The next stop on our journey through Chengdu’s beer scene is a look into the breweries! Kevin, Qiuxia, and I had the pleasure of visiting Jam&Jam – a microbrewery at the heart of Chengdu.
Chengdu, China is a massive city of over 14 million inhabitants, split into three rings. Jam&Jam is located in the center of these three rings, at the heart of the city.
Jam&Jam has a smaller, 5-barrel brewing system, on which they currently brew two styles of beer: a traditional Wit and a Brown. Each of these beers had a distinct, full-body taste and were a great change of pace from the light lager style beers we saw everywhere else. What first struck me, aside from the bohemian-style atmosphere and live music, was how much pride and care the owner and employees took in their beer.
The owner and manager were very insistent on emphasizing the freshness of the beer. They explained that they took extreme care in serving the beer, pretty much right out of the tank. In the custom of hospitality and treating us, the owner even apologized at one point for pouring beer that had come from the tank 6 hours prior (which we thought was very sweet, but undeserving of an apology).
Because the brewery is smaller, they do not bottle or distribute their beer. Instead, patrons are able to drink the beer from special metal growlers, capped with pull-tab tops! The big difference is that customers are not able to take the growlers home to enjoy, as we do here in the States.
Aside from serving up their own beer, the brewery served other popular Chinese brands, including Budweiser, Snow, and imported German beer. Patrons could fill up this fun table keg (pictured above) and pour their own beer too!
My overall impression was that this microbrewery was a rarity to Chengdu and maybe even China itself. The Chinese government has a strong hold on small businesses and doesn’t allow breweries and brew pubs to distribute beer, which means craft brewing is almost nonexistent. A combination of government restrictions, a smaller drinking culture in the younger generation, and even a different palate preference mean only limited (and mainly light) beer styles exist.
To round out the trip, Kevin and Qiuxia brought me to a family BBQ! As a treat to the family we brought 2015 Yule and Thoprock IPA to share. Hearing and watching the reactions as everyone tried the beer was interesting. A lot of people thought the flavors of the beer were intense and almost too flavorful. Some enjoyed it, but all were just happy to be in the moment, sharing culture and beer together.
Cheers! 干杯 (Gan Bei)