The Real Deal: Finding Import Beers in Kunming

The Real Deal: Finding Import Beers in Kunming
By Caitlin Dwyer ,

Tsingtao goes great with Chinese food – that crisp, almost flavourless beer is refreshing with China's sauce-heavy dishes. But on its own, light Chinese beer doesn't always satisfy. When craving a heftier brew, Kunming beer-lovers seek out import beers. The city's taste for imported beer has grown in recent years, partly because Yunnan's blue-skied, sunny afternoons invite leisurely beer tasting. On days when taste is more important than price, a few cafes and bars can satisfy the thirst for an import beer.

1) Dune Cafe  沙丘咖啡 View In Map
This tiny cafe has more beers than tables. Wood-panelled and hung with vaguely European-themed kitsch, Dune makes an intimate happy hour stop. With a refrigerator of European brews, from hefeweizen to rich, thick stouts, Dune has the largest selection of import beers in Kunming. Most beers range between 25-50 RMB, but a few Trappist beers get up toward 80 RMB per bottle. Belgian-style brews dominate: Duvel, Chimay, Kwak, and the gnome-adorned La Chouffe.

The selection is a bit light on American-style microbrews (sorry, hops-lovers), but has enough variety to satisfy most palates. Charmingly, each beer is served in its brand-glass, ensuring a proper pour. We enjoyed the citrusy Vedett Extra White, served in a long flute; Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout, a chocolaty, creamy dark beer; and Delirium Tremens, a tasty, sweet Belgian pale ale. Dune also has a small selection of snacks and noodles (10-20 RMB) and Illy espresso.

Add: 138 Wenlin Jie, Wuhua District, Kunming
Tel: 0871 534 7236
Price: 25-75 RMB per beer
Opening hours:10:00 – 11:30 although closing time may vary
Getting there: Bus No. 1 stops at 府甬道‎ on Wenlin Jie

2) Lost Garden 一丘田七号客栈 View In Map
This hostel doesn't have the selection of Dune Cafe, but it makes up in ambiance. Set at the southern end of Green Lake Park, the rooftop overlooks a thin slice of green parkland (and the surrounding concrete apartments). With the birds overhead and the TV antennae buzzing, the roof has the illusion of a mid-city escape. Lost Garden has a small but discerning collection of beers, including Weihenstephaner, Duvel, Chimay and some Southeast Asian beers. For sitting out in the afternoon sun with a book and a beer, it's a lovely spot. The wood-fired oven turns out some of Kunming's best pizzas.

Add: 7 Yiquitian, off Huanggong Dongjie and Cuihu Nanlu, Wuhua District, Kunming
Tel: 0871 511 1127
Opening hours: Tue-Sun, 9:30 – 21:00
Cost: 40-55 RMB for an import beer
Getting there: From Green Lake South Road, walk up Huanggong Dongjie. Turn right uphill, and then left onto the cobbled lane. Lost Garden is down the small alley to the left

3) O'Reilly's Irish Pub 爱尔兰酒吧View In Map
The opening of this new pub is one of Kunming's most exciting events in recent memory, for one reason: Guinness. The staff prides themselves on a real pour – the bubbles settling, the head perfectly foamy atop the dark beer. This has been a major boon for Kunming beer-lovers, who now have another reason to head north to the Beichen walking street. While rather expensive at 60 RMB a pint, Guinness is not the pub's only option; they also have Carlsberg, Vedett White and Liefmans on tap. O'Reilly's pub ambience includes wooden stools, darts and painted Irish sayings on the walls. With occasional live music and sporting events, it has become a place to perch with a pint and watch a game.

Add: 13 Beichen Walking Street, Beichen Xiaoqu, Kunming
Opening hours: 11:00 - 02:00 daily; Friday and Saturday until last man standing
Cost: 60 RMB for a Guinness; 30 RMB for Carlsberg

4) Grocery shops
For those who prefer to sip their brews at home, a couple of groceries in Kunming carry import beers. Tucked down a side-alley from the popular Wenhua Xiang, Paul's Shop has a small selection of European beers, including Boddington's Pub Ale and a few German and Belgian bottles. On the other end of the scale, the immense Metro superstore sells a variety of imported and local goods. While their stock seems to vary considerably week to week, they often carry a few imported beers. Since Metro is technically for businesses buying in bulk, customers must sign up for a membership card. To get into Metro as a civilian, ask around town; many people have managed to procure cards and will happily share with friends.

Paul's ShopView In Map
Add:13 Tianjundian Xiang, Wuhua District, Kunming
Tel: 0871 535 4210
Opening hours: 10:00 - 22:00

Metro麦德龙View In Map
Add: 1079 Beijing Lu, Kunming
Tel:0871 583 8888
Opening hours:6:00 - 22:00
Getting there: Bus Nos. 61 and 96 run from central Kunming to north Beijing Lu

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