Welcome to Beijing’s most permanent pop-up. The solid bar of weathered metal, the newly polished concrete floors, that huge hunk of pipe with sixteen taps? None of that’s going anywhere. Practicalities aside, we can’t imagine the public would let it. What was marketed as a four-month long pop-up experiment has become Beijing’s hottest drinking destination. Birthday parties, going-away parties – hell, even engagement parties – it’s all happening at the Jing A Taproom.
But for a bunch of jokesters who doodle around town in a crazy-looking three-wheeled vehicle called the ‘Keg Egg’ and have a similar sense of fun when it comes to promotion (they once held an event to launch their Airpocalypse IPA, where the beer got cheaper the worse the pollution became), Jing A is serious when it comes to the important stuff. The space is gorgeous, intimate and familiar in all the right, if not particularly inventive, ways. Burnished metal, drop lighting and bare bulbs, exposed brick, old pipes... you get the gist. We’re not complaining – Beijing could still use more of this aesthetic.
The beers can be hit or miss, but there’s something for everyone (and if you know what brews you do love, everything can be ordered in a one-litre stein). Brewing in an international city like Beijing throws up its own challenges; every expat has their own version of what ‘proper’ beer is.
Despite these challenges, for the most part Jing A has something to please all tastes. A particularly opinionated Englishman sticks to the Harmonious Session Ale (40RMB). He claims it’s the only drinkable thing, but downs several in a row. A middle-aged German sips on the Über-Jing Oktoberfest (45RMB), Jing A’s traditional take on an Oktoberfest lager, and declares it too sweet. He’s staying with the guest beer on tap, a Czech pilsner (45RMB) from the Brew in Shanghai. The American in the group drinks everything. Jing A’s founders are from the US and the majority of their beers are in the American craft beer mould. The Guizhou Smoked Chili Porter (45RMB) is on smoke and spice overdrive. You might love it but most hate it and ‘Germans certainly wouldn’t do that to their beer’. But that’s the charming thing about the Jing A crew: they’re wacky, fun and will do that to their beer.