The old-fashioned Beijing hutongs and the modern bar culture magically share the same characters: they are both low-key, even with a slight enigmatic quality, and the people at both places know how to enjoy life. When the two meet, the chemistry it gives off will only make customers unable to tear themselves away.
Yan Whiskey Bar
Pub, Pub Grub, $$$
Yan is a high-end pub located in the Qianmen area. It has a tranquil ambience that makes its customers think of nothing other than the glass of wine in their hands. The pub specializes in whisky and cocktails, the latter having no menu provided, as the professional bartenders there will make you perfect cocktails according to your personal taste. Reservation only.
Mao Mao Chong is hailed by some locals as “the best small pub in Beijing,” and more than that, it also has some of the most delicious pizzas in Beijing. It’s not easy to find but once you see the graffiti on the shopfront, you’ll know you are at the right place. The shop has even curiously adapted the famous Chinese poet Li Bai’s verse “I look up to the mountain moon; Look down and think of home” (translated by Stephen Owen) into “I look up to the mountain moon with a glass of wine,” and cutely written it on its wall.
Technically, the Kura Zanmai Japanese pub is not on a hutong; it is hidden in a hotel on a hutong – but we just can’t resist the temptation of recommending it because, on top of the comprehensive list of quality Japanese drinks, the food is super delicious. Reservation is a must, or you’ll probably find yourself making a trip in vain.
The Arrow Factory Taproom is one of the most popular Beijing bars that offer local craft beers. What has made it even better is its adjacency to Stuff’d, the best place in Beijing for homemade German sausage.
4Corners is one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in Beijing. What has even made the place more attractive is the fact that it is one of the distributors of the local Beijing brewery Jing A Taproom. Here you may have a glass of Jing A lemon beer along with the Vietnamese pancake or pho – a definite drool-inducing combination.
The pub has a beautiful name, borrowed from the name of Qing dynasty-era author Pu Songling’s study, Liao Zhai, which literally means a “chatting room.” Its wines are as beautiful as its name – all traditional Chinese wines home brewed from flowers and fruits. You may also get to taste other Chinese snacks along with the wines here, such as Beijing’s Miancha (flour tea) and beans flavored with anise seed.
Great Leap Brewing is one of the most prestigious local craft beer bars in Beijing. It has three branches in town, and it is said that the one in Shichahai area is its main location. It doesn’t provide any food, but you can order takeaway food from any other store you like.
The brick wallpaper and the flowery sofas at the Wiggly Jiggly’s make it more like your grandma’s house than a bar, but that’s exactly the reason why customers are attracted to it – this harbor away from the stress of daily life is a welcome respite. The cocktails here are good, both in flavor and look.