroughly chilled glass, while a tall glass of strong Kasteel Donker (750ml, 130RMB) is dark, sweet and creamy, if served a bit cold. Overall, the beers are treated ell at De Refter.
Apart from the seven beers on tap, fridges are fully stocked with hard ciders, sour berry infusions and plenty of potent tipples. Old hands will appreciate the less common labels on offer, while all manner of fruity, low-alcohol options are sure to go over well with newbies. Food is currently limited to peanuts, but we hear a larger menu, with beer brunches and outdoor dining, is on the way. A different take on the Beijing taproom, De Refter is a welcome addition to the city’s beer scene.