A story that begins during the period when European nations and kingdoms were “struggling” for profitable and beneficial colonies, is the story that is associated with the “green” or “rich” (Tsing) region of a Chinese “island” (Tao). It was the era when exploration and conquest led to, among other things, the exchange of ideas, customs and traditions, many times beer was a part of this cultural exchange.
The Chinese province of Shandong, in central-eastern China and in particular the city of Tsingtao (or Qingdao), became the place where German colonists decided to start a brewery. The conditions were ideal, since the area was rich in raw materials, such as wood and water. Today, Tsingtao besides being one of the most important industrial centers of China, it is also a major sea port as well as a naval base. Tsingtao is the city which has the oldest brewery in China. It’s also the city where over the years many new breweries were established
German and British colonists took full advantage of the commercial potential of the city. Brewing was among the commercial transactions and cultural exchanges that took place. It was August 15, 1903 when Germania Brewery, today’s Tsingtao brewery, was founded. It is the second largest brewery in China, having 15%of the domestic market. The first beer was actually marketed nearly a year later. The calendar showed December 22, 1904 during a Kung Fu match.
The brewery remained in German hands until 1921, when as a result of World War I control passed onto the Japanese invaders. Subsequently it was passed to the Tsui family, which operated the brewery under government supervision. After 1949, when the communist political system was established, the Tsui family shares were confiscated by the government and the brewery was now run by the state. Exports began in 1954 and in 1972 it was introduced to the American public. In the early ’90s the company was passed on to private interest and in 1993 it was merged with three other Chinese breweries. The giant, called Anheuser-Busch invested in the brewery and held 27% of the shares. In 2009 part of those shares were sold to the Asahi Brewery while the remaining shares (7%) ware bought by the Chinese company, Chen Fashu for 235 million dollars.
Since 1991 an “International Beer Festival” takes place in Tsingtao but the only thing it had to show was the rise in popularity of the local beer. It takes place in August and lasts about 15days. These days it promotes and supports anything relevant to beer and beer culture. Originally the name of the festival was “Qingdao International Beer Festival”. It’s styled after the German Oktoberfest prototype.
The brewery currently has 60 breweries in 18 Chinese provinces. It aspires to have its beer fully recognized as an international product, while at the same time promoting Chinese culture on beer. In the past and prior to industrialization Tsingtao was a lush green area, near Laoshan mountain rich in natural resources. The water used to make Tsingtao beer has always come from the springs of Laoshan mountain, where Taoism had its beginnings. It is these natural springs that gush from Laoshan, that provide a distinctive quality in Tsingtao beer.
The front runner one beer of the Tsingtao Brewerey is still the first beer produced by the brewery the blond, Lager type Tsingtao! There are many, which place Tsingtao in the Pilsner category, a category in which it has won several distinctions. It is the number one selling Chinese beer in the U.S.A. It is a beer, that in recent years, has also made it’s presence known rather strongly successfully in the Greek market. Its slogan, “Chopsticks, not required” works for the Greek consumers, as well as, all of the European consumers who are not accustomed to chopsticks.
The first time I tried it was about a year ago, if I remember correctly at a Chinese restaurant in Athens So without chopsticks, I got a bottle of Tsingtao Chinese beer from the fridge. After opening it I filled my glass and I began my observations. Tsingtao has white very delicate foam. It doesn’t have a creamy texture. The foam has an adequate number of bubbles and it doesn’t last long. It is lost very quickly.
The body of the beer is clear and it has easily distinguishable bubbles. Its color is pale blonde. It offers the intense cereal and bread aromas as if in a mill or bakery seeing that barley notes dominate together with a hint of rice. It has sweet honey and blossom aromas. There is also a discrete presence of citrus aftertaste.
Carbonation is quite noticeable on the palate, which as usual can be misleading as to the body. Tsingtao has a light body but the carbonation can be overpowering. Crispy, slightly dry and bitter. I tasted the bread because of the barley and felt the playfulness of the rice. The hops give it a more pronounced bitter and grassy flavor. Its alcohol content is not impressive since it’s rather weak. Its aftertaste is initially slightly bitter but wanes fast and is quickly lost.
This short aftertaste leaves a dry feeling on the palate not necessarily negative.
Tsingtao is a bottom fermented beer which some call a Lager style Pilsner, apparently due to its intense hop (flavor) in comparison to other Lagers. Barley and yeast imported from Canada and Australia are used for its production. The alcoholic strength is between 4.7%-4.8%. The label on my bottle said 4.7% but the official website states that the beer is at 4.8% abv.
The Cardinal Company, which specializes in imports from the Far East, is the main importer of Tsigntao beer in Greece. While at a Lidl super market in Greece I came upon Tsingtao beer in 330ml bottles that do not mention the importer on the label. In Europe it is imported by Asian Express Food from Holland.
This post is also available in: Greek
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