Now, a topic everyone wonders about…if they drink beer! China has a variety of beers. They are mostly Pilsners or lagers. There are some darks, or stouts, along with some local brews. The beer market here is huge, of course, so there are too many to name them all. The ones featured here are just the highlights found in our area near Shanghai.
Many beers in China are named for the towns they come from. Like Harbin is a city northeast of Beijing. It is home to the annual winter festival that starts on January 5 and lasts one month each year. It has ice sculptures, winter activities, and of course, Harbin Beer, which has little pictures of the winter town on the label. Suntory is brewed in Shanghai; it really comes from Japan as you can see by the Japanese-type mountain on the label. It is probably a Chinese copy beer, as the Suntory in Japan has a totally different label. In Japan, it is a fancy beer, but here, in China, it is in the cheap beer category, costing 10 RMB a six-pack or $1.40 US.
Here is another Chinese “knock-off” beer. It clearly resembles Budweiser, but is actually Blue Diamond, as you can read on the label. Budweiser is available here, for about 30 RMB, or $4.28 US. The Blue Diamond brand is about half this price.
This brings us to the “King of Chinese Beers.” Tsingtao. It is the largest brewery in China. This beer too is named for the town it comes from, Qingdao, in Shandong province. There are many other breweries now, but it still keeps its original town name. The beer is pronounced “Ching-dow”, and the name has been changed to Tsingtao, for easy Western pronunciation, sort of. Notice the NBA logo on the label, as it is a big sponsor of NBA basketball here in China, which the Chinese are crazy about, not just because of Chinese player Yao Ming, who plays for Houston, but basketball in general. Budweiser has actually brought into Tsingtao, for about 10% ownership.
Here are some other Chinese beers. The first, Snow, is a low-cost beer, 8RMB a six-pack, or about $1.14 US. It is put out by SABMiller, and it is comparable to Busch or Old Milwaukee in the US. Yanjing is a Beijing beer and was a big sponsor of the Olympics. It bills itself as the biggest selling beer and the biggest brewery, but all other reports say Tsingtao is the biggest. The third beer is called REEB and is brewed in Shanghai. It is obviously aimed at English readers, as REEB is BEER spelled backwards! Have a cold beer, or a REEB DLOC!
This last example is a Chinese exotic beer as it is beer mixed with pineapple juice! I haven’t tried it yet, but it doesn’t seem to be very popular! Overall most beers in China are cheap in cost. Most come in the standard 12 ounce cans. There are pints or 500 ml cans, and large 500 ml bottles. Tsingtao puts out a small bottle about 250 ml, like a “short.”
Lastly, observe the Chinese old-fashioned “pop-tops.” The safety “pop-top” on the right is new for most beers. Most beer cans have the “pop-tops” like Jimmy Buffett cut his foot on in Margaritaville. There are no “screw-off” bottle caps that I have seen yet, so a bottle opener is still a valuable tool here. You can even get a Mao bottle opener at his memorial gift shop! So enjoy a Chinese beer!