Best for a chilled night out
I only found out about Something Ales towards the end of my last trip, and could only squeeze in an hour or so to visit the bar, late on the Sunday night before my flight out of Taipei. That hour turned into three when I started chatting with bar owner Arvin about craft beer in Taiwan and tasting his selection of American labels. I only got three hours of sleep before I had to get on a jet back home, but it left me such an awesome last impression of the city that I just had to come back.
Located south-ish of the city in the student district and just a street away from the Shida Night Market, Something Ales has become one of our favourite bars to enjoy a cold one in. Heck, we liked it so much we even battled the sleepies after we landed at 10pm to visit the bar. It's thoroughly unpretentious, and pared down in its decor, with one long bar and some tables on the first level, and a tiny mezzanine of around ten seats above.
195 Roosevelt Rd, Section 3. Opens daily 8pm-1am.
Beer & Cheese
Best for drafts and expats
For its popularity with the expat crowd, Beer & Cheese is still very much mentioned when it comes to craft beer in Taipei. The draft selection is mainly American in sensibility, and my two visits have always yielded me a brew made by one of the brewsters in the country's nascent microbrewing industry, like the Evil Twin Taiwan Hipster and Made in Taiwan beers we encountered on my return. For the English-only speaking, you'll probably feel most at home here of all the bars in the city. The crowd is foreign, and the bar grub deeply satisfying. Nothing beats the oozing lava of hot cheese from a panini-pressed sandwich here when you're three beers into a session of boozing tasting and down with a budding case of the beer munchies.
There have been murmurs, however, among the craft beer aware locals we've spoken to that the bar's not always too rigorous or attentive with maintaining their beer lines. It wasn't a problem I encountered on my first visit there, but we did detect a brett infection in a taster portion of the Baird Teikoku IPA, so definitely ask nicely to try the brews before you plonk your NT$180-NT$250 a pint. It's something I've raised over email with the bar's co-owner Shawn Kidd (also behind 886 Brewing and SavvySippr, a craft beer events organiser currently running gigs in Taiwan) and they should be looking into it.
169, Section 2, Jianguo South Rd, Da'An District (+886 916 549 373, www.facebook.com/beerandcheese ).
Best for Belgian beer freaks
L'Apero's another place popular with the locals. Like it's name might hint, the selection is slightly more European, with a large selection of Belgian and Belgian-type heavies dominating the shelves in here. Still, drinkers like me will always find a To Øl or Mikkeller bottle to drink, but finding a cold one will always depend on your luck though – if you've had a fellow hophead sweep through before you, chances are, you might have to wait a little high and dry while the bottles chill down. The vibe is not dissimilar to Meng Chao's Brewers' Craft here in Singapore – one long table has been set out for people to sit around, knock elbows and chat to each other, and just two fridges holds a bottle of two of what's available in store.
On our recent visit here, we found bottles of hyped up Westvleteren 12 going at NT$1,000 (S$42), and a few Westvleteren box sets on sale (price we didn't ask for, as you can imagine!)
No. 200 Xing'an Lu, Songshan District, Taipei. (+886 2 27128825, www.facebook.com/LAperoBeerShop).
Best for craft beer adventurers
Ho boy, let us tell you, this craft beer bar is located pretty far out of the centre of town. Bearing north past the Keelung River, past another smaller waterway and quite some distance from the nearest Jieyun (MRT) station in close proximity to the Tianmu Baseball Stadium, we feel that a visit to Kid Sorrow is best paired with a pit stop at the Shilin Street Market. From there, hop on a cab (it cost us around NT$300/$12.60), or take the train further north to the Mingde stop and cab from there.
Why travel so far out in search of beer, you ask? Kid Sorrow's a pretty sweet spot that the locals or locally-based we spoke to didn't even know about yet. What that essentially means is that you might find rarer bottles of beer that you won't be able to get your hands on closer to the city centre, where the competition is a little quicker. I spotted them advertising their bottles of Cantillon on their Facebook page before heading out to Taiwan, and I knew I had to bring Nick out there to go have a look.
When we got there, Nick was pretty much blown away. Looking almost neglected on a shelf near the doorway were bottles of Cantillon Lou Pepe 2010, Grand Cru Bruocella and Vigneronne, when the rest of Taipei were sold out. Absolutely mental. Nick looked a little overwhelmed at some point over here, as I would if confronted with a good range of To Øl stuff, which they did also have in a cake fridge holding cold bottles of their range.
One wall (pictured) has some nice paintings, and the other wall with sofas against them was a blackboard wall with all sorts of cute illustrations and some scrawling advertising the locally-brewed APA by Hardcore Brewing – we've had them at Something Ales previously, and this was a pretty damn amazing beer on draft. One we'd be lucky to get in Singapore.
No. 12, Lane 166, Section 2, Zhongcheng Lu, Shilin District. (+886 2 2872 9993, https://www.facebook.com/kidsorrow)
Cosy little craft beer nook
Back in the centre of town, Little London's a cute basement bar in the Da'An District of town. Its name kind of conjures the image of an ole British tavern, but in reality, it's all pretty hip with its chalkboard walls, Brit poster collages and vintage knick knacks (I spotted an old school ad for Babycham at the bar counter). The space has ample seating, and another bar closer to the entrance looks like it caters to a cocktail sipping crowd.
Of course, you'll want to seat at the bar further into the space. The bottle selection is undoubtedly British, with the stuff from Wychwood, London Pride and Fullers well represented here. The quite newly set-up 23 Brewing Company's Pale Ale and Blonde ales were on tap on our visit, and head brewer, Matt, told us that he had plans to tap a Red Ale next. Yum!
No. 26, Lane 131, Yanji St, Da'An District. (+886 2 8772 2477, https://www.facebook.com/littlelondon.taipei).