Places to drink Tsingtao in Qingdao
Northeast China's Shandong provincial capital Qingdao has been brewing and drinking western-style beer for more than a century. And for good reason: from 1897 to 1914, the city was the hub of a German concession. No Teutonic territory would be complete without a local lager, so the Tsingtao Brewery Company was established in 1903. Now world renowned, it retains the city's old Roman spelling. Beer from the city's other brewery Laoshan is less widely distributed, and unlike its big brother it does not allow public visits. All over Qingdao patrons can be seen slurping Chinese and imported brews from stein-like, half-litre glass tankards and bottles; and ladies seem to keep up with the lads with gusto.
Tsingtao Brewery Bar
'We're only here for the beer!' could well be the motto of this bar, because China's largest beer manufacturer has put little effort into the dimly lit sprawling interior with a tiny bar at its centre. Tourists often end a brewery tour there and most desirable is the daily fresh draught beer, which has no added preservatives; drink it by the glass or pitcher. Six other bottled varieties are available, including a hoppy but highly carbonated dark beer, plus the top-of-the range Tsingtao Gold (10 yuan for a large bottle). An adjoining shop touts souvenirs as uninspiring as the bar's decor (56 Dengzhou Lu, tel: 86 532 383 3437).
Only its acronym name, together with the accompanying nocturnal mammal as its logo, have anything to do with bats at the Bar At The Shangri-La. Otherwise, this wood-panelled watering hole is unpreten-tiously European. Draught beers include Tsingtao, Carlsberg and German import Munchen; bottles and cans stretch the choice much wider. A lively band, pool table and table football score high when it comes to the fun factor. The punter mixture is 60:40 local to foreigner, with a sprinkling of westerners (Lobby Level, Shangri-La Hotel, 9 Xiang Gang Zhong Road, tel: 86 532 388 3838, www.shangri-la.com).
A down-to-Earth vibe and drinks at slightly lower prices than at other top-end bars attract a mixed crowd. Beer, and there is plenty to choose from (including Tsingtao draught), is usually the beverage of choice, particularly during the establishment's daily 7pm to 8pm happy hour, when all beers are half price. Discounted drinks plus loud music and dancing means this joint starts buzzing early (153 Minjiang Road, tel: 86 532 388 3838).
Corner Jazz Club
This is arguably the city's most yuppie-orientated hangout, but local and import beers are nevertheless quaffed as routinely as wine and cocktails. A house jazz ensemble weaves through the genre's better-known tunes on Wednesday and Thursday nights, with Friday and Saturday being left in the hands of foreign DJs - currently, Columbia's DL Sander is manning the decks. The menu is Western and ranges from bar snacks to wraps and pastas (153 Minjiang Road, tel: 86 532 388 3838).
Club New York
Despite its name and wide range of beers it is the bar's Irish draughts, specifically Kilkenny and Guin-ness, that pull in ale lovers. Atmosphere-wise the lavish venue is sedate compared to most of the above and there is also a cigar lounge (2/F, Overseas Chinese International Hotel, Xiang Gang Zhong Road, tel: 86 532 573 9199).
Unfortunately, no one has yet had the foresight to set up a waterside bar or restaurant on any of the city's string of beaches. Benches are in short supply on Qingdao Bay, but you can perch yourself along the edge of the promenade on the wide steps to the sand or on the rocks. Throw in a couple of bottles of local beer or perhaps the full-flavoured Shandong favourites, Yantai and Weiheiwei, and you can kick back and people-watch to your heart's content. Pearl and shell vendors, rock-pool investigators, robotic horse-riders and smartly dressed beach-goers precariously paddling are a few of the visual highlights.