Drinking Buddies: Your Gateway to a World of Beer

Article by Mike Leaner

Beer has always been big business in China—even if you didn’t know that Snow Beer is, by volume, the most drank beer in the world, summertime sidewalks littered with the green glass of thousands of Tsingtao bottles should provide enough anecdotal evidence. In recent years, however, craft beers have been seeping into markets outside of Beijing and Shanghai, and even more provincial palates around China are becoming accustomed to more full-bodied and tastier brews.


It’s a boon for us expats banished to the lower-tiered cities, as we’re now starting to enjoy a variety of beers previously unknown to these parts. For some, that variety might not be enough; true hop heads are always trying to find new and interesting beers to try. If that sounds like you, Drinking Buddies, a new service from Beijing might just be the answer to your prayers.

Drinking Buddies was founded by an international group of beer aficionados, and their team traverses the globe searching for artisanal brewers that make interesting and delicious beers. Lest you think that’s just hyped-up PR nonsense, allow me to introduce a couple of the unique brews I’ve had thanks to their beer club.


Brew Age is the name for a team of four “gypsy brewers” (brewers that don’t have their own equipment, but rather partner with other breweries to make their beer) from Austria. Since “Dunkle Materie” means “dark matter” in English you might expect a heavy beer, one so black that light could not escape its surface. Certainly this “black IPA” has a complex taste, but the roasted malt stout flavors combined with the hoppiness of an IPA makes for an enjoyable experience.


London Fields Brewery is one of the hippest breweries in London and turns out this eminently drinkable beer. You might be familiar with IPA, but a “pacific pale ale” is more American-style, with light tropical notes and a dry finish.


Crate is really into minimalism, it seems. Minimal design on their labels, no fancy names for their beers, other than the style (“Lager,” “Pale,” etc.). Make no mistake though, they’re wizards with a brew kit, and this fresh, crisp lager is the kind of beer you could have more than a few of on a nice spring or summer day.

That’s just a small sample of the beer that Drinking Buddies import, and they guarantee that you won’t be able to find these one-of-a-kind beverages anywhere else in China. If you’re a member of their brew club, you’ll get 6 bottles every month from countries around the world, like Ireland and South Korea, which were the featured countries this past March and April, respectively.

If you’re someone who likes beer but may not be super into suds, Drinking Buddies also includes tasting notes and information about each beer they send out; that way, novices and experts alike can learn and appreciate what they’re drinking. Additionally, if you really like one, you can order more!


Mike Leaner likes to get dirty but not for free. He can be reached at reviews@xianease.com