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One Night in Qingdao – I Drank Tons of Beer

By Morag Hobbs, Liu Ning, Li Yan (People's Daily Online)    17:18, May 21, 2018

"Ganbei!" - We cheers over the meal that my colleague and friend, Ning, has ordered for us to try. He's originally from Qingdao, and so has a far better knowledge than me of the local dishes and what will go best with the locally brewed beer, Tsingtao.

Tsingtao is the much loved beer of Qingdao and indeed the country. In fact, it was the first beer I ever tried when I landed in China for the first time three years ago, and is up there as one of the country's most famous. It seems fitting to be enjoying a glass or two right over the road from the brewery the way it's meant to be had - out of a small, almost shot sized glass with fresh seafood and barbequed meat.

We try a variety of dishes - my personal favorite a scallop dish with soy and salad. The food, compared to other dishes in China, is not overly spicy and lets the seafood speak for itself. The clean taste of Tsingtao really goes hand in hand with the fresh taste of the food.

Among the beautiful coastal bays and bright lights of Qingdao's skyline, the local culture of Qingdao is here on Beer Street, as you watch people pass through for dinner and drinks that last until late into the night. The smell of the sea, the cool air and the sense of relaxation you feel here is contagious. There isn't a bar culture here in Qingdao, instead people meet their friends at a restaurant just like this, a round table on the street, and drink beer and enjoy hours of company and conversation.

In a world that constantly feels like it's speeding up, life slows down a little round these tables.

Before sampling the delicious spread in front of me, I got to taste test the fresh beer across the road at the original brewery. Tsingtao brewery was originally opened by the Germans way back in 1903 and you can still see the architecture that stands out compared to the surrounding Chinese-style buildings. The name "Tsingtao" comes from the original Latin spelling of the city's name before the modern phonetic alphabet, pin-yin, was developed. Tsingtao's brewing methods have stayed pretty similar since then, apart from upgrading machinery to keep up with the sheer demand required today.

The ingredient list has only changed slightly since it was first developed. Of course, China grows a lot of rice, and it's found its way into the ingredient list alongside hops and grains to make the beer I've been drinking all day. The beer takes around 40 days to go from grain to bottle and the city is the only place you can get a taste of the "fresh beer", which has a shelf life of only 24 hours. It's less filtered, and has a stronger, full bodied taste that goes with the higher alcohol content. During my visit, I was lucky enough to catch up with Dong Fang, the Curator of Tsingtao Brewery Museum, over a German styled lunch, and, of course, a few glasses of Tsingtao, to discuss how the brewery has developed since it opened over 100 years ago.

"When they first built the brewery, Germans began a high-quality industry. Then, Chinese people infused our brilliant traditional culture into it, using management skills and local advantages to develop the beer into a global brand," he said. Dong explained that due to benefits of the Belt and Road Initiative, Tsingtao is now exported to over 100 countries. When asked about the upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit to be held in Qingdao this June, he added "to SCO-associated countries, our exports have increased rapidly as well, with an average year-on-year increase of over 70%."

The expansion of the Tsingtao brewery across the whole country and indeed world is something that people from the city are incredibly proud of. As I cheers a group of dinner goers back on Beer Street, they tell me about a bar that I need to check out before my time in Qingdao is up. By this stage, I've been drinking since 10am and am starting to feel a little dizzy, but there's no way I can pass up on the opportunity when I hear the bar serve one of Tsingtao's newer additions - a stout!

Walking into the local community bar and restaurant, we order some more local dishes including sea cucumber, octopus and to my delight, more clams, along with a "one by one" which includes all the beer that Tsingtao produce at the moment - lager, fresh beer, IPA and the much anticipated stout. The array of beer shows that Tsingtao, although already successful, has not become complacent. China's interest in different beers has been growing steadily for the past few years, and Tsingtao has produced an IPA and stout to compete with an international market and appeal to a wider audience. The stout has a coffee and chocolate tinge that I really enjoy, less heavy than a UK stout but still rich in flavor and somewhat easier to drink in one go.

Qingdao is gearing up for the 18th Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit this June, and the city is already getting ready. Renovations are obvious, and the beautiful skyline has been upgraded to rival light shows all over the world.

But, for me, it's here on Beer Street with Qingdao locals that you truly feel a part of the city and community, and can enjoy the simple things in life like some great food and a glass of beer with friends.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Liu Ning, Bianji)

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