I’m excited to announce a new guest blogger and feature series on Cup of Zhou: Dispatches from a Bar written by our long time reader and new guest blogger Dash. He is a fellow beer enthusiast and will be bringing us some highlights of the Suzhou bar scene. His first review is of the small beer house Birdland – which following this review, I will be visiting this weekend. Take it away, Dash!
I will state my case from the outset: I don’t like typical Chinese beers like Tsingtao and Snow Beer. I don’t like many of the international brands brewed in China either. My hunt was on for real craft ale from the moment I set foot in Suzhou. Friends and colleagues told me to try Birdland which is at street level in the LiGongDi International Youth Hostel building.
While not a brewpub itself, Birdland is an excellent showcase for some fine beers from independent Chinese breweries. It opened around June 2016 and is a mini oasis for craft beer aficionados. They have around 12 brews on tap as well as a good range of imported bottled beers. There’s even a cider on draught here too.
The chalkboard over the bar gives the name of the beer, the name of the brewery, alcohol by volume (ABV), strength in degrees Plato (a measure of the concentration of sugars in the wort prior to fermentation) and the IBU (International Bittering Unit) value. Expect a hoppy IPA to have an IBU value of 50-60. A cider will have an IBU value of 0. It’s a good measure of what you can expect bitterness-wise. Degrees Plato should roughly parallel alcohol content as the higher the Plato value, the higher the ABV.
I tried several brews and they were, with one or two exceptions, very, very nice indeed. I particularly liked the coffee vanilla stout from the NB Craft Brewing Co (牛啤堂) brewery in Beijing. A full-bodied stout with a nice balance of coffee and vanilla flavours.
The draught cider was refreshing and not too sweet. Another intriguing ale was a Marzen (a Bavarian, full-malt style beer) brewed right here in SIP by the shores of Lake Jinji. The brewer, Caleb Selby, is, to my knowledge, an award-winning brewer formerly based in Lafayette, Indiana. He has now brought his brewing skills to Suzhou. While this particular beer was a little sweet for my liking, I’m looking forward to more ales from Zanolious Brewery in the future.
There is a food menu typically burgers, fries, salads and the like and I’m told that the beers will change from time to time. Prices are typical for craft beer ranging from 40-60RMB or so for 500mL. A little more for some bottled beers. Would I go again? Certainly. On my own or in a small group to see what other brews this intriguing little bar has to offer and to sip some of China’s most enjoyable ales.
Address: Birdland, LiGongDi International Youth Hostel, 2-4 LiGongDi, Suzhou Industrial Park
Getting there: Any bus going along Jinjihu Dadao (金鸡湖大道) will probably stop near the end of Li Gong Di at Li Gong Di Nan (李公堤南) bus stop and it’s a 5-10-minute walk from there. The best approach is to walk down Siji Lu (四季路) and you will see the youth hostel building on the left-hand side.
Hours: 7:30am to 2pm for breakfast and lunch then 4pm to 1:30am for dinner and craft beer.
What to expect: an excellent range of quality beers in a pleasant if plain setting. Friendly staff.