China’s New High-Speed Train Will Be Making Plenty Of Stops For Craft Beer Enthusiasts

craft beer china high speed train trek

Plan your beer trek from Shanghai to Kunming.

This month, a new high-speed train line will become operational connecting Shanghai on China’s east coast with Kunming in the southwest. Cruising at an average speed of 350 kph (217 mph), the 2,300-kilometre (1,429-mile) journey will take only nine hours, a drastic reduction from the glacial 35-40 hours currently needed with conventional trains.

While still almost three times longer than the three hours and fifteen minutes it takes to fly, the overall high-speed train travel experience is, arguably, better. The pre-boarding clearance procedure is less onerous, trains are far less likely to experience delays, there is more leg room, you don’t have to worry about turbulence, and you can enjoy the scenery. I’ve traveled by high-speed train in China with a group of retired American airline pilots; even they agree.

For the beer traveler, an added bonus is that you can bring growlers on-board. As most brewpubs in China aren’t able to bottle, this allows you to still enjoy your favorite local craft brew while en route to your next destination. Sharing your growler with those around you is also a good way to make new Chinese friends and spread craft beer culture.

The fare from Shanghai to Kunming is anticipated to be ¥700-750 (approximately US$100-110). As an incentive to travel the Shanghai-Kunming line, some Kunming hotels will offer discounts of 10-50% in the month after its opening while tickets for scenic areas will be half-price if you present your HST ticket. Of course, there’s no reason why you can’t take a more leisurely journey along the line, making craft beer pit stops along the way. What follows is a possible itinerary with my top recommended craft beer establishment in each location.

Shanghai

craft-beer-boxing-cat-Hong-Qiao-neighborhood-Shanghai

Source: John Chesen

As the economic capital of China, Shanghai’s draw has never been its history. Rather, its forward-looking, cosmopolitan culture seduces both Chinese and foreigners alike. For those whose conception of China hasn’t evolved since Mao, Shanghai will rapidly vanquish those Cold War notions. The futuristic skyline of Pudong is a dramatic signal of the country’s economic rise. The Bund, on the other side of the Huangpu River, was the equivalent in its day. Visit both for different perspectives on the lifeblood of the city.

Boxing Cat Brewery (拳击猫餐厅)
The Place, No. 100, Zūnyì Lù
Hóngqiáo Qū, Shànghǎi 200051
虹桥区遵义路100号,近紫云路
Tel: +86 (021) 6237-1128
www.boxingcatbrewery.com
Hours: Su-W 11am-midnight, Th-Sa 11am-2am
Regular Beers:
Donkey Punch Porter (5.6%)
Right Hook Helles (4.5%)
Ringside Red Lager (5%)
Sucker Punch Pale (5.5%)
Standing 8 Pilsner (4.9%)
TKO India Pale Ale (6.3%)

Hangzhou

craft-beer-grand-canal-Hangzhou-unesco

Source: Midtown Shangri-La

Being located at the southern terminus of the Grand Canal, the business of sending tribute along its waterways to the northern imperial capital of Beijing transformed Hangzhou into a prosperous city. In the late 13th century, Marco Polo described Hangzhou as “greater than any [city] in the world”. With one million inhabitants at the time, it was.

Hangzhou is also renowned for the beauty of West Lake. Its natural scenery has inspired famous poets, scholars, and artists since the ninth century. Both the Grand Canal and the West Lake Cultural Landscape are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Midtown Brewery
1/F, Midtown Shangri-La Hotel, Kerry Central
No. 6, Chángshòu Lù
Xiàchéng Qū, Hángzhōu 310006
下城区长寿路6号嘉里中心城中香格里拉大酒店
Tel: +86 (0571) 8733-8888
www.shangri-la.com
Hours: 11.30am-2pm, 6pm-midnight; bar 6pm-1am daily
Regular Beers:
Linping Pale Ale (5.2%)
Panshui Pilsner (4.9%)
Pengbu Porter (5.8%)
Wengmei IPA (6.5%)
Wulin Wheat (4.5%)

Changsha

craft-beer-panda-bar-Changsha

Source: PandaBar

Although Changsha has 3,000 years of history, you wouldn’t know it from appearances. That’s because the Nationalists burned the city to the ground in 1938 to deny it to the Imperial Japanese Army. To get an impression of the past, you need to go to the Hunan Provincial Museum for one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the 20th century. There you’ll see the incredibly preserved body of Xīn Zhuī (辛追), the Marquise of Dai, who died in 163 BCE. Her tomb revealed a treasure trove of more than 1,000 Han Dynasty artifacts, including the earliest versions of the Tao Te Ching, Taoism’s primary text. Of more recent history, you’ll find sights relating to Mao Zedong who began his political career in Changsha.

PandaBar (熊猫精酿餐吧)
No. 6, Wǔyī Huáfu, Lítóuhòu Jiē
Fúróng Qū, Chǎngshā
芙蓉区犁头后街五一华府6号(名汇达对面)
Tel: +86 (0731) 8816-9898
pandabrew.tumblr.com
WeChat: pandabrew
Hours: 5pm-1am daily
Regular Beers:
Brown Bear Beer Brown Ale 5.5%
Dark Wheat Beer 5.0%
Dock Man Porter 5.3%
Kuding Pale Ale 6.9%
Pure Red Honey Ale 5.5%
Safe Date Ginger Golden Ale 5.5%
Too Fool IPA 6.3%
Too Naive Pale Ale 6.3%
Too Old Stout 6.3%
Too Young Witbier 4.5%

Guiyang

craft-beer-tripsmith-Guiyang

Source: Cyta Cao

The capital of Guizhou province serves as a gateway to a spectacular Karst landscape populated with a diverse group of more than 30 colorful ethnic minorities who only now are experiencing a transition to modern living in their traditional villages. Qingyan Ancient Town on the outskirts of Guiyang preserves the stone architecture of a Ming-era post station that later became an army garrison. Descendants of that army, known as Tunbao, preserve their homes and customs in the town of Tianlong. While they appear to be an ethnic minority, they are in fact Han Chinese.

Trip Smith
No. 27, Yújiā Alley, between Hǔmén Lane & Qiánlíng Dōnglù
Yúnyán Qū, Guìyáng
云岩区黔灵东路与虎门巷之间余家巷27号
Tel: +86 189 8487-2915
WeChat: TripSmith2013
Hours: noon-2am daily
Regular Beers:
ESB (5.4%)
IPA (7.4%)
Pale Ale (5.2%)
Pilsener (4.7%)
Porter (6.2%)

Kunming

craft-beer-valhalla-brewery-Kunming

Source: Ray Denning

Known as the City of Eternal Spring, Yunnan’s capital city is popular with visitors for its temperate climate, Karst topography, ethnic minorities, and lush surrounding landscapes. Not to be missed are the Black Dragon Pool and Kunming Botanical Gardens, Dianchi Lake, Jindian Park, Jiuxiang Scenic Area, and the Western Mountain Forest Reserve.

Since colonial times, Kunming has played an important role as a regional transportation hub connecting China with Southeast Asia. For train enthusiasts, the Yunnan Railway Museum documents early French-Chinese railway development. Most famously, Kunming was the terminus of the Burma Road during World War II and a base for the Flying Tigers when China and the United States were allies. Future plans envision high-speed train connections to the continental ASEAN countries via the Pan Asia High Speed Network.

Valhalla Craft Brewery
Unit 18D, M60 Creative Park
No. 47, Pǔjí Lù
Wǔhuá Qū, Kūnmíng
五华区普吉路47号秘境M60文化创意园18D
Tel: +86 187 8744-4489
valhallacraftbrewery.com
WeChat: ValhallaCraftBrewery
Hours: 3pm-midnight, kitchen 5pm-midnight daily
Regular Beers:
American IPA (8.5%)
Belgian Tripel (9.2%)
English Porter (5.5%)
European Red Rye (5.8%)
German Wheat (4.5%)
Osmanthus Amber Ale (6.2%)

Travel Details

To prepare for your China craft beer adventure, I wrote How to Drink Beer in Mandarin which you can download from Amazon as an e-book. You may also want to read my article, “Less is More: The Virtues of Traveling Light“, to learn why you should minimize what you bring in your luggage.

Shanghai is an international gateway to China with direct flights from cities around the world. You will need to secure a visa before traveling. Generally, spring and autumn are the best times to visit. Consider timing your journey to coincide with Shanghai Beer Week in May. Avoid travel during the Lunar New Year and National Day holidays as these are the world’s largest human migrations.

If your flight lands at Pudong International Airport (PDG), start your HST craft beer journey with a ride on the Shanghai Maglev. Boasting a top operational speed of 431 kph (268 mph), it’s the world’s fastest train in regular commercial service. For your Shanghai to Kunming HST ticket, it’s best to purchase it ahead of time online, through a travel agent, or at your hotel. If you wait until you get to the train station, there’s a good chance tickets will be sold out.

Kunming is the portal to more craft beer and incredible destinations in Yunnan, such as Shangri-La, Dali, Lijiang, the Yuanyang rice terraces, Tiger Leaping Gorge, and the Stone Forest. However, if it represents the end of your journey, consider swapping your return ticket to Shanghai with an open-jaw airline ticket flying out of Kunming’s Changshui International Airport (KMG) to save time.

craft-beer-travel-booking-hong-kong

 

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A Canadian writer with a passion for travel, craft beer, and gastronomy. With my Great Hop Forward project, I am currently focused on combining those interests in China.

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