An American brewer in Shanghai, the late Gary Heyne, was once playing with his cat and found it amusing how the cat pawed at him, as if taking some sparring jabs. The moment lent a name to a brewpub – Boxing Cat Brewery – and in its first five years the establishment evolved from a single edge-of-town location to two more central locations and an offsite brewing facility to serve both.
Running a small brewery in China – producing about 750 barrels annually – presents a number of challenges. Though attempts were made to get national ingredients, the inconsistency of quality and quantity forced the brewery to import everything, from the malts and hops, as well as the yeast which comes in a little bit, er, under the radar, so to speak.
The current brewer is Michael Jordan, a native of Washington state who got his start homebrewing in 1993 and had already moved on to commercial brewery work in the Portland area a couple years later. The experience is apparent. All of the 6 taps sampled were very fine brews in a variety of styles, and both ales and lagers. Considering some of the other craft beers I’ve tried in China, this was a cut above the rest. I could have been in Portland, Asheville or Grand Rapids.
I stopped in at their Fuxing Road location in the French Concession to chat and sample with Jordan. In a converted garden house, patrons lounge in dim lighting with a fireplace at one end of the downstairs level to chase off the seasonal chill of Shanghai. In summer the front room’s glass windows fold back for open air and an upstairs balcony is likewise exposed.
The executive chef is from Georgia so the menu is American with a heavy leaning toward southern cuisine – barbecue, pulled pork, some Tex-Mex, Cajun jambalaya pasta, and much more – and all with fairly large portion sizes.
What I drank: Mike is a hophead, so the brews are not shy about the hops. I had a dry-hopped imperial red ale, TKO IPA (Cascade and Simcoe, dry-hopped with Amarillo), King Louie Imperial Stout (named for that original boxing cat!), Standing 8 Pilsner, Right Hook Helles, Sucker Punch American Pale Ale.
Prices start at 35 yuan for a pint.
at Sinan Mansions
519-521 Fu Xing Road Central, Shanghai (cross street is Sinan Road)
in The French Concession at
82 Fu Xing West Road, Shanghai (cross street is Yong Fu Road)
Follow them on Twitter: @BoxingCatMike