Great Leap Brewing closed the doors at their Sanlitun location, but windows open as there is much more in store for this Beijing institution

By Zhang Xinyuan Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/14 16:03:39

Foreign and Chinese fans of Great Leap Brewing come to GLB #12 the night before it closes. Photo: Cui Meng/GT

A group of friends come to GLB and reminisce about the good times they had here. Photo: Cui Meng/GT

Founded in 2010 by American expat Carl Setzer and his wife Liu Fang, Great Leap Brewing (GLB) is a staple bar and brewery for the Beijing expat community and young local foodies.

However, GLB has to say goodbye to one of its most popular locations - #12 Flagship Brewpub (GLB #12) in Sanlitun, an area famous for its expat population and hip restaurants and bars.

"The landlord at Ziming Mansion, where we have been located for the last five years, is adamant that there will no longer be tenants using this property for any food and beverage services," Setzer said. "Over the past couple of years, we have seen Beijing change its attitude toward the food and beverage industry, and that has reached Great Leap Brewing as well."

May 10 was GLB #12's last day, and many patrons specifically came to the restaurant to say their goodbyes and commemorate all the good times they have had inside the walls of this Beijing institution.

Because of the crowd, guests squat by the side of road to enjoy their GLB burgers and fries. Photo: Cui Meng/GT

GLB fans taking a selfie at the restaurant Photo: Cui Meng/GT

Guests spilling out onto the patio enjoying their beers and burgers Photo: Cui Meng/GT

A memorable place

Since GLB released the news of their closing on May 9, many of GLB's regulars rushed to the pub to bid farewell and make some final memories.

"Starting from May 8, we had three to four times the average number of customers. In the three days before we closed, we received 1,500 to 2,000 customers every day," said Tina, a manager at GLB #12.

"It's a sad demise of a really good restaurant and bar in Beijing," said Qiao Di (pseudonym) from the UK. He and his friends came to GLB #12 as soon as they could after hearing the news. They met up at the bar at 3 pm and did not leave until 8 pm.

"The beer here is really good. I am from England, so good beer is important to me, and their burger is probably one of the best burgers in town," Qiao said.

Recently, many popular restaurants and bars have been closed down in the hutong; it's confusing, he said. 

Jonathan from South Africa and Karen from the UK also brought their three teenage children for one last hoorah.

"It's one of the few places in Beijing where both adults and children can have a good time. The atmosphere here is homey and relaxing," said Karen.

The kids can enjoy their cheeseburgers and play on the patio while the adults have a beer on the terrace, she said.

Peng Peng and Zhang Meng from Beijing have been coming to GLB #12 almost once a week since its opening in 2013.

"When we want to have a good burger or have a beer, we just come here; it's very difficult for us to see that it is being closed," Peng said.

Setzer said since they announced the news, they received over 100 encouraging messages from fans and supporters. "It's very emotional for me."

Brand history

Setzer, from the US, first came to China in 2004 and has been fascinated by this country ever since.

After working in the IT industry for several years, Setzer and his wife Liu founded GLB in October 2010. GLB became one of the first modern craft breweries in China.

The first Great Leap pub was Great Leap Original #6 in Doujiao Hutong. Then, in June 2013, GLB #12 was opened, and it was the first GLB location to include a full-service kitchen. GLB #12 is also home to the majority of GLB's brewing capacity.

"GLB #12 is the most popular location of our three locations. The store generally receives 500 guests every day," said Tina, a manager at GLB.

Future plans

"One ending means many new beginnings," Setzer said.

GLB #6 and GLB #45 will continue operating as always.

On top of that, GLB will be opening up a new taproom restaurant in Lido in early autumn.

"We are extremely excited to provide the customers with another great bar and restaurant at which they can enjoy our beer and food," Setzer said. 

The GLB #12 location will be converted into a dual purpose cold storage distribution center and an innovative and progressive office for GLB.

Besides, GLB is opening up a new production facility in Tianjin in order to lower the price of the beer and expand its production line.

"That means that while GLB #12 is closing, you will be able to enjoy our beer at more locations around Beijing and other cities," Setzer said.

"While it is certainly a sad day, it is also one filled with positives as well. This is one step back and two steps forward. We are excited to see what the future holds for us at GLB," Setzer said.

Newspaper headline: Bittersweet farewell


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