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The Beer Hunters of Yongkang Lu

Meet Grégoire Prouvost and Cédric Bourlet, two of the coolest French guys you’ll ever meet. Together with friends Alexandre Godvin and Samuel Pierquin they run a boutique beer store on Yongkang Lu called Cheers In, at the opposite end of the street to the Shaxian Snacks restaurant

Three of the four friends hail originally from Lille, in a part of France close to the Belgian border where beer is a way of life. Passionate about beer, they were frustrated that some of the best beers making their way to Shanghai were available only in restaurants. Now they can boast the best selection in the city, with beers from twenty three countries including France, Belgium, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and India.

Cédric, on the right, has the official title of ‘Beer Hunter’ (it’s on his business cards and everything), a job I’d really like to explore. He has managed to hunt down every possible interesting beer that makes its way to Shanghai, and bring them all together in one place. “So, what do you do for a living?”  “Oh, I’m a Beer Hunter.” There must be queues around the block for his job. Gregoire, on the left, is the ‘Ideas Brewer.’ 

One of the joys of Cheers In is that every beer is available as a single bottle purchase, so for the price of an extremely average bottle of wine you can sample six different boutique beers from around the globe. It’s a difficult choice, given the enormous range of high quality beers, so I started by asking Grégoire and Cédric to point out thier favourites.

La Chouffe, a Belgian beer from the Ardennes, is Grégoire’s favourite beer, and available only from their shop. It’s a very refreshing drop. According to La Chouffe’s website, this is an “unfiltered blonde beer, which is re-fermented in the bottle as well as in the keg.  It is pleasantly fruity, spiced with coriander, and with a light hop taste.”  To my palate, it does have a very lightly hopped fruity taste, which belies the 8% alcohol which is gonna hit you about two thirds of the way through.

Cédric’s nominated another Belgian beer, Orval, as his favourite. It’s a beer I first tried at Southern Barbarian alongside a plate of deep-fried honeybees, which the beer matched to perfection. Orval is a Belgain Trappist beer, made by Cistercian monks and their helpers, and is so popular here in Shanghai they can’t keep up with the demand. Orval has wonderful complex yeast flavours, with touches of caramel and malt and just a small amount of acidity. “For Belgians, it’s the best beer in the world!” Cédric says. 

Orval had also been my favourite beer, until I tried Tripel Karmeliet – still brewed to an original 1679 from Carmelite nuns. Brewed with barley, oats and wheat (hence ‘tripel’), this is the best beer I’ve ever tasted – fruity, creamy (thanks to the oats) and with a slight citrus acidity. Those nuns obviously knew quite a few things about beer, and despite trying to make improvement the brewery has never bettered the nuns’ recipe.

Vedett White is the shop’s most popular beer, Belgian or otherwise. It’s very drinkable, but really has none of the interest or complexity of Tripel Karmeliet, Orval, or La Chouffe.

The store has such an interesting variety of beers, like these graphically labelled ones from England’s Brew Dog craft brewery. These guys are interesting – they started in 2007 with a tiny bank loan and have grown to a £6.7 million turnover in just four years, by selling equity shares to everyday beer lovers. Clever marketing aside (who wouldn’t want to be able to say they own shares in a brewery??) their beer is good. Definitely worth trying.

Coedo, from a Japanese microbrewery, is extremely difficult to source, but Cheers In have managed to exclusively stock all four varieties incuding the frequently sold-out Shiro. If you love the light clean flavours of Japanese beers, you should enjoy these. Stoke Gold is a New Zealand pale ale made with organic hops. 

There a couple of other organic beers available too which I’m yet to try – Samuel Smith’s Organic Lager from England, and  Jade, France’s first organic beer. 

Other firm favourites they stock include Rogue Dead Guy from the USA, Cooper’s Ale from Australia, Kingfisher from India and China’s own SinKiang Black Beer. 

The store has such an enormous variety the choice can be a little overwhelming. If you prefer, you can use their website to help you choose (which country? strong or light flavoured? high or low alcohol? how expensive?) and have it all home-delivered just in time for Australia vs Russia in the Rugby World Cup. 


Cheers In
25 Yongkang Lu near Jiashan Lu, Puxi

永康路25号 (靠近嘉善路)

Ph +86 21 64188400

Introducing: Yongkang Lu

Let me introduce you to Yongkang Lu, a perfectly lovely old street that has been right under my nose all along, but I’ve only recently rediscovered. Thanks to friends living nearby, I’ve been kept me up to date about the addition of a wonderful boulangerie/fromagerie and a boutique beer vendor, and the opening of quirky new shops and cafes. They’ve all moved into Yongkang Lu since I last visited for the specialty foods festival at Chinese New Year, and the whole street has the aura of revitalisation and excitement. I’m going to feature some of them over the coming weeks.
Yongkang Lu runs east-west, from Taiyuan Lu all the way to Jiashan Lu, itself a vigorously lively street with a daily riot of fish-gutting, vegetable chopping, card games, street barbers and angle grinders. Halfway along its length Yongkang is bisected into neat and quite opposite halves by Xiangyang Lu, a street struggling to become trendy but thanks to constant hammering roadworks and a cartel of noodle and snack stalls has been able to resist gentrification for now.
The west side of Yongkang Lu is lined with leafy plane trees, and this end of the street is quiet and relaxed with small local shops selling dumplings, stationery, fruit and vegetables. It’s a lovely street to walk along, busy without being overwhelming and with very ittle road traffic.

As I cross over busy Xiangyang Lu the ear-splitting sound of firecrackers reverberates along the eastern end of Yongkang Lu, the noise ricocheting between houses hung with washing. It’s the middle of the day but that doesn’t mean anything particular, firecrackers can go off anytime, anywhere, for anything. 
The eastern end of the street has a totally different appearance, with closely packed apartments overhanging a street almost devoid of greenery. Further along the red firecracker papers litter the middle of the road, and I walk there to see what’s happening along with a bunch of other onlookers.
It’s a wedding! A white stretch limo is parked on the street, the bonnet festooned with flowers attached with adhesive tape. I can’t tell if the bride and groom are inside the car because the windows are too heavily tinted. They may be visiting the groom’s parents in one of the nearby houses, a wedding tradition.
More eye-catching is the second wedding car, a fanta-orange fantasy of an Audi with more restrained decorations, just two small corsages taped to the door handles.
Without warning another round of firecrackers is set off in the middle of the road, drawing all the neighbours (many in their pyjamas) out to watch. Nobody tries to protect the Audi from the small explosions. By the time the crackers are finished the road is carpeted with shreds of red paper and the air is full of sulphur.
It seems, after a while and some discussion from the crowd, that the bride is in the back of the stretch limo after all, and the groom soon comes dashing out of the nearby dry-cleaners (his parents’ home and business?) before jumping in the passenger seat and taking off to the next round of festivities and pyrotechnics.

The neighbours watch on as the limo pulls away and normal traffic is restored.

Nothing left to do but have some fun with all that lovely sulphurous red paper! Now isn’t that just the sort of thing you like to see when you go for a Sunday walk along your favourite street?
Do you have a favourite secret (or not so secret) street in Shanghai? Please tell!