Experiencing a Chinese Beer Festival Posted by sasha on Aug 7, 2019 in Beer, Culture, Drinking, festivals
Summer (夏季 – xià jì) is in full swing in China. All across the country, people are doing their best to stay cool. For some middle-aged men, that means exposing their stomach in what’s known as the “Beijing Bikini” (北京比基尼 – běi jīng bǐ jī ní). Many families flock to water parks (水上乐园 – shuǐ shàng lè yuán) to beat the summer heat. This is a very popular month to travel, especially to coastal cities like Xiamen (厦门 – xià mén) and Qingdao (青岛 – qīng dǎo). The latter is home to a massive beer festival (啤酒节 – pí jiǔ jié). I talked about how to handle drinking in China last month, so today I’ll talk about experiencing a Chinese beer festival! Cheers! (干杯! – gān bēi)
History of Beer in Qingdao
Before we get into the drunken shenanigans of the beer festival, let’s learn a little bit of history (历史 – lì shǐ) about Qingdao. Way back in the day, during the Qing Dynasty, the government equipped the city to defend against naval attacks.
This caught the attention of Germany (德国 – dé guó), who decided they wanted Qingdao for themselves. From 1898-1914, the German navy used the city as a base. Surely feeling a bit homesick, they decided to bring a little bit of Germany to China, and thus the Tsingtao Brewery was born.
If you’re confused about why the beer and the city have a different spelling, it’s because the brewery still uses the old Wade-Giles format, while the name of the city is written in pinyin. Tsingtao is probably the most famous Chinese beer, as it’s one of the only brands that’s actually exported.
The Qingdao Beer Festival
The Qingdao International Beer Festival (青岛国际啤酒节 – qīng dǎo guó jì pí jiǔ jié) has been going on every summer since 1991. It’s a very popular event, drawing in over 6 million visitors in 2018! This year, the festival is happening from July 26 to August 18.
You know it’s a cool festival when their slogan is “Qingdao Gan Bei With the World” (青岛与世界干杯 – qīng dǎo yǔ shì jiè gān bēi). While the crowd is primarily Chinese, the beer comes from all over the globe. In addition to the obvious Tsingtao, other famous beer brands include Heineken (喜力 – xǐ lì), Carlsberg (嘉士伯 – jiā shì bó), and of course German brews like Paulaner (宝莱纳 – bǎo lái nà).
The festival grounds are huge, with several giant tents for the more famous beer brands. During the day, it’s more of a family affair. There are several carnival rides (游乐设施 – yóu lè shè shī) and games here for the kids.
If you’re not traveling with little ones and you’re looking to party, I recommend waiting until the evening to go into the festival. There’s no re-entry, so you’ll have to buy another ticket if you want to leave and come back. You’re better off chilling on the beach (海滩 – hǎi tān) during the afternoon, getting a good meal, and maybe doing a bit of pre-gaming. At least once during your stay, you’ve got to try the draft beer in a bag that’s found all over the city.
Later in the day, the beer is flowing and the grill is fired up cooking plenty of kebabs (串- chuàn). Each tent can hold a few thousand people, so they get pretty rowdy at night! There’s live music or some kind of show going on in all the bigger tents. You can also find some that have a KTV set-up if you’ve had enough liquid confidence to get on stage.
I’ve traveled all over China and going to the Qingdao Beer Festival remains one of my favorite experiences. I liked it so much the first time that I went back a few years later and brought my wife and best friend. People are super friendly (友好 – yǒu hǎo) at the festival. One group invited us to join their table and proceeded to buy giant pitchers of beer and a wide array of interesting snacks (raw garlic cloves and pickled chicken feet, anyone?). It was a bit of culture shock (文化冲击 – wén huà chōng jí) for my friend who had just moved there, but we all had a great time!
Just a word of warning – things can get a little crazy at a Chinese beer festival! The calls of “干杯!” are never-ending. Especially if you’re a 老外 and you’re a dude, you will be expected to go cup for cup until the entire giant pitcher is gone, at which point your new friends will order up another one and five more plates of snacks. Check out some highlights from our trip the Qingdao Beer Festival and see for yourself!
Here’s the vocabulary I used in the video for reference:
我爱啤酒！- Wǒ ài pí jiǔ
I love beer!
青岛国际啤酒节 – qīng dǎo guó jì pí jiǔ jié
Qingdao International Beer Festival
天上来啤酒 – tiān shàng lái pí jiǔ
第一天 – dì yì tiān
青岛与世界干杯 – qīng dǎo yǔ shì jiè gān bēi
Qingdao cheers with the world
德国啤酒 – dé guó pí jiǔ
嘉士伯 – jiā shì bó
喜力 – xǐ lì
米勒 – mǐ lēi
羊肉串 – yáng ròu chuàn
烤鱼 – kǎo yú
一，二，三… 茄子 – yī, èr, sān, qié zi
1, 2, 3… eggplant! (China’s way of saying “cheese” for photos)
圆盘传送带 – yuán pán chuán sòng dài
过山车 – guò shān chē
小桶 – xiǎo tǒng
流行歌手 – liú xíng gē shǒu
外国人跳舞，中国人拍照 – wài guó rén tiào wǔ, zhōng guó rén pāi zhào
foreigners dance, Chinese take pictures
鸡爪 – jī zhuǎ
我们认识了新的朋友 – wǒ men rèn shi le xīn de péng you
We met new friends.
布兰妮-斯皮尔斯 – Bù lán nī – sī pí ěr sī
大哥 – dà gē
我们都喝醉了 – wǒ men dōu hē zuì le
We were all drunk.