In July, Shenzhen independent craft brewery Bionic Brew celebrated its second anniversary. A horde of thirsty expats and local beer enthusiasts descended on Bionics’ tiny backstreet bar to listen to live music and down made-in-Shenzhen lagers, ales, stouts and pilsners, as well as a commemorative pink ale, created by master brewer Dmitrii Gribov.
Although American owner Joe Finkenbinder recalls little of the evening, what his hangover cannot obscure is that he, above all others, has succeeded in fermenting a Shenzhen beerscape. And when one winds the clock back, it becomes apparent that it took far more than yeast, hops and malt to turn this mercantile migrant town on to a quality brew.
A decade or so ago, dingy discotheques catering to horny Hong Kong weekenders and expat dives populated by boozy traders defined Shenzhen’s nightlife. As with most industries in boom-time China, the restaurant and bar scene evolved at a frenetic pace, with venues closing as often as they opened. Gradually, a more respectable bar and club culture evolved. International concepts of interior decor were assimilated to suit local mores while Western pop supplanted Canto-karaoke-ballads as bar owners tended to the young population’s internationalist pretensions.