As Phnom Penh’s first bonafide German beer garden, Hops Brewery and Craft Beer Garden offers high-end brews and all the sauerkraut your heart desires, as writer Erin Hale and photographer Enric Català find out.
While it may seem like Phnom Penh is awash in cheap beer, Hops provides some respite with the capital’s first German-style beer garden serving a selection of high-quality Teutonic beers brewed onsite, alongside a selection of hearty dishes.
German brewmaster Bernd Kirsch has crafted four beers for the permanent menu: a light and smooth Golden Angel lager similar to a German pilsner, fruity Amber Witch wheat beer, full-bodied Red Fury Stout and a dark Indian Pale Ale (IPA). Each is made from four ingredients: hops, malt, water and yeast imported from Germany. A monthly special is also crafted.
Hops offers several sizes, with prices starting at $1.50 to $2.20 for a 0.175 litre “tester” – a highly recommended way to try all the beers as a “flight” progressing from light to heavy. A half litre goes for $3.90 to $6.20, while groups can also order beer towers for $29 to $44, or table barrels for really large groups for $45 to $59.
Kirsh hopes new breweries like Hops can change Cambodia’s appreciation for beer.
“We think that Cambodia is now ready for taste,” he says. “This was the same in Germany. First it was a mainstream product, then after a while people get bored from zero taste.”
And Kirsh may well be one of the best qualified to introduce dignified beer drinking to Cambodia, bringing years of experience as a brewmaster. However, the attention to detail doesn’t end at drinks. As a trained beer sommelier Kirsch hopes to provide a menu of well-paired German dishes to accompany a pint.
“From the sommelier view, we think about taste, more about the occasion for that beer, what is the best time or what is the best food. This is something we really want to do at Hops,” he says. “Our philosophy is to deliver quality and not just sell beer. We want to have good service, good food and good beer.”
The menu is also a standout for its authentic German fare – hard to find in Phnom Penh – which has proven popular with both Western and Khmer clients.Kirsh says the traditional pork knuckle ($17) with sauerkraut and French fries and currywurst with French fries and curry sauce ($7.75) are favourites with the afterwork Khmer crowd.
As a venue, Hops has something for everyone. There’s a large outdoor beer garden true to German style and more intimate seating available inside on the first and second level.
Guests can also sit in the brewery room amid the large chrome vats and watch staff tinker with each batch while sipping on beer, or try out the pool tables and darts in the opposite wing.
While the beer is undoubtedly the main attraction, there’s plenty to keep punters coming back to Hops for more.