Taichung embraces craft-beer enjoyment
By Daniel White
Translated by Anna Yang
According to the experts, beer was invented thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt. Since then, brewers have been on an eternal quest to create perfection. Today, the legacy of artisan beer can be enjoyed across Taichung where there are many outstanding places to enjoy premium quality beers imported from all over the world.
When it comes to extraordinary selections of dozens, even hundreds, of imported beers, top Taichung options include ChangeX Beer, which offers over 300 imported craft beers; Sachsen Beer Bar, with about 400 selections on a 40-page beer menu; Curry Orgasmo's 60 bottled beers from about 10 nations; Malt Share's roughly 100-beer selection, and any branch of Bravo Beer, with its Belgian-focused choices. All of the above places also offer very good dining menus to go with your favorite brews. Another favorite of this writer is Dian Xiao Er, a great barbecue restaurant with about a dozen craft beers on offer.
However, the creme de la creme of beers are the ones you can get straight out of the brewery. While there's no debating the enjoyment of everything from mass-produced beers to the rarest Trappist Belgian ales, beer snobs tend to gravitate towards the places with locally-brewed traditional beers.
An excellent option in this category is Zhangmen, with an excellent selection of over 30 kinds of beer on tap and a light menu of appetizers, snacks and a few great main dishes to accompany your beer. Customers here are greeted by a friendly staff, simple decor and a bohemian, yet industrial, ambiance. Those new to Zhangmen can get the Beer Flight (NT$600), which lets you select six of the 32 available draft beers to sample. If you're really not sure, staff members here are all certified beer tasters and can help you pick the best choices to suit your palette.
With their recommendations, this writer sampled #4 on the menu, an India Pale Ale (IPA) with a wonderful bitterness, raw hops flavor and sharp finish, followed by the #6, a lighter IPA with an initial sweet flavor and citrus undertones. The personal favorite of the evening was #12, a German Marzen which had a very balanced flavor with roasted barley dominating the hops flavor. There was also #16, a seasonal beer made to commemorate the Chinese New Year--fruit-infused with a tart citrus flavor mellowing to sweet lemon--and great choice for people who don't usually like beer.
Rounding out the flight was an English Porter (#18) with an initial taste of caramel that gave way to a rich coffee flavor and had a slightly thicker body than the lighter beers, plus one of the more interesting beers (#19) this writer has had, incorporating smoked malted barley that gave it a bacon flavor that I highly recommend trying.
Like many of its counterparts, Zhangmen also has good snacks, from Taiwanese Fried Chicken and Squid (NT$280), well seasoned and delicious with a crisp, slightly spicy batter, tender chicken and very soft, fresh squid, to the Sausage Combo (NT$250) with German and Taiwanese style sausages that are great partners to bitter beer flavors. For those on the go, Zhangmen also offers two-liter "Growlers" (NT$599), which can be refilled with any beer in the bar at a 10% discount.
Hops is another ideal place to sample Taiwan-brewed and foreign on-tap beers, plus a fantastic menu with some great happy hour specials. Located on the 10th floor of Shinkong Mitsukoshi Department Store, it provides a very comfortable, relaxing setting with light music playing in the background and perfect lighting. There are seven superb beers on tap (NT$220) with a range of flavors. The Smoked Marzen is a darker beer with a robust flavor of roasted barley and peaty undertones, the beer equivalent of a good scotch. The Founders Rubaeus Ale was sweet, similar to a cider, with a cranberry flavor. The Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was tart and crisp with raw hops as central flavor, while the Laaberweisse had notes of caramel and citrus with a heavier texture and a finish similar to a wheat beer, with hints of vanilla and dried orange, making it complex and enjoyable to drink.
The Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin was an IPA with subtle hops undertones balanced with a slightly tart citrus flavor. The Porter is dark and creamy as a good porter should be, with an immediate taste of coffee followed by roast nuts. The Spring special, Coronado Orange Ave Wit, is a lighter beer with sweet notes of honey and would be perfect for sipping on a warm sunny day.
When it comes to dining, a favorite is the France Black Beer Small Burgers (NT$360)--four small pork burgers cooked to perfection in beer and seasoning, served with butter, lemongrass, parsley and garlic. The Truffles Oil Duck Liver on Grass Shrimp Hamburg (NT$650) was also delectable, with big crispy shrimp, soft warm bread, decadent duck liver and fresh vegetables. If you'd like to keep drinking after your meal is done, Hops also offers beers to go.
Hailing from the United States, another local craft-beer option is Gordon Biersch, located upstairs from Hops on the 13th floor of Mitsukoshi. Among its on-tap, Taiwan-brewed selections, a favorite is the Marzen (NT$250), perfect for enjoyment after watching a movie upstairs.
For those wanting a good locally-brewed beer that won't hurt their wallets, Mai Sir offers three beers--Mai Sir Gold, Mai Sir Popular and Mai Sir Black--available in 500cc, 1000cc, 2000cc and 3000cc glasses and pitchers. Mai Sir Gold starts at just NT$130 for a small glass and has a light flavor, while the Popular (from NT$170) is a little stronger at 6% alcohol and has a slightly more robust flavor. Mai Sir Black has a light taste for a stout beer with roast coffee bean overtones and 7% alcohol. Mai Sir also features an extensive menu with some great food, like the huge German Pork Knuckle (NT$699) with tender meat and crispy skin.
Depending on what you most want from your evening, all of the above choices offer a variety of twists on the beer theme, in addition to really good dining and snacking food choices. Whatever you choose, you'll be in for a treat!
234, ZiZhi St, West Dist
Hours: 5 pm-12 am (meals served to 11 pm)
Sachsen Beer Bar
242-13, QingHai Rd, Xitun Dist
Hours: 5:30 pm-3 am
432, FuKe Rd, Xitun Dist
Hours: 11:30 am-2 pm, 5:30-9:30 pm
30, HongFu 1st Lane, XiTun Rd, Sec 3, Xitun Dist
Hours: 11:30 am-2 pm, 5:30-11 pm (closed Mon)
435, WenXin Rd, Sec 1, Nantun Dist
Hours: 11:30 am-12 am; Fri-Sat 11:30 am-2 am
Dian Xiao Er Barbecue
229, ZhongMing S Rd, West Dist
Hours: 5:30 pm-2 am
490, Taiwan Blvd, Sec 2, West Dist
Hours: 4 pm-12 am
301, Taiwan Blvd, Sec 3, 10F, Xitun Dist
Hours: 10:30 am-10 pm
301, Taiwan Blvd, Sec 3, 13F, Xitun Dist
Hours: 11-12 am
374, HuaMei St, West Dist
Hours: 5:30-2:30 pm