VISITING THE TSINGTAO BEER FACTORY, HOME OF CHINA’S ICONIC BREW
Some travel destinations are tied to beer. Think: Munich, Milwaukee, Dublin, Sapporo. The seaside city of Qingdao, on China’s northeast Shandong coast is forever bound to it’s local brew, Tsingtao Beer, which is now one of the most-consumed beers in the world.
When traveling to new cities, visiting a beer brewery is consistently one of my favorite activities.
Bill and I, along with our friends Hye Mi and the Shameless Traveler, recently had the chance to visit the Tsingtao Brewery Museum in Qingdao, China. It was one of our “sober” activities during the week of the Qingdao Beer Festival. We get credit for a cultural destination, even if it’s filled with beer.
Qingdao is perhaps the most beer-soaked city I’ve ever been to. Throughout the year, and especially in summer, the old streets of colonial Qingdao are lined with informal sidewalk ‘cafes’ serving up fresh draft beer for just 2rmb ($0.30) a glass, along with snacks like sauteed clams, skewered chicken hearts and spicy shredded potato. Beer, food and a temperate coastal climate with great seafaring views. What’s not to love about Qingdao?
So, lets get to the beer factory:
The Qingdao Factory is located on Qingdao’s “Beer Street”, or as I call it, The Greatest Street in the World.
The city of Qingdao is in Shandong Province. Qingdao is halfway between Beijing and Seoul, South Korea. Most tourists arrive via Beijing, which takes about 5 hours by high-speed train (300 rmb / $45).
Many tourists arrive from Seoul, South Korea by overnight ferry (18 hours / price depending on berth class). This has always been my preferred method of arriving in Qingdao. Nothing says “new country” like stepping off a boat, passport in hand.
Qingdao also has an international airport with flights between other NE Asian cities and frequent flights to Shanghai and Beijing. The airport is 32 km (20 mi) from the city center and a taxi should cost about 130 rmb ($21 usd).
With old friends reunited in Seoul the week before, we set off across the sea by ferry to Qingdao, just in time for the Qingdao Beer Festival. The festival itself was a slight let-down, but the city of Qingdao still had a lot to offer, and visiting the beer factory / museum, the place where it all began, was a must.
The ‘tour’ is self-guided, so you can take as little or as much time as you’d like, though it shouldn’t take much more than 1.5 hours. You can view displays illustrating the history of beer-making in China. The whole thing is delightfully tacky and also pretty informative.
The beer comes at the end of the tour.
Don’t miss The Drunk House, a disorienting, gravity-defying little room that gives you the feeling of being, well, drunk. A video camera records your reaction so your friends can watch outside.
The entrance ticket is 60 rmb (just under $10usd). A bit expensive compared to just drinking for coins outside on the street, but it’s worth it. The ‘tour’ includes two draft beers (one pasteurized ‘raw’ and one ‘refined’ standard beer). You also get a packet of peanuts which have no alcohol in them and can very easy be thrown away.
The Qingdao Beer Factory is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and therefore not really a place to get your drink on. ‘Beer Street’ just outside of the brewery keeps going until late in the evening, with dozens of drinking establishments.
Don’t leave without getting you or your group’s photo onto the label of a Tsingtao Beer 330ml bottle. We did it and we have them, unopened and cherished.