Even as places like TAP – The Ale Project and Kowloon Taproom help spread the wealth of Hong Kong’s rapidly expanding craft beer market outside the main island, the Central District remains the easiest place to tap into this world-class city’s considerable goods. Pardon the rhetorical question, but how easy? Easy like, if you’ve an iron-clad liver, in one night you could sup fine ales from all eight of the bars and shops I’ve highlighted below without breaking a sweat during the walking transit (unless you’re really fat, in which case you will be soaked).
The Roundhouse: This premier 25-tap craft boozer, which about two years ago I named one of Asia’s 10 best beer bars on CNN Travel, has done so well that it’s spawned a second outlet, in Wan Chai, with even more taps (30) and that’s somehow even busier. There’s plenty reason why The Roundhouse is usually my first pint stop in Hong Kong, starting with the well-chosen tap list: it’s listed on iPads loaded with detailed tasting notes and other essentials about every beer. There’s also the authentic American barbecue; the good-sometimes-great background music (mid-90s hip-hop on my last visit); and fun nights like this spent rubbing elbows with locals.
Bonus tip: The next-door convenience store has wised up to the clientele pouring out of its neighbor and steadily beefed up its bottled craft beer selection. 62 Peel Street. Open daily until 12am. +852 2366 4880.
Little Beer Room: This lovely tap bar and bottle shop, one of the few standout beer bars not within spitting distance of the Mid-Levels, is a welcome recent addition to the scene. Launched by the folks behind prolific online retailers The Bottle Shop — though well off the beaten track for most visitors they have a shop in Sai Kung, too — Little Beer Room has a brighter, cheerier ambiance than most craft bars. The tap list runs up to 20 deep and is scrawled across mirrors (not chalkboards, gasp!) above the bar counter. On one recent visit, choices included sessionable sours from Sweden’s Omnipollo, IPAs from Evil Twin, Hong Kong Beer Co, and Deschutes, and a chocolate stout from Australia’s La Sirène. 17 Bridges Street, Shop 1. Open until 12am Tuesday – Sunday; closed Monday. +852 2799 4899.
BrewDog Hong Kong: Scotland’s franchise-focused craft brewery for “punks” dips its toes into Asia a second time with this Hollywood Road 14-tapper, which debuted in February 2016 and is at least partly owned by the same ownership group behind The Roundhouse. Just like BrewDog bar in Tokyo, the BrewDog bar here is perfectly fine, but pricier than its competitors and not particularly interesting. (BrewDog’s increasingly tired, overdone industrial designs must be accelerating the style’s inevitable fall from grace.) Whatever the reason, the BrewDog aesthetic feels a little out of place in Hong Kong (and in Tokyo), and I’m curious to see how well the bar does with so many other quality options nearby.
A chief point of differentiation here and at any BrewDog bar should, of course, be the exceptional BrewDog beer tap list. A check today, though, found just four of them on tap, none unique or limited, and it was a similar story when I visited in mid-April; hopefully it’s just early days hiccups. 19 Hollywood Road. Open daily until 11:30pm. +852 2219 9905.
Little Beer Room
The Globe: Nowhere in Central will beer connoisseurs find themselves more spoiled than in this cozy, commodious British-style pub located just around the corner and down the hill from The Roundhouse. The bottle list is like a novella, and there are 18 taps from which to mine further fancy, as well. Friendly and buzzy–in part because it’s not strictly for the craft crowd–The Globe has just about everything one could want from a local boozer, including proper British pub grub. 45-53 Graham Street. Open daily until 2am. +852 2543 1941.
HK Brewcraft: For those who don’t know their way around it can be a little difficult finding HK Brewcraft the first time. On Cochrane Street between Wellington and Stanley, underneath the Mid-Levels and near a corner 7-11, look for the shop’s small business sign among a cluster of other ones outside a nondescript doorway. Take the staircase and then a rickety elevator to the fourth floor–you’re there.
Equal parts homebrew and bottle shop, HK Brewcraft makes browsing its thoughtful inventory easy by grouping it by beer style, not by country. There may be bigger bottle shops in Hong Kong, but HKB generally gets their hands on the most interesting imports making the rounds across the city. This is a good place to pick up bottles from Moonzen Brewery, Nine Dragons Brewery, and other Hong Kong craft breweries, too–pounce on Nine Dragons’ luscious Double Hoppiness IPA if you see it. 15 Cochrane Street, 4th Floor. Open daily until 8:30pm. +852 5925 2739.
25 taps at The Roundhouse Taproom
Tipping Point Brewing Co.: Chef Que Vinh Dang opened Hong Kong’s first proper brewpub in 2013, and this year spins off a second outlet around the way in Soho. Craft flows from up to 20 taps at the original, with around half of those earmarked for TPBC’s own brews, a solid range that leans sessionable and includes an IPA, pale ale, hoppy lager, and amber ale. I admit this isn’t one of my personal favorites–something about the bad music and televisions–but in theory I’m a supporter and it’s certainly worth checking out. 79 Wyndham Street. Open daily until at least 1am. +852 2868 2892.
Craft Brew & Co: Apparently there’s no connection between The Craft Beer Co. bars across London and the Craft Brew & Co bars across Hong Kong, but something tells me the Hong Kong founders found a little, ahem, conceptual inspiration while researching in the UK’s capital city. Either way, here in this small, industrial-styled space there are 15 craft taps–local breweries like Young Master Ales are mainstays–as well as a tidy bottle list and meaty vittles. 17 Old Bailey Street. Open daily until 12am. +852 2885 0821.
City’ Super: The beer section in everyday grocery stores is a reliable place to gauge whether craft beer distribution in a given city has expanded beyond the niche outlets–and let’s be clear that even in thriving Asian markets like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Bangkok craft beer remains a niche commodity. Hong Kong has ample room for growth in that sense, as omnipresent grocer Wellcome, for example, taps out at a handful of common Belgian and Australian brews. They’re otherwise shaking hands with macro city.
Not so at the Central branch of fancy grocery chain City’ Super, located in the upscale IFC mall. This “mega lifestyle specialty store” is a bit of a mega lifestyle zoo, but its tasty (and pricey) takeaway salads, sandwiches, and sushi are ideal for lunching on the harbour at the adjacent piers, and the beer selection is one of the best I’ve seen in Central outside of dedicated beer shops. Expect big-name Japanese craft brewers like Kiuchi Brewery (Hitachino Nest) and Echigo Beer, some local breweries, and a nice variety of American imports that on a recent visit included beers from Founders (including its renowned Breakfast Stout) and limited edition releases from Sierra Nevada (like its 2016 Beer Camp and Ovila Abbey Golden). Prices are surprisingly low, and many beers are chilled. IFC Mall, Shop 1041 – 1049. Open daily until 10pm. +852 2736 3866.