I wasn’t planning on discovering great craft beer while I was in Taiwan for Lunar New Year. I was visiting a friend and expected to do some sightseeing, hiking, hot springs and eat a ton of delicious inexpensive food—in general have a subtropical getaway from the kotatsu where I’d been parked all winter.
I was pleasantly surprised to see a happening craft beer scene in Taipei that rivals—if not surpasses—that in most of Japan. Tasty local brews, funky craft beer bars, and an extensive import selection from North America, Europe, and Australia (as well as a few Japanese choices) help make Taipei an even more amazing city, which can also be a launch pad for outdoor sports in Taiwan’s mountains, rivers or coastline.
Beer (and alcohol more generally) does not play as large a part in Taiwanese culture as in Japan, but all the establishments I visited had a clientele of younger locals as well as foreigners, suggesting that craft beer is quickly becoming part of life for many Taipei twenty-somethings. Brett Tieman, co-founder and brewer at 23 Brewing Company, whom I met at their sleek taproom in Da’an District near National Taiwan University, said that is something that has really changed in the last two or three years.
“When I first arrived in Taiwan [in 2010], the beer scene was underdeveloped. Most people considered beer as an accessory for a meal. We had many shades of Asian lager and a handful of Belgian bottle shops. Now, consumers are pursuing beer as an activity and a passion—it’s not uncommon for Taiwanese consumers to go to a pub or a taproom to enjoy a beer with friends.”
With nine of their own beers on tap and three guest taps, 23 Brewing’s taproom offered several American-style pale ales and IPAs, which had lots of fresh, fruit-forward hop flavor without much bitterness. I also tried their refreshing sour wheat ales (a cucumber and a delicious passion fruit) and enjoyed their dark lager, dedicated to the writer Charles Bukowski.
Nearby, Eleven Beer House offered an impressive lineup of mostly American and Scandinavian beers. Café Bastille is a cozy destination for Belgian beer fans (with hundreds of bottles). Local favorite Something Ales was closed during my trip, but I hear they offer a great selection of local beers.
In the central Zhongzheng District, Revolver is a funky spot just across the street from Liberty Square with the monumental National Theater, National Concert Hall, and Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial. Its outdoor patio, grungy décor, live bands upstairs, and a rotating list of taps with some local selections (and more as packaged bottles and cans) make this a must visit. It’s also worthwhile taking some cold ones across the street and drinking in the presence of the Generalissimo’s looming, surreal memorial and the site of the mass protests that prompted Taiwan’s transition to a democracy.
Further north, the Shilin Night Market offered (along with unforgettable street food) a few of the most interesting craft beer destinations I found in the city. Funky Fresh, with six taps creatively mounted on silver and gold nude mannequins, is a great place to duck out of the market madness, and Craft Young, a few doors down, is another chill spot with four local taps and a fridge full of interesting imports. Probably the most unique spot, however, is a combination tropical fish store/liquor store, where you can choose from hundreds of (mostly imported) bottles and cans to enjoy among the aquariums.
Thanks to the local breweries (too numerous for me to do justice here), beer bars and growing consumer base, add craft beer to the stinky tofu, oyster omelets, and soup dumplings as must-try items when in Taipei!