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Brewtopia: Heaven is a (bigger) place on Earth

With a portfolio of 100-plus brews and relatively low prices, Heaven Supermarket has arguably provided more value-per-bottle than any other beer joint in this city over the past few years. Everyone from mid-afternoon imbibers to those getting wrecked in the wee hours of the morning has enjoyed the attractive blend of options and prices on offer at Heaven. Of course, such a situation has also meant a fair of very drunk people, the kind who do very drunk things, like a guy I saw simultaneously stumbling toward the toilets and — if the spreading wet spot in the front of his jeans were any indication — emptying his bladder. Even so, we shouldn’t allow the actions of one bad apple to spoil the barrel of beer, because for every guy who pees his pants there are at least five who don’t.

Anyway, patrons of Heaven will soon find a more spacious beer bar. The venue is taking over three-quarters of the neighboring space that recently held Irish bar James Joyce and will nearly double in size. The only part of the building that won’t be Heaven is the northwest corner, which is home to a new tailor shop. That should come in handy for those in need of a change of pants.

By the way, if The James Joyce opens elsewhere, shouldn’t it be called The Re-Joyce?

... and in with the new.

Sips & bites: Union, Cappuccino, Pinotage, 1F, Fiesta, Fubar, Le Quai and Groovy Schiller’s

Some items accumulated from being out and about the past week…

Renovations are nearly done at Union Bar & Grille and the place is slated to reopen the first weekend of September. Much of the venue remains the same, including that excellent three-sided bar, with the major change being expanded seating at the back. That area will be equipped with several TVs featuring sports, funny photos and, if it is business as usual, one of the biggest music video collections in the city Lipps Inc., anyone?). Manager Amy Huang says patrons can also expect some new food items on the menu.


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Beijing nightlife veteran Cappuccino has returned to its roots, moving back to its former spot at the north end of Sanlitun bar street. It takes over the bottom floor of Royal Smushi House and offers a two-for-one deal on bottled beer, starting at rmb25, from 10 AM to 5:30 PM. I’ll pay a visit soon to check out the food menu. 
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One floor up, Pinotage has completed its move from Sanlitun Soho. The daily wine happy hour continues — rmb15 per glass, 5 to 7 PM weekdays, with eight options — and word is home brew from the suburban branch of Pinotage will soon be available.
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It’s bye-bye for veteran Bar Blu as 1F has taken over both that spot and the one below — it housed Le Petit Gourmand for ages but has since since a revolving door of owners.  
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I’m not sure how long the sign has been up for Fiesta Tex-Mex on Xindong Road but this would mean another option in a strip with several new venues, including Lily’s American Diner and Bubble Bar further north.
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It looks like Fubar is taking its drinks a few notches up the fancy scale if what I saw last week is any indication.
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Across the street, former secluded restaurant Le Quai continues to go through lengthy renovations. Word is this place will reopen as a massive cafe.
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Finally, I made a long overdue stop at Groovy Schiller’s, a spot that epitomizes a local . Lots of patrons outside and in, a friendly staff, a fun lineup of music videos, hockey replays after 10 PM, and sausages. Good times!

Craft brews news: Jing A taproom to open in former Bar Veloce

When Jing A opens its taproom in 1949: The Hidden City in mid-September, it will not only aim to quench the thirst of craft brew fans in the city but also provide them with lots of of munchies.

The new digs — in the former Bar Veloce space — have been under construction for a week and will eventually house enough taps for sixteen beers, including a few Jing A products that will be exclusive to the venue,.

“We’ll also be offering be the first craft brewery to offer the option of nitro taps, serving beers with that creamy Guinness-like consistency,” says an email from the company. “Great for trying a beer you already love in a new way.”

The food menu will be built via collaborations with local food favorites such as Andy’s Craft Sausages, Two Guys and a Pie, and Le Fromager du Pekin, and include the option of “build your own” meat and cheese platters as well as some “healthy” options.

Jing A will join a Sanlitun South scene that has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years, including the fairly recent additions of Home Plate, The Rug and Taco Bar. It will continue to sell its beers at The Big Smoke and other venues.

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Bottle up: Chilean specialists La Cava add Spanish, Portuguese wines

Sanlitun Soho wine shop La Cava continues to expand its portfolio beyond an initial exclusivity with Chilean wines. While Chile, home country of owner Mariano Larrain, remains front and center, La Cava also stocks items from France and — as of last Thursday — Spain and Portugal. The newcomers include a handful of sparkling wines as well as numerous bottles that retail for less than rmb100.

La Cava has established a small but loyal following, due in part to its rmb20 by-the-glass deal on Fridays and Saturdays. Larrain says some of the new wines will be included in that deal.

la cava spanish portuguese wines saniltun soho beijing china la cava spanish portuguese wines saniltun soho beijing china (2) la cava spanish portuguese wines saniltun soho beijing china (3)


DIY booze in Beijing: Will Capital Spirits inspire a distillation trend?

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Two weeks ago, Bill Isler and Simon Dang of Beijing bar scene newcomer Capital Spirits gave me a crash course on distillation and showed that making hooch can be cheap — the kit costs less than rmb500 — and easy — it took an hour to transform a few liters of anemic Yanjing into a toasty 40 percent-plus spirit a.k.a. as YJ45. (Note: Before deciding to open a baijiu-themed bar, the four partners at this place had considered a more general spirits focus, and thus have been making their own at home for some time.)

Just as we’ve witnessed Beijing bar people experiment with creative cocktails, infusions, home-brew and so on over the years, my guess is we’ll see them start creating their own hand-crafted artisanal boutique house spirits. Hopefully they make the booze without all that fancy-pants language but with some kind of quality control.

If that comes to fruition, expect lots of “locally themed” products, like gins carrying the flavors of goji, star anise and peppercorn, or flossed Guangzhou pork and sun-dried eight treasures tea, or good old chuanr seasoning. I also predict a rise in the number of friends seeking “mules” to carry juniper berries to Beijing. We’ll see…

By the way, the guys at Drei Kronen 1308 occasionally make “beer schnapps” — they don’t sell the stuff but simply make it for personal use — that is incredibly smooth for something that tops out at 60 percent alcohol….