"In April the sweet showers fall
And pierce the drought of March to the root, and all
The veins are bathed in liquor of such power
As brings about the engendering of the flower."
--Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, "General Prologue"
That's it, Gulou! It's over! Pack it in! Shut it down! We've done it! Best bar in Gulou -- nay, best bar in Beijing, you effronterous swine -- just opened up in Jiaodaokou Bei San Tiao. We've all had a good run. But it's all over now. We're done here.
Give the crown to Knights & Merchants.
Oh, wait they've got their own. Check this shit OUT.
Knights & Merchants is one room jammed packed with... oh, let's say about 5 centuries of radness from humanity's glorious tradition of armed conflict. It's a bunch of swords and helmets and armor and gauntlets and crowns and jewelry and chainmail and spears and maces and crossbows and halberds and shields and leather, leather, oh my god the leather from from the likes of Ancient Rome, Arthurian England, Conquistador Spain, the Crusades, the Mongolian hordes, and whatever from wherever and whenever else. And there's a big table in the center of it all.
And they serve beer and wine.
And they let you try the stuff on!
I'm hyperventilating! I'm hyperventilating!
Knights & Merchants is owned and operated by this gentleman right here, a knight of fine pedigree and noble heart. He trades in authenticity and righteous steel, draping himself in the adornments of yesteryear: fetching leather craftsmanship, arm bands, iron shin guards and gauntlets, bronze work and medallions, and a giant, cool-as-shit copper belt.
Here he is, befuddled by your modern technology and currency that has so reduced the men of this age to mewling quim, braying for their MOTHER'S TEET instead of the warrior's battle cry.
So, my main man Leonidas here is part of some sort of medieval appreciation society in China. Apparently, they've got over 1000 members around the country and maybe 100 or so in Beijing. The bar functions as their clubhouse, workshop, and as a spot to chill at and enjoy wicked lute music from the stereo and themed libations like honey wine and black beer. (No shit.) Said society doesn't really meet up to recreate famous battles like they do in the West. Probably, I'm guessing, because the gov would get super bummed out on 1000 Chinese people hooking up over QQ and dressing up like a bunch of Spartans and running around the countryside. Whatcanyoudo...
But yeah, he's also a craftsman, and has created a lot of this gear himself by hand. You can even purchase some of it.
Maybe you've got a special elf in your life who's birthday is coming up?
(Mine is in January, FYI.)
But it's definitely an authentic history society kind of vibe. More medieval fair than Lord of the Rings. If it was me, personally, I would have Lord of the Ringsed it up by about 30% -- maybe get some of those neat Sauron iron gloves in there or something -- maybe have a THOU SHALT NOT PASS... UP THIS MOJITO SPECIAL promotion -- but you can tell they're taking it pretty serious, and going for historical accuracy part and parcel with dress-up escapism.
Hey, check out these weapons.
That last one, I pointed to this thing, and I'm like, "Holy shit, guy. This is so sweet!"
He says calmly and coolly: "Oh yes, that's a Morning Star."
Let's get a drink, shall we?
Haha, yeah the menu is a leather parchment. It was written in some sort of ancient Frodo language so I couldn't understand a word of it. I can't decipher these fucking runes.
They've got some evil looking liquor from which they make the standards.
But you should be rocking the "BLACK BEER". (Which is some dark beer from Germany or something).
They've also got "honey wine" or I think that's what these are. I was down for whatever they were selling. I don't know, it worked. Whatever, man. Prices were a bit... pricey on the drinks. Think that black beer was 45rmb a cup, which is definitely high for the hutongs.
But, dude, they've earned it. They've earned it. Scroll back up there and look at those pictures again for verification.
And they gave us a complimentary baked apple. (!!)
A finer apple I have never sup'ed on.
They also offer a Bugles and Chex mix worthy of kings.
So! Costumes! Yes. They let you try the stuff on. But you can't just get all grabby grabby with it. You've got to get one of the staff members to help you, lest you impale yourself on an axe or something. Don't mess with this stuff, man. This is serious business.
THIS. IS. SPARTA. KINDA.
Privey tell, good knight. What didst thou sayeth about mine jorts? Defend yourself!
The Take-Away: Oh yes. Definitely. Yeah, for sure. You want to go. Definitely. Fuck it, I'll go with you right now. RIGHT NOW LET'S GO.
Knights & Merchants is at 34 Jiaodaokou Bei San Tiao, right next to BLAKK and La-Bas. They're open daily from 3pm to 1am. Just look for the drawbridge, haha.