Let me start off by saying I have been a huge fan of GLB since moving to the city in 2014. I love their beer, with the Little General and Explorer General IPAs being among my favorites on tap in Beijing. I remember going to the #12 location when I first moved here and being impressed by the service and the burgers on offer. It was always crowded, but had a good vibe with a nice clientele.
My, how the mighty have fallen. The standards at #12 have seriously gone into the crapper. The burgers and fries are now nothing short of a joke. The fries are below McDonalds-level quality, and even the sweet potato fries (how on earth one can make those taste bland is beyond me) are just “meh” and often undercooked. The burgers are also quite sad, boasting tiny, grey, fast-food quality meat patties, no inventive ingredients or options on offer, and dripping with grease. The double cheeseburger is the size of a single patty burger at competing restaurants.
Poor food options could be easily excused due to the excellent beer on offer, if it weren't for the other, much larger problem of the clientele at #12. The location has apparently tapped into the dirt-bag, English-training center expat demographic in Beijing. If you, like me, are not a part of this demographic, but work in an office from Monday-Friday and like to go out to have a beer after work on a weekday evening, then you are in for a not-so pleasant surprise in 2017 at GLB #12. Your quiet Monday evening is the start of the weekend to some group of idiotic unlicensed English teachers working illegally on tourist visas, with no real reason to be here and nothing to lose. Loud, obnoxious, screaming, breaking glasses, you name it. The immature behaviors that collectively showcase the worst of the expat community in Beijing are all on display at GLB #12.
Thankfully, and the only reason I have given GLB two stars overall, the #45 location has much better food on offer and, being close to the embassy district, attracts a much more subdued and pleasant clientele. I quite like some of the pizza there, which has improved greatly since that location launched in the summer of 2015. The service is also much better at that location, likely the result of a smaller, more manageable space. Even though I live 15-20 minutes walking distance from #12, I find myself hopping over to #45 more and more often due to the overall more pleasant and relaxing experience.
I will always find myself coming back to GLB simply because of the beer. But I also find myself branching out to other gastropub options in Beijing now. Places like Jing A and Slowboat may not be able to match the quality of their brews (just yet, although Jing A does boast some excellent seasonals and collabs) but both have crafted a better experience overall with their respective Sanlitun locations. I hope the owners of GLB can get things under control at #12. Even in a saturated market like Beijing, it would be great to have it as a viable option for dinner and drinks again.