Is Haidilao beer any good? That was the answer we sought when we tried their range of three beers – an Amber Lager, Weissebeer and Dark Lager – that are served at the famed Chinese hotpot restaurant chain’s outlets, but now available in canned retail format for drinking at home as well. They’re all brewed in China by German company Urbrau.
While we certainly wouldn’t call Haidilao’s beers craft beer by any means, they’re certainly not shitty beers, being better than many haphazardly-made commercial beers out there. Here are our thoughts on each of them.
Haidilao Amber Lager
This is actually pretty good. This first-ever named beer of theirs is made using barley malt from Australia and Germany, with hops also from Germany. There’s a certain finesse and balance with the beer. As you’d expect of an amber lager, it’s malty and dry, with great body. Definitely better than many ambers out there. If you’re tired of your usual light pilsners, this is a good alternative for your first drink of the day. It simply packs more oomph.
You can tell their beers are very much informed by German beer-making traditions with this one, which can be a good thing. For us, their take on the wheat beer is, however, a miss. They’ve kept the flavor profile very narrow, perhaps staying strictly in line with what traditional wits are supposed to taste like – and that’s just boring. You get a very singular, dried grass note here, and that’s it. You’re better off drinking an Erdinger or Hoegaarden if you want something refreshing.
Haidilao Dark Lager
In terms of line-up, we don’t really understand why they’d go for a dark lager style, seeing as they already have an amber lager. They’re perhaps forming a range of beers like how most German breweries would, which shouldn’t be the point if you ask us. Taste wise, it’s like most dunkels – rich, malty, and perhaps a hint of chocolate. It’s also quite bready, and pleasantly so. Their Amber Lager is more balanced and enjoyable though, and we think you should go for that instead.
At SGD$5.95 per 500ml can at NTUC Fairprice, Haidilao’s beers definitely fall within the more affordable spectrum, and should perhaps be judged as such, with greater leniency. But as avid craft beer drinkers, we couldn’t help but don a more critical lens, and in that view, they’ve fallen pretty short.
Save for the Amber Lager, they lack complexity and offer monotonous profiles. They are also very classically German-style beers. Nothing wrong with that, but with so many German breweries and labels already doing a much better job, we just didn’t see the appeal of a hotpot brand vying for space in that arena. They should have taken the chance to experiment with styles that specifically pair well with typical hotpot food, for instance.
It’s a missed opportunity for now, but one that they can still revisit in the future. We hope they’re working on that, especially after reading this review. In the meantime, we’ll be pairing our hotpot meals with a hazy IPA or milk stout. We find these styles to work great with spicy (but definitely not herbal or numbing) soup bases.
All photo credits: Drinkaholics
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