Many a Western traveller arrives in Qingdao with a nagging sense of familiarity regarding the city’s name. It usually doesn’t take too long to be put straight – this is the home of Tsingtao, China’s undisputed number-one beer. The confusion stems from its non-pinyin romanization, which can be directly attributed to the brewery’s age; it was started way back in 1903 (when Chinese used the Wade-Giles transliteratory system) as a German-British joint venture, before coming under Japanese control during their occupation of Qingdao. The Japanese ramped up production and essentially transformed Tsingtao from a pumped-up microbrewery to a national success story. During the first decades of Communist control, Tsingtao beer was pretty much the only product exported from China.

As in the rest of China, bottles of Tsingtao can be bought all over the city. However, it would be a shame to leave Qingdao without buying the unpasteurized draught version, sold in plastic bags on the streetsides – getting the nectar into the bag without spillage is something of an art form. Tsingtao also takes pride of place during the International Beer Festival, which occurs each August at International Beer City, way out to the east of town.

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