When my colleague is reading up on the latest trends in traditional costume and jewellery, humming Bavarian oldies, and doing an intensive study of the rules for lacing up a dirndl apron, then you know the Oktoberfest is not far off.
But who’s talking about Munich’s pride and joy here? We’re referring to a beer festival that’s held not in the state capital, in fact not even in Bavaria. I mean, of course, to Asia’s biggest beer festival, held in Qingdao in the east of China. Confirmation enough that beer enjoys iconic status not only in Bavaria. The Chinese beer industry has in recent years veritably blossomed. The Chinese are definitely fond of the amber nectar. Reason enough to take a closer look at the beer culture in the Land of the Dragon. How practical, then, that I have a colleague with Chinese roots in the department next door, who can provide me with abundant information …
The times in which China played a very minor role on the global beer market are meanwhile history; the People’s Republic has evolved into the sector’s biggest producer nation. Even though the Chinese, in comparison to the Germans, are relatively moderate beer-drinkers, consumption is showing an uptrend. In , after all, three out of the world’s biggest breweries were located in China. So there’s definitely something brewing there!
Four out of five Chinese prefer regional brands, but German beer has long been a significant influence in China’s “Beer Chronicles”, and even today is still a significant player. The best evidence that German beer has always been well received in distant Asia is provided by Tsingtao Beer. German beer in China?! To understand this, we have to go in time, back to , to be precise. It was in this year that the German colonial rulers settled, for strategic reasons, in the coastal region of Kiautschou. And where there are Germans, then as we all know, beer can’t be very far away. So they founded the “Germania Brewery”, where they brewed their beers in accordance with the German Purity Law. Following the triumph of the Japanese over the Germans, up to the resettlement of the area by the Chinese population, the brewery merrily continued producing its beer, under the name of “Tsingtao”, which is still being used today. It would in fact seem that the Chinese citizens have come to like this souvenir of the German colonialists almost as much as they relish their absence.
Over the course of time, attempts were made to match the beer to the Chinese population’s preferences. That’s why meanwhile the brewers are using rice instead of barley, for example.
Today, the beer produced by the eponymous brewery on China’s east coast takes second place among China’s largest, and ranks sixth in the world. “That’s probable the best-selling beer among my compatriots. At the Quingdao Beer Festival, you can also try the Tsingtao in addition to other German beers,” my colleague Senny Trieu informs me.
With a grin on her face, Senny then tells me something about the somewhat outlandish, or let’s say unconventional form of packaging used by Tsingtao in Thailand. Street vendors there, you see, sometimes sell the beer in plastic bags. I think this is a pretty impractical idea, which is why I continue to prefer the traditional bottle.
Among the younger to middle-aged generations, particularly, the Snow Beer from the China Resources Breweries scores particularly highly. This is also Senny’s favourite among the Chinese brews. “The Snow Beer is a Chinese lager. Sweetish, light and less strong than German beers, for example, this is a beer I can really get fond of,” opines Senny.
Finally, she explains to me that Chinese beer, compared to its German counterpart, is in her opinion less tangy, less malty, tasting milder overall. Some people might describe it as “less beery” or “more watery. Senny, at least, doesn’t seem bothered by that in the slightest.