Phnom Penh is dotted with Khmer-style beer gardens, but the city’s newest offering of the German variety – the aptly named Hops – is hard to miss. It’s large enough to hold a spacious, table-lined courtyard, two floors of indoor seating, a competition-level pool hall and an in-house brewery.
“We needed the size to make [the brewery] worthwhile,” says owner Tassilo Brinzer. “A German biergarten is usually quite big. In Munich, they have five hectares.”
Phnom Penh may never require that much space, but Brinzer’s setup on a side street just north of Independence Monument could certainly compete.
The lot was last occupied by villa-style Italian restaurant Le Duo, which was demolished so that Hops might be built from the ground up – a project that, along with the logistics of brewery design, took about two years. Part of the issue was adjusting the foundation to the weight of the beer.
“The brewery is quite heavy when it’s full,” Brinzer explains.
And it is the brewery that is Hops’ crowning achievement. Everything that goes into the water is imported directly from Germany: malt, yeast and, yes, hops. The brews are all made on site with a cold-production process. There are two brewmasters on staff to oversee it, one Cambodian and one a German beer sommelier.
“How you ‘pair’ beer with food, I’m not sure – but he knows how to do it,” Brinzer says with a laugh.
For now, there are just four beers on the menu – a lager, a wheat beer (the most refreshing in the Phnom Penh heat), a red stout and an IPA – and all come in at $3 a glass or under. The first monthly special, a belated Oktoberfest brew, will debut at the grand opening next week, says general manager Pierre-Marin Perez.
Hops also offers plenty of food, from Cambodian classics to German specialties. The price point ($7 and up) seems steep, but the portions are equally hefty: an entrée could easily be split in two. Post Weekend recommends the classic currywurst ($7), in this case served with chips.
The brewery and beer garden is first and foremost targeting those in its immediate surrounds, though beer-lovers from around the city seem to have been the most loyal customers in the trial run.
“We tried to focus on a social garden atmosphere,” Brinzer says. “The idea was to create a nice space in the neighbourhood – like it is in Germany – with one outdoor space with benches and a garden setting.”
Location aside – and it is charming – some of the only craft brews in town are certain to draw a crowd. Hops has definitely got the room.
Hops Brewery and Craft Beer Garden is located at #17 Street 228, and is currently open from 4pm to 10pm daily. The grand opening is set for Friday, October 14.