Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Beer in China, Tsingtao

For those that don't know, I'm currently traveling through China. In an effort to keep the unquenchable appetites of my readers fulfilled, I thought I'd try some mobile blogging.
So far while wandering around Beijing I've seen a few different mass industrial produced lagers.  Most of them resemble the malt liquor I drank out of 40s in college, and a few seem to match that unmistakable essence of Milwaukee Best.  However, when in China there is one name that dominates almost all beer, Tsintao, pronounced "chin-dao."
This staple of Chinese beer, widely available in the states, is something of a Budweiser of China, and in taste its not too far off the mark from that: watery malts, with no apparent hops presence, and massive carbonation.  In pairing with all the rich and often spicy foods we've been eating, the beer is often too thin to stand up to such bold flavors.  But even with all its faults, when served cold it does a remarkable job of cutting through the humidity and smog of the city.
Tsingtao comes from an area just Southeast of Beijing and nestled on the coast of the Yellow Sea called, Qingdao.  The area was claimed by Germany in 1898, which helped to begin its beer production in 1903, and thus Tsingtao was born, making it one of the few active breweries in the world over 100 years old. After a brief ownership under the Japanese occupation, as Dai Nippon Brewery starting in 1914, they returned to their namesake under communist China in 1949.  After that the beer flourished and is now owned by the giant InBev, I guess that explains the flavor similarities to Budweiser. 

While they started out with two styles: a light pilsner and dark munich, it's the pilsner that is found in most restaurants around the world.  The taste as I mentioned isnt really worth writing about, but under Anheiser-Busch leadership they do remain consistent.  Supposedly you can still get a version of their dark Munich if you go to the original brewery location in Qingdao, where the beers are served traditionally in bags rather than bottles.  As of yet I have no plans to make it out there, but things may change as the trip continues.

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