Shanghai is home to a delightful little bar by the name of Jackie’s Beer Nest. The small space centers around a beer hall-style wooden table with benches along all four sides, meant to encourage sharing and camaraderie. One wall is lined with floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with imported beer liquors and an impressive selection of Scotch. The back wall features three refrigerator cabinets stocked with a variety of beers, mostly Belgian and some American craft brews. Pick your bottle from the fridge and Jackie will bring you a glass – he seems to have the corresponding mug for every Belgian beer on offer! I tried the Maredsous Blonde, a Trappist Achel and something called Kwak served in a towering hourglass-shaped glass with a wooden handle. After each round, Jackie cleared the empty glasses from the table but left the bottles as a visual tally of our bill. I enjoyed watching the bottles accumulate like pins on a map of our around-the-world drinking adventure!
Located in the southeast of Puxi in a very Chinese neighborhood, it’s not where you’d expect to find a bastion of Western beer. But in chatting with the proprietor, 85% of Jackie’s clientele are local Chinese, a surprising statistic given the city’s large expat community. Jackie set up shop on a busy Shanghai food street – apparently a famous one – with the aim of becoming a popular local hangout. Not all his neighbors approve, though, with some complaining about the noise; we left around 9pm and Jackie mentioned that he often closes up around that time to help keep the peace.
To help soak up all the booze, Jackie kept the table stocked with plates of peanuts and at one point supplied us with freshly sliced cheese taken from his charcuterie cabinet. I’m talking REAL cheese, like Emmental. He may be targeting the local Chinese population, but Jackie sure knows how to keep his Western guests happy!
The big excitement of the evening came when Jackie poured me a shot of his homemade Chinese rice wine. He had two massive glass jugs of the stuff on a shelf which I kept peering at because of the contents within. The jug on the right contained some herbs and roots and a large coiled up snake. I couldn’t figure out what the fuzzy thing in the jar on the left was – perhaps an animal paw or snout? Jackie explained that it was a deer antler, while the root was ginseng and the red “pebbles” floating around the bottom were congealed deer blood. The deer wine was created for women, who are traditionally cold and need to ingest warming things according to traditional Chinese medicine. The snake wine has an opposite, cooling effect ideal for hot-blooded young men. When Jackie handed me a shot of deer wine I could hardly turn down his hospitality. It tasted like a smooth Japanese sake and left me feeling fine!
I drank a shot from the jar on the left. Be impressed.
The Harry Potter fans among us insisted on trying a mug of the advertised butter beer, which Jackie assembled before our eyes. I missed the explanation of what all the ingredients were, but it was a dark, potent concoction that was generally well received. We spent a convivial three hours at the Beer Nest and concluded it was the best time we’d had in ages. Even though we live nowhere near its Luwan location, we will most certainly be back.