Macau is Asia’s Las Vegas, except that in this former Portuguese colony visitors blow far more cash and booze far less than they do in Vegas.
Makes sense on both counts. Macau welcomes more than three times more tourists annually from mainland China than they do from the next-closest destination, Hong Kong, and more than 20 times more than Taiwan, which ranks a far third in this ignominious list. Chinese tend to have modest drinking habits, generally speaking, and so-called new money, or what GQ’s Devin Friedman calls “The Bling Dynasty,” is very much a thing in China. In short, Macau is where the fortunate Chinese mainlanders go to be seen and to spend, spend, and spend some more. Indeed, we’ve seen some truly disheartening amounts of cash blown willy-nilly at the baccarat and roulette tables in Macau’s high-end casinos.
In terms of alcohol, Macau fosters an environment more conducive to overpriced cocktails, liquors, and wines than craft beer. We’ll estimate that one would score more “face” with 99.8-percent of Macau’s visitors by whipping out an everyday bottle of Hennessy X.O. than a 12-pack of, oh, Pliny the Younger. However, the 0.2-percent that would surrender their first-born child for that twelver now, at least, have options beyond the regional macros.
Yes, sisters and brothers, craft beer has come to Macau.
Agora Taproom & Wine Bar: Rejoice, oh valorous breathren, for there be a proper taproom in Macau. It’s a mildly absurd place in a strange location, the room temperature is set to “frostbite,” and in A Clockwork Orange-like stab at eye torture, during our most recent visit Katy Perry music videos blasted on loop. This is what the real-life manifestation of “progress” looks (and apparently sounds) like in Macau, however. You take the bad with the good, you applaud the chutzpah of this unlikely endeavor, and you pray to whatever imaginary overlord you worship that Agora succeeds and works out the ambiance kinks.
We have our doubts, to be honest, as including this author and the tappist we’ve counted a total of six people between two stops. Maybe we just picked the slow nights, but either way please go and make it rain patacas here until the wee morning hours.
Agora has 20 lordly taps, each individually pressurized and fine-tuned. The beer list is fine and dandy and surprisingly well-curated: Mikkeller and Yeastie Boys IPAs, BrewDog’s Elvis Juice, Brouwerij Bosteels’ Tripel Karmeliet, and Hitachino Nest’s White Ale are among those noble brews that have flowed in our presence. Prices are generally 75 – 85 MOP, inclusive of free-flowing mixed nuts. Agora’s first craft bar, which has mostly bottles and is near Beer Temple, below, is also worth a look. Open daily 6pm – 4am(!). +853 6667 9520. Directions here.
Beer Pro: It’s a pleasant walk north through the neighborhoody backstreets of Santo António to this tiny bottle and homebrewing shop that has a few small tables, but is mostly just for takeaway. Some bottles are chilled, so if you can’t wait to pop the caps back at your hotel, sidle up to one of the benches along the adjacent waterfront (one that’s not particularly noteworthy) to open your disposable toys. If you do make it back to your accommodations with good beers in hand, please enjoy getting tipsy in bed while groaning through whatever addictive Adam Sandler drivel is on HBO that night. Yes, he will inevitably be lurking somewhere in your hotel television, today, tomorrow, and every day until you die.
Nothing wrong with the stock here: we’ve spotted imports from Stone Brewing, Tiny Rebel Brewing, Widmer Brothers Brewing, and Magic Rock Brewing, among others. Hong Kong breweries like Moonzen Brewery and Gweilo Beer have representation, as well, and there are a handful of bombers. Prices for 12-ounce bottles range from 30 – 75 MOP. Open Monday to Friday 4:30pm – 12am, and Saturday and Sunday from 3pm – 1am. +853 6358 6572. Directions here.
Hot Tip: Marks & Spencer, located on the second level of the Shoppes at Cotai Central, is for now one of the only places to pick up a decent beer in Cotai, better known as The Place Where Lucifer Harvests Souls. Head to the Food Hall’s booze section, where you’ll find a variety of legit (if not particularly exciting) M&S-branded craft beers and ciders contract-brewed in the UK and marked at fairly reasonable prices. There are often “3 for 2” sales, and once we even found a caged port barrel-aged ale brewed by Meantime. The lukewarm RateBeer reviews of the latter are fair, but in the barren beer wasteland that is Cotai, it’s nothing short of heavenly ambrosia.
Beer Temple: Like Big Boi it’s cooler than a polar bear’s toenails at this lovely, bizarre little spot that’s a short walk from the Ruins of St. Paul’s and Monte Fort. Here the idea of “chilling out” with a proper beer is taken quite literally: Beer Temple’s logo is a cartoonish crowned penguin, while just past the bar a fairly large polar bear (a fake one, people) stands amongst couches, one arm outstretched, in front of a glacier installation. The dimmed lighting is icy winter blue, of course, and illuminated beer bottles “parachute” down from the ceiling. It’s pretty fucking weird, and kind of brilliant, and we love it. There’s a video game console upstairs if it’s somehow not chill enough for you downstairs.
The prices and bottle list are comparable to what you’ll find at Beer Pro, though the selection seems slightly more limited. Australian and New Zealand breweries like Stone & Wood Brewing, Garage Project, Moondog Brewing, and 8 Wired Brewing are conspicuous; BrewDog’s Punk IPA and Kona Brewing’s Big Wave Golden Ale rank among the bar’s five top sellers. Open daily 1pm – 10pm. +853 2835 2803. Directions here.