Thursday, July 10, 2014

Beer geek review: Craft Brew & Co

I paid my first visit to Craft Brew & Co after it opened
a couple of Saturdays ago

Take it from me: this is a place with good beers
-- and also really tasty food! :b

As I reckon regular visitors to this blog know, I can be quite the beer geek and can trace my beer love back to my time in England, where I was educated about beer by an old boarding school friend (who's now a respectable barrister and politician!), and Philadelphia, where grad school buddies helped to turn me into a major lover of craft beer.

So it was only natural that after moving to Hong Kong, I frequented British style pubs which served British beers like Old Speckled Hen and Marston's Pedigree; this especially since very few establishments served American microbrews, in bottles or on tap.  Sadly, I also never saw my favorite style of British beer -- imperial stouts -- on tap in Hong Kong... until this past winter -- and when I did, it wasn't a British brewed Imperial stout but one from Norway!

The experience of drinking Nogne O's pretty decent impressive imperial stout at the Excelsior Hotel's Dickens Bar got me realizing that something interesting was going on in the Hong Kong beer world: specifically, that microbrews -- more frequently referred to here as craft brews -- have come into fashion.  And this fact was confirmed with my "discovering" bars like Stone's and The Roundhouse earlier this year.

This past month, another bar specializing in microbrews has opened.  Perhaps the most hardcore of them all, Craft Brew & Co does not serve any mass market beer, with English regional -- and family -- brewery, Fuller's, being the largest brewery it has beers from.

Thus far, I've been three times to Craft Brew and Co.  I've enjoyed the beers on offer at the new establishment on Old Bailey Street -- and, more so at Stone's or The Roundhouse, I really have liked its food.  (Weird but true: I particularly like the sausage whose ingredients include chicken and macadamia nut!) And upon meeting owner Lawrence Matthews, I cannot emphasize how much of a sense I got that he genuinely loves craft beers and is committed to offering a wide selection of microbeers at the bar.  (Put another way: not only is he not getting beers like Carlsberg and such but he also is not only getting his beers from Hopleaf, which seems to have become the go-to microbrew suppliers here in Hong Kong.)

Right now, it's early days still for Craft Brew and Co. So I'm not going to whinge about the fact that I've yet to find all of the bar's 15 taps in operation when I've been and, instead, hope that that'll be the case in the near future.  Also, that they'll be able to get some of the great beers they currently have in bottles (e.g., the ones from New Zealand's Tuatara Breweries, and the Flying Fish Extra Pale Ale) in draft form at some point.

My gripes will be directed instead at the bar's furniture and other physical facilities.  More specifically, I reckon the tables are on the small side if the establishment really does want to encourage its customers to eat as well as drink, and that the chairs aren't comfortable enough to get the likes of me to want to hang out there and drink more than a couple of beers on each visit.  

Worst of all is that the airconditioning doesn't seem to be sufficient to cope with the high heat (and humidity) of Hong Kong's summers.  Put another way: the temperature in the bar is so hot that it makes one want to drink ice cold lagers rather than more substantial, ideally served at warmer temperature beers!

Maybe come winter, Craft Brew and Co will be the ideal place -- due to it having the ideal warm temperature -- to drink some imperial stouts.  But there are a number of months before imperial stouts become the seasonal beers of choice to drink!  So I sincerely hope that the establishment's management will look into this matter.  

And yes, there is indeed hope for change for the better.  This is not least because, among other things, one new feature and improvement that they've introduced recently is... happy hours, and ones that are long (12noon to 7pm) and daily at that! ;b 

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