Cover The taproom's design takes cues from carbon as the building block of the universe (Source: Carbon Brews)

Quirky design, diverse beers, and inventive cuisine come together in this winning space in Central

Homegrown beer brewery Carbon Brews has quickly become a perennial presence in local bottle shops since launching in 2018, but the opening of its taphouse in Central truly marks the brand's coming-of-age. 

The new venue on Wyndham Street follows the debut of its first-ever gastropub in Tokyo's Akasaka district—and upon first glance, it's evident that that brand's strong graphic identity—the work of local branding studio Kith & Kin—has really taken flight. Decorated in shades of chrome, concrete and dark stone, the taproom is dominated by a row of 28 taps behind the bar on one side, and overblown geometric wall cutouts on the other—inspired by the elemental building block of carbon. Custom-designed furniture takes cues from the brand logo, most evidently in the bar stools; while towards the back of the space, a glass-walled cold storage room keeps beer kegs chilled for optimum draft quality. 

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The eagle-eyed might also spot a 29th tap behind the bar, strangely located near the ceiling of the taproom and accessible only by climbing a ladder. It's a cheeky nod to Carbon Brews' first brewery in Fo Tan, which was forced to split its operations between the ground floor and 10th floor of an industrial building due to strict regulations.

As expected, the brand's full range of beers is available on tap, including the ever-popular Crazy Rich Lupulins hazy IPA and the Sour Punch Berliner Weisse, alongside seasonal brews and collaborations with local partners like Fineprint, Fernet Hunter, and even iconic cinematographer Christopher Doyle.

Head chef Sean Yuen, who has trained at the likes of Melbourne's Grossi Florentino and Caprice, fleshes out a sophisticated food menu that's far beyond typical pub grub. Beer is subtly worked into the dishes or its pairing potential considered—for example, the umami of the taramasalata dip with Japanese snow crab and smoked herring pearls benefits from the fruity notes of the Sour Punch, while the Crazy Rich Lupulins melted cheese is slow-cooked with the beer of the same name as a modern substitute for nachos.

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Mains are meaty yet nuanced in flavour: two standouts include the hanger steak frites with hand-cut Canadian Agria potato fries and smoked bone marrow sauce; and the pan-seared lamb belly with chipotle puree and dukkah, doused in a pork wine meat sauce and designed to pair with Never Skip Leg Day, a cherry wine barrel-aged Belgian quad brewed in collaboration with Young Master.

Hong Kong's fifth wave of the pandemic hasn't been kind to bars, with the likes of Tai Hang's much-loved Second Draft closing shop, but if openings like Carbon Brews' newest taproom prove anything, it's that unconventional beers and inventive gastronomy will always have a place in this city.

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