He told me not to get the wrong idea.
“Don’t get the wrong idea,” he said. “Normally I don’t have this mustache. I’m growing it for Movember. Do you know Movember?”
“Yeah, I do,” I said.
“Basically you grow a mustache, and you get people to, uh, donate money to support, uhhh…”
“To grow your mustache.”
“Yeah. And the money goes to prostate cancer. Testicular cancer. Men’s health.”
“Right, right. I’m familiar with Movember.”
I wasn’t sure what wrong idea he thought I might have. My idea, until that time, was that he was just another chatty guy who wanted to talk beer at The Roundhouse. I had that idea because every time I’m at The Roundhouse, by the end of the night somebody has chatted me up about the beers, or about life in Hong Kong, or about why was I in Hong Kong?
I didn’t think he was gay, or that he was hitting on me, if that’s what he was inferring. Not that it would have mattered if he were. What wrong idea? That he was actually friendly? Actually interested in beer? Perhaps he thought I had some kind of wrong idea because of the mustache, which is perhaps why he mentioned it so suddenly.
It was a nervous mustache, thin and uncertain. Let’s be honest, it was a pedo mustache. No hard feelings, but that Movember mustache made him look like a pedo. A young, Hong Kong banker pedo, slight in stature. Later, he told me he did, in fact, work in banking; his girlfriend, he said, worked with NGOs.
Maybe he thought I was the one hitting on him, and thought the mustache conveyed the wrong idea because, you know, gay men have mustaches.
I didn’t think he was hitting on me, but he could have been. He did, at one point, gaze into my eyes for an awfully long time, his eyes twinkling as if watching bunny rabbits hop through a field of rainbows and lollipops. He was rather touchy, too, as we talked craft beer, Hong Kong, and what I was doing in Hong Kong, patting me on the back and shoulders like an old friend he hadn’t seen since college.
We were polishing off pints of Mikkeller beer at The Roundhouse, which was heaving on a Thursday evening for a Mikkeller Tap Takeover.
The young banker introduced himself by telling me I shouldn’t drink any of the Mikkeller beers. “I would recommend that you don’t try these beers. They aren’t very good,” he said, as I reviewed the tap list. “I like IPAs, you know, American IPAs, but this one just isn’t any good.”
“Hmm… I actually quite like Mikkeller beers,” I said. “I mean, they aren’t all good. He brews something like 300 beers a year, so there are bound to be some losers. Overall, though, yeah… I really like Mikkeller.”
Beers from the roving, Copenhagen-based brewer flowed through 12 of the bar’s 25 taps that evening. There was the IPA that my new friend with the pedo ‘stache who didn’t want me to get the wrong idea didn’t like. There was a red lager brewed specificially for a Copenhagen restaurant called Amass, and there was a pilsner brewed for a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco. There was a Trappist-style ale, a breakfast stout, a sour-apple ale.
There was a pale ale born from a “science project” collaboration between Mikkel Borg Bjergsø and students from a school at which he used to teach. For that one, he brewed the beer in the school’s kitchen after school, after all the bad kids were released from detention. (Do they still do detention?) That beer, Det Frie Gymnasium, as with so many Mikkeller beers, is what you might call a “narrative beer.”
Behind me, a blond girl was blubbering more words of warning, though I was uncertain to which beer she was referring.
“It’s horrible! Hahaha! It tastes like fucking perfume! Hahaha!”
When I walked by her on my way to the restroom, where my name is on the wall, her perfume smelled like morning hangover.
The jolly drunks – The Roundhouse draws a chatty, jolly crowd, one of the reasons I named it one of Asia’s best beer bars for CNN – began filtering out at around 10pm, but I still had another one in me. My friend with the mustache was already gone. I asked a guy in a Baltimore Orioles cap if he’d tried the Amass B&W IPA, described as a “US West Coast-style IPA” that was “citrusy, tropical, and piney, as per the style, but not overloaded with hops.”
That was the one for which my mustachioed friend didn’t care.
“That one is amazing,” said Baltimore Orioles cap. “I tried every single one of ‘em, man, and that one is amazing.”
“Oh, shit, every one? Nice. Have a favorite…?”
He picked up a sheet that listed the Mikkeller beers, then gave me one- to five-word reviews of them, pointing at each description as he went.
“Uh, okay: shit, shit, amazing, more amazing, okay, total shit.”
He flipped it over.
“Okay, I fucking love this beer, shit, shit, amazing, pretty good.”
He grinned widely, handed me the sheet, and toasted me with a raised pint glass. Final count: one pretty good, two okays, four amazings (including an ‘I fucking love this beer’), five shits.
Before Movember left – before he alighted – we talked about craft beer. Craft beer in Hong Kong, in Singapore, and all the craft breweries he’d visited on the US West Coast. His favorite breweries, my favorites. The mid-range dining scene in Hong Kong, the rents in Singapore and Hong Kong. Banking. Writing. Nice guy, good conversation. I almost always have good conversations with random people at The Roundhouse. I usually don’t get the wrong idea.
Movember said he’d been to Singapore three times this year on business, so I told him to try and find Smith Street Taps next time he was in town. I said he’d like it, because eveybody likes it. At that, he gave me his business card and told me to email him. I said I would.
When he left, he said, “All right, Brian, nice talking to you, man. And you’re going to email me tomorrow, right?”
“Haha, maybe not tomorrow, but I will…”
“Okay, email me soon then. Talk to you later.”
He patted me on the back like an old friend and alighted the bar, heading home to his girlfriend. I didn’t have the wrong idea. It was just another night at The Roundhouse.
The Roundhouse is located at 62 Peel Street, Central District, Hong Kong. Open 12pm – 12am daily. +852 2366 4880.
See info here on living in Hong Kong.