Nothing beats some ice cold suds at the end of a long week at work. If you’re tired of room temperature beer or excessive heads of foam, stop and relax. Stella Artois, the world’s best-selling Belgian beer, has launched its Draught Masters programme here in the 852 so thirsty Hongkongers can witness Stella’s signature four-step pouring ritual and savour a perfect pint.
What exactly is the Draught Masters? It’s essentially a cook-off for bartenders that started in June with more than 45 bars and restaurants participating. Bartenders are judged on how well they execute Stella’s four-step ritual and what unique flourishes they bring. If you’re not familiar with the four steps, there are: inspect, where the bartender holds the Stella Artois chalice up to the light to check that it’s pristine; pour, the simple-yet-precise method of filling the glass at a 45 degrees angle; skim, slicing away any excess foam with a knife; and present, serving the customer the pint on a coaster with the logo facing forward.
Pastis’ resident bartender Campos skimming the chalice as part of the four-step ritual
Now down to five finalists, participants have to be ready at any moment since designated ‘mystery shoppers’ are making anonymous visits to sample a pint without warning. That means every customer is a potential mystery shopper and every Hongkonger can expect a quality pour. What’s more, the selected finalists are all offering brilliant deals to celebrate their achievement, including Wyndham Street’s Pastis. This cosy neighbourhood joint is currently running a happy hour deal Monday to Friday from 3pm to 7pm where Stella costs just $44 a pint.
With a reputation for authentic French cuisine and a vibrant atmosphere that attracts both diners and party-goers, Pastis can now also boast having a master bartender – in the form of finalist, assistant manager and resident bartender Christopher Eric Campos – leading the drinks team. We speak to Campos about his road to the Draft Masters programme and what it means to represent the popular French bistro.
Is this the first time you’ve taken part in the Draft Masters?
I first tried out in 2014 but I didn’t do too well. So it’s really fun to be back and I'm happy to have the opportunity again. If you didn't do well before, you can always come back better. It’s good to have a new challenge with the mystery shoppers. It pushes me to a new level.
How did you prepare beforehand?
Practice makes perfect. I've watched a lot of programmes and videos of former competitors. While different competitors have their own skills, by watching them, I have more courage to try things myself. Whenever I have the chance to do the pouring, I just keep going for it.
How does it feel to be in the top five of the Draft Masters?
I'm very proud. It took at least a year and a half for me to perfect the 45-degree angle of the chalice and to pour exactly two-fingers of foam. And it’s really great to share my knowledge with my colleagues. It will mean a lot to me if I win. It’s not only for myself, I also want to win for the team. I have to share it with everyone.
What do you love about bartending?
Just the chance to meet a lot of different people. The vibe here at Pastis is crazy fun, especially on Fridays and Saturdays. I love the atmosphere. The surroundings and the people who come here are different from anywhere else. I’ve worked at many different bars before, and each bar has its own vibe. Here, they're funny and I love working with the staff and meeting different personalities.
Pair a 500ml Stella Artois with Pastis’ fried calamari for only $138 during Happy Hour (Mon-Fri 3pm-7pm)
French dishes pair really well with Stella. What would you recommend from the menu to go with a pint?
We’re actually doing a special deal pairing our signature calamari with Stella Artois. It's actually the perfect combination. The beer balances out the saltiness of the calamari. I would also recommend getting mini burgers or steak tartare. They bring out the crispness and freshness of a Stella.
Are you feeling confident about the finals?
Yes, I'm always confident [laughs]. Obviously, I'm going to keep pushing myself. But it’s also about just being who you are, serve the beer right and share the love.