In celebration of the last weekend of the annual Qingdao International Beer Festival, Shanghaiist presents a list of beer and non-beer related facts about Qingdao:
- After Jiaozhou Bay was ceded to the Germans in May 1897, the small fishing village of Qingdao turned into the military hub of the German Navy. The city became the naval nerve center of all German operations in the Pacific ocean. It was the Germans, homesick and in great need of beer, who constructed and opened the hallmark Tsingtao Brewery in 1903.
- In the antebellum period of World War I, the Germans were forced to Flee after the British and Japanese combined forces and laid siege to the outpost. The Japanese maintained control over the city (and the brewery) until 1922, when it was returned to China. But in 1937, the Japanese reoccupied the city as part of their expansion into mainland China.
- After World War II, the city served as a U.S. naval port for a brief period before the founding of the PRC.
- Tsingtao beer is now sold in 62 countries and regions around the world. It’s been in the U.S. since 1972, which is incidentally the year that Richard Nixon became the first U.S. president to visit China.
- The Tsingtao Brewery was privatized in the early 1990’s, and immediately began holding the Qingdao International Beer Festival in 1991. Part tourist attraction, part brand promotion, the festival has become a mainstay of the city and is one of its most popular attractions
And, of course, all this talk of Qingdao and beer has naturally got us curious about Tsingtao beer. Besides the factoid our friend told us about how the 3 kuai liter bottles use formaldehyde as a preservative (and we kind of believe him, judging from the hangovers), we realized that we know almost nothing about China’s most famous beer.
Tsingtao Beer, a well-hopped standard pilsner of 3.1% alcohol, is the flagship brew, accounting for most of the brewery’s production. An unpasteurised version is sold as Tsingtao Draft Beer. Tsingtao Beer was long advertised as being “brewed with mineral water from the Laoshan Spring”, which contributed to its characteristic flavour; however, this now applies only to beer produced in Qingdao, not to that produced in the company’s other breweries. Originally, Tsingtao Beer was brewed in accordance with the German Reinheitsgebot (‘Purity Law’) of 1516, therefore the only ingredients that were used were water, barley, and hops. After privatization however, the recipe was changed, so that today Tsingtao beer, like many other beers made in China, contains a proportion of the less-expensive rice as an adjunct in the mash.
The brewery also produces a number of other beers, mostly for the local market. Those sometimes encountered outside China include Tsingtao Dark Beer (5.2% alcohol), and more rarely Tsingtao Spirulina Green Beer, also sold as Tsingtao Green Beer, a 4.5% alcohol green-coloured pilsner containing spirulina as an additive, and claimed to promote good health. (Note: alcohol content of export versions may vary slightly.)
Of course, one of the beer fest’s biggest attractions is that we finally have the chance to drink beers other than Tsingtao. But we’re always up for trying a new variety of Qingdao, especially healthy, spirulina filled beer (although it bears an eerie resemblance to the water that comes out of our bath). And we’d rather ganbei with the world for a weekend than ganbei with our friends at our local xiaomaibu like we usually do.
We’re a bit stout-headed when it comes to planning things in advance, but for the weaker of stomach, there’s a pretty good guide to getting your kuai’s worth of a beer festival. China has named Qingdao the ninth most livable city in China, but Shanghaiist’s Chinglish loving side thinks a more appropriate accolade is “China No. 1 Fragrant Beer King City”