We’re not sure what prompted us to buy a bottle of REEB Antarktik Beer the other day. We don’t normally buy beer at Shanghai convenience stores. We don’t normally buy Chinese beers. But it was exceptionally hot and humid on Saturday. We were thirsty, and perhaps got suckered in by the photo of ice caps on the label. Or maybe we just thought it was cool the way they used Ks in the word “Antarctic.” (Apparently, REEB used the Bosnian and Serbian spelling of the word — another creative coup form the people who brought us “beer spelled backwards.”)
We also, coincidentally, are longtime fans of the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration — we have all their albums — and were overcome with excitement when we read the text on the foil near the top of the bottle:
Reeb Antarktik Lager Beer offers a clean, crisp and refreshing taste that has won it much acclaim amongst the Chinese National Antarctica Research Expedition.
We take all of our beer recommendations from Chinese scientists. We had to buy this beer. Who can pass up a “[c]reatively invented South Pole Special Formula“?
There is more text, down on the label:
Reeb Antarktik Lager Beer is inspired by the purity of Antarctica. It is brewed by using the choicest of imported malt, the most fragrant hops from America and top grade yeast which has been carefully cultivated in Holland.
REEB is brewed in Shanghai and the overwhelming majority of its drinkers must be Chinese. Yet, the above explanatory text only appears on the bottle in English. A Shanghainese friend says companies do this so that “we’d think that it looks foreign.” Not exactly a new technique, but what is interesting here is that, unlike some other attempts, the English on the bottle is pretty much perfect. And even more surprising — it’s actually kind of accurate.
We totally expected to hate Antarktik beer, and we figured this post would have at least one reference to formaldehyde (other than that one). Now we don’t know if the hops really comes from America or the yeast from Holland, but we have to say Antarktik — which has 4 percent alcohol content — wasn’t bad. It was indeed crisp and clean. It had no aftertaste (some might argue it had no taste at all). It was refreshing. On a hot Shanghai summer afternoon, you could do much worse than an ice cold Antarktik. (But if, like us, you like your summer beer to come with a little more flavor, you may want to look elsewhere … like 30 kuai drafts of Hoegaarden at Senses.)
We bought our Antarktik at a Lawson’s near the corner of Wulumuqi Lu and Yongjia Lu. We forget the price … but it was cheap.