Real ale, or the lack thereof

It is a great shame that so few people in Hong Kong seem to appreciate good beer. Mrs smog and I had an excellent evening yesterday with a couple of friends at Trafalgar where the ladies enjoyed Green Goblin cider and the guys had a thoroughly enjoyable ale tasting, but only managed to sample about half of the list. Green Goblin is real cider – not the artificially sweetened crap like Blackthorn or Strongbow, and without the nasty aftertaste as well; the ladies enjoyed it very much, although Mrs smog does have a bit of a sore head this morning!

But the ales are the great attraction at Trafalgar – nowhere else in Hong Kong that I know of has such a great selection of English (bottled) ales (with a couple of Scottish and Belgian ones as well); The Globe has a few, but nothing like this range. Couple that with the nice environment on the 5th floor outdoors terrace and it’s hard to beat. The food is OK “pub grub” – nothing special, but just what you need for soaking up a few ales. The ales are nearly all $40 during Happy Hour (until 9pm), and about $58 thereafter, for 500ml or pint bottles, so very competitive with other beers around.

Between the two of us we managed to sample ten different ales last night, and that was less than half the list. We started with Old Thumper (a particular favourite of mine from the Ringwood brewery, not far from where I grew up), went through some organic ales: Whitstable Bay, Duchy, and Brakspear (of which His Royal Highness’s brew got the highest marks), enjoyed some Fiddler’s Elbow with a couple of burgers, then the Black Sheep. Getting towards the end of the evening we moved to some heavier and darker ales: Fuller’s ESB, Jennings Snecklifter, Shepherd Neame’s Christmas Ale (from 2008), and rounded the evening off with a Fuller’s London Porter.

The really sad thing is that as far as we could see, amongst the full terrace of drinkers there almost no-one else drinking anything except generic boring lager, with the odd-Hoegaarden. A fine exception were the couple of (I think) local ladies who obviously had a taste for Leffe Brun!

We had quite a chat to Sam, the Director it says on his card, about the difficulties of getting real ale in Hong Kong, particularly on draught, and gave him as much encouragement as we could! Those of you who appreciate real ale, and haven’t discovered Trafalgar yet – get down there! It’s in the building between the White Stag and Heat on Lockhart Road, on the 5th floor. They also have sports on projectors out on the terrace, so it’s a great place for major sports events too.

Just one word of warning – with so many beers available it pays to double check that the staff understand your order correctly – going to the bar to do so also allows you to perform the vital “legs still working?” check for pacing oneself. Enjoy!

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8 Responses to Real ale, or the lack thereof

  1. HKSARblog says:

    Did you have time enough to drink them ‘warm’ (i.e. room temp) or were they chilled?

  2. smog says:

    They have some out of the fridge if you really want them at room temperature, but that’s a bit warm for me. I prefer “cellar” temperature of about 12 degrees. The fridge isn’t very cold anyway it seems, so after they’ve been poured for a couple of minutes in 20+ temperatures then they’re fine to drink. Sam is well aware that they shouldn’t be too cold.

    (Edit a week later – now the ambient temperature has dropped orders “at room temperature” seem to result in pretty much the ideal just slightly cool.)

  3. David says:

    East End Brewery in Quarry Bay also do a large range of British ales and imported beers from Europe, US etc. They certainly do Black Sheep, for example.

    http://www.asiapubguide.com/elgrande/eebrew.html

  4. smog says:

    Yes, true. And all of the other El Grande places as well. But the range of British (I guess I mean English) Ales is quite small – they have more Belgian and US beers.

    In fact looking at the menu: http://www.elgrande.com.hk/outlets/dir_attachments/21_0.pdf
    They have 8 from England & Scotland, 14 from the US, and 26 from Belgium.

  5. K says:

    Sam lived and worked in London for many years so definitely knows his ale! If you enjoyed the Trafalgar beer selection, I can highly recommend the pub quiz on a Tuesday night.

  6. smog says:

    Thanks for the recommendation – some mates & I gave it a try tonight and came a decent second. We liked the format, but were really quite surprised to find an entry fee (does any other pub quiz in town have that?) and an almost complete lack of prizes. Even the lowest team at The Wheel’s quiz, for example, gets some beer mugs or a bottle of wine – and that’s what the winners got at Trafalgar (with no-one else getting anything).

  7. Giant says:

    Much as I’m a fan of real ales myself, the real attraction – or competitive advantage – of The Trafalgar is the open air smoking terrace.

  8. smog says:

    And an update on the prices – 2009’s full price is 2012’s happy price, more or less: $50-$58 in HH, ~$70 otherwise.

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