Cheers to tradition
Wherever Germans go, they take their beer with them. That is why Qingdao offers China's most popular beer, Tsingtao, which was first brewed in 1903 by a consortium of Hong Kong-based British entrepreneurs and Qingdao-based German brewers.
The beer was a classic German Pils brewed according to the centuries-old German Purity Law, which allowed brew masters to use only barley, malt and hops.
In 1916, Japan's Dai-Nippon Brewery bought Tsingtao Brewery and ran it until the Japanese surrender in 1945. After a brief stint under Nationalist supervision, the brewery has spent most of the past 60 years as a state-owned enterprise until it went public in both Hong Kong and Shanghai in 1993.
The long brewing tradition has left a lasting impression on Qingdao. Barbecue stands selling freshly grilled seafood and pints of draft beer are common, while people regularly quaff chilled Tsingtao in restaurants.
Qingdao's International Beer Festival began in the early 1990s and takes place in late August for at least 14 days. The festival began as a local event to promote Tsingtao beer but now attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world and dozens of different beer varieties. Like the Ocktoberfest in Munich, the Qingdao festival is meant to foster beer culture, increase tourism and build a stronger community spirit.
Tsingtao is without question the most ubiquitous beer on the mainland, served in bars, clubs and restaurants. The major variety is the classic Pils handed down from the Germans with slight modifications to the recipe.
Tsingtao is a light, drinkable beer that goes well with any type of food, especially spicy dishes and seafood; the dark variety is slightly sweeter than other dark beers and is popular in colder weather.
For samples of Tsingtao's beers and a few others, visit Tsingtao Brewery and its museum for a guided tour that includes free beer, a fascinating look at promotional material through the decades and an in-depth history of the brewery.