HOPS is a new and impossible-to-miss place at the south end fork of Wulin Road. If the neon colors, crowd of people, and thumping music haven’t already caught your attention, maybe this write-up will.
Disclosure: I’m not a beer guy; I drink scotch and I only drink scotch from Islay and this job is the only thing that keeps me straying from the One True Path of peaty scotch and salad. In the interest of informed opinions, I brought my beer-loving friend Kyle with me, and he told me how I should feel about what I was drinking and the direction my life is taking.
HOPS’ interior is cavernous with a high ceiling; the color scheme is Dark Colors, and the music on Wednesday night was unobtrusive electronic beats. The long bar with high seats combined with brightly-lit outdoor tables makes for a good mix of environments for mingling or dating or whatever people do in bars.
HOPS changes their beer menu frequently, and their manager Sweet—sporting the first Rammstein shirt I’ve seen in China—has esoteric tastes to keep HOPS differentiated from other beer-focused bars. We started with the Made in Heaven NE England IPA (70RMB) and the Reberg Hoppy Pilsner (50RMB). My preference when it comes to booze tends toward complicated flavors that I can’t gulp down immediately; things that keep me sipping. The Made in Heaven’s sourness fell nicely in line with that. The Drinking & Missing IPA was much smoother.
Our starters arrived. I started with the Cumin Chicken Pizza (39RMB), nicely spiced and pleasantly crispy. It tasted exactly as its name implies; in contrast I also ordered the Open Fruit Sandwich (39RMB) and had no idea what to expect. Served on pumpernickel, it was a delicious but unusual mix of meaty fruits and veggies like dragonfruit and avocado with a light, creamy sauce. We also enjoyed the Black Truffle Spa Eggs with Spanish Ham (69RMB) whose ham namesake had a nice crunch, and a delicious Olive Oil Fried Prawns Avocado Salad (49RMB) which was pleasantly large for a salad, big enough for a meal.
For alertness, we ordered a Nitro Cold Brew Coffee (50RMB), a frothy, foamy take on cold coffee, creamy without containing any milk.
Our Blue Cheese Cheeseburger (79RMB) came, along with a sampler of four more beers. The burger was a plate cleaner, and the potato bun it was served on had a firmness and sponginess that soaked up the burger juices without becoming mush.
The sampler gave a wide spectrum of flavors: the fantastically pink and sugary sweet Früli Strawberry Beer; the still sweet but more respectable Siren/Cigar City Caribbean Chocolate Cake Milk Stout; the Emelisse White Label Dark Ale which went down smooth and easy; and finally my favorite, the Nbeer & 8Wired Mulberry Sour IPA. Remember, I like flavors that keep me from chugging and the 8Wired Mulberry Sour is VERY SOUR. I loved it! I could barely finish the sample sipper!
We got to work on our main courses. The first was a massive 288RMB grilled platter with some excellent roasted veggies and well-seasoned and very meaty lamb. We followed this with their American Grilled Pork Ribs (119RMB), very tender with a sweet sauce.
HOPS has 20 taps, and they switch them up frequently. For adventurers looking for something more portable, a wide and rare selection of bottled beer is available as well. Smoking is allowed after 9pm.
I ordered a full glass of Mulberry Sour to wash down the ribs and Kyle wouldn’t let me leave without finishing it.