Thursday, October 11, 2007

Damn... let's go to the brewery.

After arriving in Qingdao, and briefly exploring the city and beaches, we were so impressed with the beautiful weather that we made the snap decision to stay an extra night here, so as to get in plenty of swimming, sunning and beach lounging before heading to Shanghai. That night in the hostel bar I made a point of asking the bartender what the weather was supposed to be like for the next few days. "Nice," he said. "Sunny," he said.

When we woke up yesterday morning we couldn't tell what the weather was like because you can't even see the sky from our window, but we geared up for a day of beachfront leisure, only to be greeted by gray skies and fog. In our optimism, we thought the sun would burn it off and bring back the clear skies and sun of the day before. So, we wandered around looking for breakfast, a quest which ended up taking hours due to the lack of the streetfood vendors and small bakeries which we had become dependent on in Beijing. Meanwhile it started raining.

Having finally found some potato pancakes, steambread and dried fruit, we made our peace with the fact that we wouldn't be going to the beach that day. So we went back to the hostel, got some real clothes on and hailed a cab to take us to the famous Tsingtao brewery to sample the local goodness. Now, the Lonely Planet Guide Book (which, frankly, sucks) tells us that the term for Tsingtao Brewery is "Qingdao Pijiuchang" and our cabby repeated the phrase as if he knew what we wanted. But, instead of delivering us at our intended destination, he took us out to the local "Beer Carnival" on the edge of town, which wouldn't have been a horrible mistake if the place had looked like it had been open at any point in the last 30 years. Instead, it was crumbling, dilapidated and a disgrace to its enticing name. So then we played pictionary and charades with our cabby, trying to explain what a brewery was, before he called someone who spoke english, at which point he laughed and drove us to the Brewery.
At the brewery, we got to check out all kinds of old-timey beer making stuff, smell hops and yeast and learn all kinds of things about Tsingtao we never knew... its history. Did you know that it was founded by Germans? how cool is that?
We also discovered, that despite its despicable Nazi roots, Tsingtao beer cares about the environment. This was the last picture in a whole display on environmental responsibility... and I thought that there was nothing I could do to help the environment!
The highlight of the brewery (besides the free beer) was the drunk simulator, a room that induces an extreme state of unsteadiness. We still aren't sure if this was caused by a sloping floor, or the rad mural of KISS and other rock greats, but it sure made us feel like we had our slant on.
To enhance the enjoyment of the drunk simulator, there was a camera inside to capture every awkward stagger. This elderly couple didn't look like they enjoyed the experience quite as much as we did.

After cruising the gift shop, and being hugely disappointed by the tasting room (you couldn't try their black beer or the frighteningly enticing "spirulina beer") we ditched the place in total agreement that the Deschutes Brewery in Bend is a way more entertaining experience. With nothing better to do, we had a long two-pitcher lunch at a restaurant across the street, by the end of which we were entertaining ourselves by dubbing the Red Army drama on TV into english. The black beer was good (stout taste without the thick, heavy body), and luckily we had a business card in chinese to show our cab driver, ensuring a drama-free ride back to the hostel. After all, we were in no state for another extended game of charades.

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