I’ve never been much of a beer drinker. In my younger days, my roommate and I would go to the dive bar closest to our apartment and get a pitcher of Coors Light for $11.75 (CND), sing some karaoke, and eat free meatballs (pre-vegan days).
It was a cheap night night out, we’d have a lot of fun, and I got many chances to chat with toothless old men. But the beer? I never enjoyed drinking it. Beer always left me feeling bloated, cheap, and disgusting afterwards. But I drank it nonetheless.
I guess as I got older, I watched too much Sex and the City, and fancied myself as more of a cocktail kind of girl. When I lived in the U.K, I flirted with ciders (“as long as they don’t taste like beer”) but still associated beer drinkers with truck drivers, college frat boys, and lumberjacks. It wasn’t until I moved to Hong Kong that I became acquainted with the craft beer scene. Hipsters drink craft beer. Intellectuals drink craft beer. My cool vegan friends drink craft beer. I thought maybe I was missing out on something.
So, for the past month, I’ve spent a lot of time with my vegan beer-loving friends and tried some of the best brews in the city. Of course we didn’t go to every bar in Hong Kong that serves craft beer, but we went to some great ones. To my dismay, I discovered that some local Hong Kong breweries use Isinglass (dried fish bladders) in their beers including Lion Rock, Gweilo, and Hong Kong Brewery, but we discovered some great breweries that are fully vegan. I’ve provided my unbiased first impressions, and my friends have provided their professional opinions with correct beer terminology. All of the beers featured are vegan and brewed in Hong Kong. You’re welcome.
Bar #1: The Globe
A huge British-style pub on Graham St., this is a popular hangout for many — from football fans, to pub quiz enthusiasts, to budget-savvy drinkers. The bar itself is quite spacious and filled with a booths, tables, quiet corners, and a few carefully placed TV screens. Although this place gives me major “average British pub vibes,” the best part is it doesn’t smell like wet dog, unlike most pubs in Britain. Score!
Galactic Passion Sour Ale (ABV 5.8% / Young Master Brewery)
My First Impression: “Take me to a tropical island and sunscreen the shit out of me baby.”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Tart, thin, fruity, hoppy.
Young Master Dubbel Drink Double Life — Belgian Dubbel with Red Dates (limited Chinese New Year brew / ABV 6.5 % / Young Master Brewery)
My First Impression: “It’s frothing at the tip and won’t stop.”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Mellow, malty, Chinese red date taste.
I REJOICED when I noticed that their food menu is labelled with vegan and vegetarian options. Considering the Young Master Dubbel Drink Double Life is 750ml, let’s just say we were hankering for a good snack. We tried their hand cut chips which is normally served with wasabi mayonnaise, but they happily gave us ketchup when we told them we were vegan. The chips were amazing! Chunky, fresh, and made with organic potatoes. The true delight, however, was the vegan pâté made with mushroom, miso, lentil, and roasted garlic, and served on fresh bread. I don’t know if it was because we were tipsy, but we absolutely devoured this pâté with fervor.
I could hang out here with any group of people and feel completely at home. The staff are super friendly, the prices are very reasonable, and there’s no service charge added onto the bill. Their drink menu is huge and changes on a regular basis, so there’s always new, exciting options to try.
The Globe, Garley Building, 45-53 Graham Street, Central
Bar #2: 65 Peel
Located in the upper part of Peel St., this place gives off strong hipster vibes, from the fluorescent Chinese characters, the “industrial, but cool” interior, and the pretentious gastronomic menu. We got a beer flight of local taps of $140 for four kinds, which was a great way to try different flavours.
Cha Chan Teng Gose (ABV 4% IBU 15 / Young Master Brewery)
My First Impression: “This is a fermented fruit situation, isn’t it?”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Salty lemon, refreshing, sour, but warm aftertaste.
Strawberry Pale Ale (ABV 3.5% / Carbon Brews)
My First Impression: “OMG yasssssssss!”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Sweet, vanilla, fruity, light.
Lamma Island IPA (ABV 6% / Yardley Brothers)
My First Impression: “This is what hippies must drink.”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Really malty, medium, dry-hopped, refreshing smell.
Lemongrass IPA (ABV 4.8% / Mak’s Brewery)
My First Impression: “Smells like a spa and tastes like soap.”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Floral, herbal, full of citrus.
The only thing that was vegan-friendly on the menu was the five spice edamame ($48HKD). I guess it’s a healthier and more interesting option than ordering chips. They had a vegetarian dish on the menu which had mushrooms, tomatoes and a miso butter. I asked if they could make the dish without butter and the server said “no” without checking with the kitchen staff or offering any alternatives. We arrived right when they opened so they weren’t busy at all.
The vibe in this place was too pretentious for me, and they obviously don’t want to accommodate vegans. But the beers were good. The strawberry pale ale is delicious and so dangerous because I could drink a gallon of that without hesitation.
65 Peel, 65 Peel St, Central
Bar #3: Tap: The Ale Project
TAP is a popular spot located in the small but trendy part of Mong Kok, on Hak Po street. They offer a variety of beers on tap and bottled, brewed in Hong Kong or imported. This place is tiny and it’s impossible to get a seat if you don’t come early.
Captain Psykick Siesta Lager (ABV 5.2% / Heroes Beer Co.)
My First Impression: “Is this soda or is this beer? Make up your mind.”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Carbonated, sweet undertone, crisp, light bodied.
Add Oil 2018 Coffee Oatmeal Stout (ABV 9.2% / Young Master)
My First Impression: “A boozy coffee.”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Smooth, barrel-aged, full-bodied, strong amount of alcohol.
Let’s just say that this place is not very vegan-friendly, but they do have a really good basket of sweet potato fries and beetroot wedges. If you’ve never had fried beetroot before, it’s definitely something you should try. It’s normally served with two sauces, a ginger sauce (vegan) and a yogurt sauce (non-vegan). They were able to substitute ketchup for the yogurt sauce. This is definitely a step-up from boring old chips.
The beers are good, but the vibe is not. Although there is a mix of locals and expats who frequent here on the weekends, this place is tiny, and there are too many bar stools crammed into the space. If you have an ass, you will repeatedly be walked into. When my friend and I visited, we brought some work with us (we came at 4:30pm, so it wasn’t busy) and they wouldn’t let us sit at the empty tables to spread out because they reserved them “for staff to eat their dinner.” I know customer service is not a thing in Hong Kong, but it’s annoying that they don’t value customers.
TAP: The Ale Project, G/F, 15 Hak Po Street, Mong Kok
Bar #4: Little Creatures
This gastropub is both a restaurant and brewery in one. Little Creatures is from Australia, but fits in nicely on the waterfront in Kennedy Town. It’s absolutely huge inside and the place is fully packed on weekends. We tried a super-affordable beer paddle which offered six 100ml types of beer, with a handy notecard which explained each one.
Little Creatures Pilsner (ABV 4.6%)
My First Impression: “I’m a teenager again!”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Citrusy, light, refreshing, floral.
Little Creatures Bright Ale (ABV 4.5%)
My First Impression: “Caribbean island!”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Fruity, sweet, smooth, crisp.
Little Creatures Pale Ale (ABV 5.2%)
My First Impression: “Someone who lives in a damp basement and plays a lot of video games drinks this beer.”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Fizzy, bitter, grapefruit-flavoured, full-bodied.
House Brew (changes regularly) — Lil Aussie Chili (ABV 5.2%)
My First Impression: “Nachoesque” (note: after this beer sat for awhile, it tasted less like chili and overwhelmingly like coffee)
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Spicy, malty, savoury, exotic.
Little Creatures Rogers’ (ABV 3.8%)
My First Impression: “Roger, when did you last shower? You smell.”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Faint toffee taste, salty, plum-like, vomit-like.
Little Creatures IPA (ABV 6.4%)
My First Impression: “A grown-up dinner party in my mouth.”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Fragrant, sweet, fermented, light.
I’ve returned to this place multiple times just for the Cajun Cauliflower, which is a huge bowl of grilled cauliflower with crispy garlic, coriander, and spicy sesame sauce. They also have a few other vegan food options like the Smash Avocado Bowl, the Mushroom Pizza (you can request truffle oil instead of cheese and white sauce), and the Roasted Beetroots. The staff are quite friendly and willing to alter other dishes on their menu to suit specific dietary requirements as well.
I really like this place. It has a laid-back vibe and the staff are super friendly. They’re open all day so its a great place to stop in for breakfast (!), lunch or after-work drinks, with food options that can accommodate everyone. It’s unfortunate that you can’t choose specifically which beers you want on the beer paddle (they’re pre-chosen), but overall, it’s a great spot in the gentrified area of Kennedy Town.
Little Creatures Brewing, 5A New Praya Kennedy Town, Sai Wan, Kennedy Town
Bar #5: Craftissimo
Craftissimo is a wine, beer, and spirits store in Sheung Wan. They have a variety of beers on tap that change regularly and a wall of craft beers imported from all around the world. Since it’s shop and not a bar, there are a few benches and chairs outside the shop where you can hang out and enjoy a cold drink.
Oh, Bacon Smoked Ale (ABV 5.4% / Black Kite Brewery)
My First Impression: “Sitting around a campfire roasting some marshmallows realness.”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Smoky, oaky, lighter than you would expect.
BINO #06 — Sour Cola Candy Pale Ale (ABV 4.9% / Heroes Beer Co.)
My first impression: “It’s a fiesta in my mouth.”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: smells super sweet but tastes really light, fruity, last tart note.
Since this is a tiny shop, it comes as no surprise that they don’t serve food. But they have a few bags of chips next to the till. Stay away from the pork rinds and sour cream and onion flavours, but enjoy the Sea Salt & Malt Vinegar. If you’re really craving some vegan grub, walk 5 minutes downhill to Confusion Plant-Based Kitchen and get your Beyond Burger, tacos, and quesadilla fix.
This is a great place to try new beers since the staff are more than happy to give you samples of whatever they have on tap. Since they have a huge variety of beers, it’s a perfect place to stop by and pick up something for the weekend (I’ve even picked up a bottle of the “beer champagne” for a party in the past)! The staff are super friendly and didn’t seem at all bothered when I came in true valley girl style with “I-don’t-know-anything-about-beer-but-I’m-writing-a-beer-guide-do-you-have-any-recommendations?”
Craftissimo, Tai Ping Building, Shop D, G/F, Sheung Wan, 22-24A Tai Ping Shan St, Sheung Wan
Bar #6: The Garage Bar
The Garage Bar is a little haven tucked outside of the Cordis Hotel in Langham Place, Mong Kok. You sit outside next to a stationary food truck, overlooking the majestic escalator of the mall. There’s a good mix of locals and expats here, enjoying craft beers and getting some fresh air.
Jade Emperor IPA (ABV 7.0% / Moonzen Brewery)
My First Impression: “An asshole who rides a motorcycle drinks this.”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Fizzy, hoppy, sweet, malty.
Monkey King Amber Ale (ABV 5.0% / Moonzen Brewery)
My First Impression: “I can handle this.”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Caramel, fizzy, fruity, roasted.
The menu on the food truck changes regularly, but they always have a vegetarian option. When I visited, they had all hotdogs, including a Deep Fried Omnipork Hotdog with tonkatsu sauce, pickled daikon, and nori. The hotdog bun isn’t vegan (it’s some sort of gourmet bakery bread!) but they said they could happily substitute the bun for a vegan bread if asked. You can also order from the hotel menu, which has a “Green Monday” section, that I’ve always been able to order from any day of the week. My favourite is the Vegan Panini, which is a large sandwich filled with grilled zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, tofu, avocado, and tomato marmalade, which comes with fries and salad for a mere $88HKD. They also serve you complimentary taco chips and salsa.
I used to live in Mong Kok, and this bar was a great place to visit to get away from the crowd. The staff speak English and the happy hour beer price is reasonable. This is a nice spot to come after work or go on a date. The only downside is that people are smoking at every table since this is an outdoor bar, but I guess this is not unusual in Hong Kong. I’ll definitely check out this place again when I’m in Mong Kok.
The Garage Bar, 2/f, Open garden, Cordis Hotel, Shanghai street, Mong Kok
Bar #7: Kowloon Taproom
This place is situated amongst a lot of other bars on Ashley Road, which can be quite packed during peak hours. A typical “bar” with TVs, generic bar snacks, and loud groups of friends — you’re definitely get a more laid-back craft beer experience here.
Pacific Berry Monster Lambic (ABV 5.2% / Moonzen Brewery)
My First Impression: “No no no no no.”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Sour, tart, zingy, fermented, refreshing taste of berry.
Guava Fruit Beer (5.0% / Meow Beer)
My First Impression: “A boozy fruit punch.”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Fruity, light, juicy, semi-sweet, high guava flavour.
Since most bar food seems to be fries and chicken wings, it was nice that they had a few vegan options, but I don’t think the food is amazing. We ordered the “tempura” (which in fact was veggie SPRING ROLLS) and the bruschetta, which was chopped up cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes on french bread. It’s nice to have these options, but don’t expect to be blown away.
This place was relaxed, small, and busy. I wouldn’t use the words “sophisticated”, “relaxing” or “high quality” to describe this place at all. But the staff were friendly and helpful, even though I had to lie and say “I will die if I eat egg!” since they were guessing if the food ordered was vegan and needed an extra push to actually go ask the kitchen staff about ingredients.
Kowloon Taproom, Astoria Building, 24-38 Ashley Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui
Bar #8: Hong Kong Island Taphouse
Boasting the largest selection of local craft beers in Hong Kong, this place has a impressive and extensive beer menu and a giant wall of beers on tap. The interior is huge, and although it wasn’t busy when we were there, I imagine this place could accommodate many large groups. With bar stools, giant TV screens, and local brewery posters, this is definitely a Hong Kong treasure.
Fraises Et Noix — American Brown Ale (ABV 5.0% / Kowloon Bay Brewery)
My First Impression: “Like a decadent strawberry dessert.”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Toffee & caramel notes, light-bodied, moderate malt sweetness.
Black Kite IPA (ABV 5.7% / Black Kite Brewery)
My First Impression: “This isn’t bad.”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Citrusy, fruity, slightly floral, light-bodied.
Zamboni Beer — Dry Hopped Cream Ale (ABV 4.3% / Heroes Beer Co.)
My First Impression: “Cream soda, baby!”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Smooth, creamy, dry-hopped, fizzy.
South Cloud Lager (ABV 4.5% / Moonzen Brewery)
My First Impression: “OMG tea!!!”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Refreshing, light, fragrant, golden.
The food menu has traditional pub food like wings and nachos, but they did have a few vegan options that weren’t just boring old fries. You can choose between cajun, fried garlic, wasabi seaweed, or black truffle fries. We got the black truffle fries and thoroughly enjoyed them. They also have bruschetta which wasn’t amazing, but was fresh and hit the spot, and definitely better than the bruschetta from other craft beer places.
The staff were super helpful and friendly when we were deciding on a beer paddle. And since this bar has the largest selection of local craft beers in Hong Kong, it’s nice to see that the staff know their beers. The only problem was that they don’t write down the beers that you want — they just remember them, which proved to be a little annoying when our beer paddle wasn’t exactly what we ordered.
Hong Kong Island Taphouse, 1A Tsing Fung St, Causeway Bay
Bar #9: Thaiwan
This mix of Taiwanese and Thai bar was an interesting place, tucked away in the corner of Ship Street. It was apparent that all the staff working that day were Taiwanese, and the decor and music playing proved that true. I had originally wanted to try Young Master’s Orange is the New Black beer on tap, but apparently they had just switched their local seasonal beer to something from Lion Rock (a brewery which is NOT vegan). Although they have a large selection of imported craft beers, they only have one or two local ones, which change regularly. Sad to say I didn’t try any local beers here, but will probably come back in the future.
I did have an imported Ginger Ale, which was served with a paper straw — score!
The reason why I came here was to try their homemade spring rolls, which were crispy, fresh, and delicious. Although they have a seemingly vegan-looking Papaya Salad on the menu, they said it was impossible to make without fish sauce. They also had some sort of summer rolls that are normally served with Taiwanese sausage, but they happily made us a veggie version.
I would definitely say come here for the spring rolls and some craft beer if you’re in the area, especially if you like trying imported craft beers. The staff were super friendly and accommodating, and offered to make us vegan summer rolls when we said we were vegan.
Thaiwan, Greatmany Centre, 31 Ship St, Wan Chai
Bar #10: Second Draft
The sister of TAP: The Ale Project, this gastropub is well-known in the beer community, with a selection of local and imported craft beers. This place has a large range of customers, from people working on their laptops, families having dinner, to friends enjoying some after-work drinks.
AB-48 Michelada Gose (ABV 4.5% / Heroes Beer Co.)
My First Impression: “A Christmas chocolate orange covered by an exploded pepper shaker.”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Sour, salty, spicy, strong aftertaste, warming.
Omniberry Sour (ABV 4.2% / Young Master Brewery collaboration with Omija)
My First Impression: “Who thought of putting pepper and berries together?!?”
Beer-Loving Friends’ First Impressions: Peppery, slightly tart, savoury, berrylicious.
You can tell that the restaurant owners are foodies, because everything on this menu screams “gourmet gastropub.” It’s a shame, however, that most of the items have some kind of pork belly, seafood, or egg yolk. I had to message them multiple times before visiting to check that they had any vegan items since they never messaged back, and all they said was “we can remove the eggs and dairy to make some items vegan.” Unfortunately, if you do this, you’re paying a high price for just some grilled veggies minus the onsen egg / foie gras.
They seemed to have forgotten, however, that they do have a vegan sandwich on the menu, called the “Egg Salad” Sandwich. This huge sandwich is made from delicious beer bread, and has a filling of eggplant and eringi mushroom, covered in vegan mayo (it also had whole chickpeas which wasn’t listed on the menu). Unfortunately, all the veggies inside this sandwich are chopped into cubes, so this is literally impossible to eat, since all the filling falls out when you take a bite, and is absolutely dripping with a ridiculous amount of runny mayo. Is it great that they have a vegan option? Yes. Would I come back specifically to get this sandwich? No.
We came right when they opened at 5pm, but they told us their dinner menu doesn’t start until 6pm. When 6pm rolled around, we had to raise our hand for a good 20 minutes before someone brought us a food menu, since they seemed to have forgotten that we wanted to order food. It also took ages for us to catch the staff’s attention to ask a question or get the bill. They were not paying attention to customers at all. The good selection of beers, however, made up for this.
Second Draft, 98 Tung Lo Wan Rd, Causeway Bay
After drinking beer nonstop for a month, I have to say that I really understand the joy and passion craft beer enthusiasts have for trying new flavours. Some of the beers I tried I would willingly order next time I go out. It was also great getting in touch with some of the local breweries, who were more than happy to provide information about their beers and thank me for being a customer. Finally, if you think that being vegan in Hong Kong restricts you to only eating fries, you’re wrong! As you can see, many bars in Hong Kong have vegan food options — you just have to look for them.
Although I won’t say that I’m now a converted beer drinker, I freely admit that I won’t turn my nose up to the concept anymore. The Hong Kong craft beer scene is booming, and I’m happy I got to experience a small taste of it.