Tsingtao Brewery, Qingdao, China
A friend of mine comes from a farming family and periodically gives me bundles of fresh veggies. The latest has been a truly prodigious quantity of spinach, some of which I used to make fried rice. Fried rice is Chinese food (well, “Chinese food” to an uncultured American swine palate like mine), so why not have a true Chinese beer to go with it?
The Brewer’s Pitch:
Incredibly, Tsingtao Lager has been made since clear back in 1903. This bottle looks pretty good for a member of the century club. The flavor is light and crisp and very refreshing- the flavor is nutty and slightly sweet, designed to compliment Chinese cuisine (or anything else) without weighing down your palate. It must be good- back in the day, Qingdao brewmasters were trying to please the Imperial palate with their beer. They succeeded, and Tsingtao has had a lasting place at the tables of imperial feasts as well as being both the number one selling beer in China and the number one Chinese beer in the US.
Tsingtao pours pale electric yellow with a thin yet lingering bright white head. The nose is rather less promising, smelling pungently of stale beer and slightly skunky. The taste belies the funky smell, however. The beer is crisp and clean, quite thin on the tongue. The front end is very faint, having not much to it beyond some faint hoppiness. On the back end, the beer’s character develops. A burst of body emerges characteristic of rice-based lagers from the US, with hints of the promised nutty flavor teasing around the edges. The finish is slightly sweet around gentle bitterness that fades into a slightly stale malt aftertaste.
This sure is a beer! It has a few elements that separate it from something you could find on tap anywhere in the country- it’s very light and crisp, and the nutty elements and lightly sweet finish are good enough. Still, the bulk of it is a pretty generic lager that comes in flat in the aftertaste like any other stale lager would do. Worth a taste, I suppose, and if you’re in the mood for a beer when you’re at a Chinese restaurant, you could do a lot worse.
The Bottom Line:
Europeans, take note. The Chinese use 12 ounce bottles. Not 11.2 oz, TWELVE OUNCES.