The beer culture of Shanghai can be dated back to as early as the 19th century, with the earliest brewery in the city founded in 1896. Today, beer is no longer just a beverage but also stands for a culture in Shanghai. In this column, "Hopscotch," we share people's stories about beer while exploring the city of Shanghai.
The story of two generations of beer brewers in the coastal area of Jinshan District in the southwest of Shanghai covers a span of five decades.
"My father set out for work early in the morning and returned home late at night," Sun Yulin recalled. "We saw each other less frequently than normal family members did.
"But he would occasionally take me to the beer factory. They used fermenting pools at that time before the cylinders we are using now. And I would be intoxicated by the rich aroma of malts and ferments."
Sun Renyun, 72, was among the five-member founding committee who set up China's first self-funded township beer factory in suburban Shanghai's Jinshan District in 1976, and worked till his retirement.
The Donghai Beer Factory they set up was a pride of Shanghai and popular with consumers. But in 2015 it was closed down when its most recent owner, China Resources, changed its corporate strategy.
"It was a pity after 40 years of operation," Sun Yulin said.
Then in the same year, they founded the Witchcraft Brewing (望秦精酿) in Jinshan.
The name was derived from the local Qinwang Hill (秦望山). It is now closed to visitors. But before that it used to be a childhood fun place for Jinshan kids to play hide-and-seek, as Sun once did.
According to a legend in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Emperor Qin Shihuang (秦始皇) of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) once climbed the hill and took a bird's-eye view from there, hence its name 秦望山.
"We hope the brand will be both a heritage and an extension, to produce beer with characteristics and innovation," Sun added.
In 2018 they produced the first craft beer. Shortly afterwards in 2019 the Liuxi Hazy IPA, a New England India Pale Ale noted for juicy taste, won a bronze medal in the Brussels Beer Challenge.
"Liuxi was inspired by the ancient town of Zhangyan in Jinshan District. Legend has it that the feudal prince Zhang Liang in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) once settled here," he said.
"It's a tradition among generations of scholars and literati in the town to plant orchids in their homes. The faint fragrance would travel miles along the street during the orchid blossom.
"New England IPA was gaining popularity in 2018. Our Liuxi Hazy IPA was a trial derived from it. We tried to place hops in different phases of brewing, in the boiling, sedimentation or fermenting stages, as people brewing the New England IPA did in the new England region, to generate the strong juicy taste."
The brand of Witchcraft has since reaped more than 30 international prizes in awards held in Belgium, Germany, the UK, Australia and Japan.
"Beer is a drink noted for its diversity as there are both sour, sweet, bitter, spicy and salty beers," Sun said. "A saying in our trade goes, 'Don't write off beer altogether simply because you haven't come across the one you enjoy yet'. Though we're developing about 20 or 30 new styles yearly, we still dare not brag about our diversity."
Near the Witchcraft Brewing there are several scenic spots worth visiting.
Nanshe Memorial Hall 南社纪念馆
A short step away from the hill, the Nanshe Memorial Hall on Zhangyan old street houses historic records of Nanshe, an influential revolutionary literati group founded in Zhangyan Town in Jinshan in 1909. It helped overturn the feudal society of China. It is also the old residence of Yao Guang, the second generation of leadership of Nanshe.
"There used to be a popular stinky tofu stall at the foot of a bridge near the Zhangyan old street," said Sun. "We would have a fully taste of stinky tofu after school from Auntie Wu. Now she has set up her stinky tofu store right opposite the street, and the tofu continues to be quite popular."
Jinshan City Beach 金山城市沙滩
As the coastal Jinshan District off the East China Sea is celebrated for its brewing tradition, its Jinshan City Beach holds its annual beer and music festival in summer. Through August 13, 2023 beer festival is under way. Both branded beers like Tsingtao and Budweiser, as well as craft beers like the local Witchcraft and dozens of global craft beer brands are providing diverse flavors to the taste buds of guests.
As concerts and eSports help engaging visitors, crayfishes from Lu'an City of Anhui Province among the snacks appeal to diners with their chewy meat and slightly spicy flavor.
The regular activities of the popular city beach, including sunset fishing, yachting, camping, horse riding and karting, and amusement park facilities provide tourists and residents with an escape from the bustling city life.
Jinshanzui Fishing Village 金山嘴渔村
It is the most well-preserved and earliest fishing village in Shanghai. About 500 meters away from the Jinshan Railway terminal station and adjacent to the city beach, the village overlooks the Big Jinshan Isle, Small Jinshan Isle and Fushan Isle of the district.
The place is noted for its abundant sea food resources and historic sea and fishing culture, with diverse culture venues ranging from fishermen's old residences to fishing utensils, sea and fishing culture, Mazu culture, folk culture collection, sampan barge and ancient Huanghuali furniture museums, for people to pay visits to.
Donglin Temple 东林寺
The temple in Zhujing Town, about 30 kilometers northwest of the beach, was first built during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) to worship Guanyin, the goddess of mercy.
After centuries of warfare and fires, the temple fell into disrepair. For a time in the late 20th century, a repaired version was home to the government of Jinshan. In 2007, the temple was restored and expanded. Only one hall that survived the vicissitudes of time remains.
During the renovation, monks and believers crafted a 33-meter-tall statue of Guanyin and placed it in the main hall. It is now the largest indoor Guanyin statue in Asia.
Village of Farmer Paintings 中国农民画村
Zhonghong Village in Jinshan District is better known as the village of farmer paintings, as the vibrant colors of farmer art adorn even the dwellings in the village.
In 1974, Wu Tongzhang, a local art teacher, started teaching farmers of the area to draw pictures depicting their lives in their spare time. Wu himself had never had any professional training and neither did the farmers. But the farmer artists managed to infuse folk arts into their works. The village subsequently attracted farm painters from other parts of China.
The artwork has become so famous that it has enjoyed national and international exhibitions, and the village itself has been designated a cultural heritage site.
Liuxi Hazy IPA, a craft New England IPA with strong juicy flavor, is said to have an aroma resembling the orchid fragrance of Liuxi ancient town in Jinshan.
It goes well with the "Legend of Four Kingdoms," a sausage collage that incorporates the original, black pepper, cuttlefish and fish roe flavors, and spiced salt-fried squid rings.
Visitors can have a try at Witchcraft Brewing bar (7058-3 Tianyuan Road S., Shanyang Town, Jinshan District 金山区山阳镇田园南路7058-3).