The best part of craft beer isn’t about drinking; it’s brewing it yourself at home with all the ingredients. Now we have a group of amateur brewers getting together to get serious, how would it go?
In the Madhouse, choices are abundant with 20 draft taps more than a few bottled beers. What’s unique about it is many are exclusive in Hong Kong because they are directly imported, mostly from Europe including Scotland, Wales, the Netherlands and Norway. “They were brought here because of their distinctive tastes, or distinctive packaging. Some cans have comics printed on it, others can have the whole top peeled off, so that we can gollop straight from the can,” said Calvin “Uncle Shrimp” Cheung, one of the founders responsible for operations. “There are four of us who spent half a year in opening this bar. We constantly look for brands that aren’t in Hong Kong yet to create our own characteristics. We’re passionate also to find easy going craft beers for the newbies.”
What are the tastes for newbies? To give an example, here are two delicious craft ciders. “Many people thought cider is only about sweetness, but the real cider is rich in apple aroma, such as Bilpin Blush Pink Lady Cider, some customers would order it as a “dessert,” after three or four beers for a sweet finale. It is like a sorbet to conclude a big feast,” said Patrick Au, another partner of the Madhouse. Since Pink Lady is an exceptionally expensive variety, it’s costly to make cider out of it, but the reward is an lovely creaminess in the aromatic brew. Ciders aside, there are several not-so-common styles, such as imperial black lager and marshmallow porter which are rich but easy going choices. “We would offer tasters to customers try small portions before ordering, then they would have better confidence to try new things.”
The Madhouse is in Yim Po Fong Street, which is housing a growing number of bars. How do they see competition? “We are friends with other craft beer bars! We all hope to liven up this district to become Lan Kwai Fong for craft beers. In fact, what we sell are all a little different from each other, we don’t mind people doing bar hopping, having a drink here then another there, so they can talk to people of all the bars,” said Patrick. The Madhouse also accommodated tools for home brewing, which will be of use when they offer brewing classes. One of their taps will be reserved for home brews.
A bar has to have food to fair with their beers, and all the foods at The Madhouse are made in house! “We all have a high standard on food, and the food we can buy isn’t good enough! Braises and several slow cooked dishes are made right to our tastes.” Their recommendations are Evil Spam Fries with Spicy Mayo Dipping, Grandpa’s braises, and Slow Cook Grain Fed Pork Loin with Green Apple Purée – last but not least, the crazily delicious crispy shrimp imported by Calvin – hence his nickname.
The Madhouse共有20個生啤頭，亦有不少散裝啤酒提供，選擇不算少，最特別的是不少都是香港獨家，由酒吧自行入口的，大部份都來自歐洲，包括蘇格蘭、威爾斯、荷蘭和挪威等。「有些是味道比較特別，有些是包裝特別，例如印有漫畫的啤酒罐，以及罐頂可以整個拉開，連罐裝都可以大口喝的啤酒。」。老闆之一、負責日常營運、在手工啤界人稱「蝦叔叔」的Calvin Cheung解說道。「我們共有四名老闆，籌備開這間酒吧已有半年時間。因為想擁有自己特色，因此不停尋找香港沒有的牌子，另外，我們也特別想為初入門者找些容易入手的啤酒。」
甚麼是初入門者的口味呢？例如，這裡有兩款很好喝旳手工cider。「很多人以為cider一味只有甜，其實真正好喝的cider有很豐富的蘋果香，例如這款Bilpin Blush Pink Lady cider，有客人就把它當成甜品，往往在喝完三至四款啤酒以後，最後一款就點它，當成一個甜美的總結，像一個豐富大餐的最後，以一個香甜的雪葩收結一樣。」酒吧的另一位老闆Patrick Au說。Pink Lady可是一款賣價特別高的蘋果品種，用來釀cider可說很揼本，亦因此得到這款甜香得來帶忌廉香的cider酒款。另外，這裡也有一些較少見的特色酒款，如Imperial black lager和marshmallow porter，都是容易接受又味道豐富的選擇。「我們更會給客人taster，試少許才點，令客人更有信心嚐新。」