Mutianyu has graced the pages of BotF on at least one other occasion. It is simply a great escape from the metropolis and just perfect for a casual Sunday lunch at The Schoolhouse that also has a wonderful glass blowing exhibition.
This north Asia correspondent actually took the wrong exit that enabled a bit of further exploring of the surrounding locality. On the edge of quite large and well know city of Hairou still within the municipality of Beijing we happened across what appeared to be a special development zone complete with new office buildings, apartments, shopping centres, a new highway in other words another fine example of China growth or dare I say possible excess-capacity. I attempted to Google “Light and Shadow Town of Fame in China” but surprisingly found not a single search result. I guess they haven’t started promotional initiatives as yet.
The short sojourn to Mutianyu is via narrow country roads that are littered with small stalls selling stone fruits and mellons from the surrounding locality. The people have a happiness about them that is rare to find in the big cities of China. On our way back we stopped and bought some fruit. My Mandarin is now at a level that I could explain to the local fruit stall business owner the concept of BotF as a growing Global NGO, the progressive attempts of its members to review the beers of world and all that encapsulates what it is to love and be loved about BotF. Actually that is crap (about my Mandarin) – he was totally confused and the young BotF’s kept reminding me how bad my accent is. Having said that Mr. Zhao (his alias) was happy to assist in a photographic escapade but only after I had paid for the fruit.
Old Bobby Ale is another Jenny Wang’s newby and I was surprised to learn is owned by the large Russian Brewer Baltika based in St Petersburg. Baltika describe Old Bobby a special beer brewed fermentation method with the use of English malt, Pale Ale Malt. It is dried at high temperatures and has a slightly roasted malt aroma, ideal for light ales. Horse’s yeast, used traditionally in the production of British ales, fruit beers imparts essential tones. To be honest it was a little too fruity for me but nonetheless was good to wet the whistle with after the day’s escapades.
As Bladdamaster can attest one of the truly great things about living in Zhongguo is the wonderful selection of International beers that are of offer. A visit to Jenny Wang’s almost always will reveal a previously un-sampled morsel. On the afternoon that I bought this beer I was in a bit of rush and quickly picked what looked like another Belgian brew and headed for home. Later that evening in a more relaxed atmosphere I took my fist sip and was taken aback by the fruity explosion that tasted much more like a cider than a beer. I looked at the label again and despite my Dutch not being as good as my Portuguese (which is non-existent) I was able to clearly make out the words “beer” but further research was needed. The and despite the difficulties of YouTube access in China I was fascinated to find a Rolf Harris lookalike with a very scientific but fascinating documentary on the beer brewing process from what looks like to be the mid 70’s. Anyway back to the beer itself Pecheresse is certainly a different style of beer and probably not typical of what’s expected from a Belgian brewer; having said that though it has a refreshingly different taste.
This correspondent is now safely ensconsed with our permanent Beijing correspondent, Tony from Toowoomba, in the expat enclave of Shunyi, which is to the North East of Beijing outside the 5th Ring Road. With the Pomegranate pub now rubble, and King’s Bar undergoing renovation, the only place left to drink this far north is the Swan with Two Necks. Pat, who ran the Pomegranate, has opened a new bar further south, still in Expatville, and we’ll be gracing that for the trivia quiz on Thursday night.
There’s something quite evocative about the name, and I reckon it should be made into a t-shirt. As you can tell from the picture below, it is hardly a country pub (I’m not sure if they were trying to appeal to the large UK and Irish contingent), but change the description to “Sports Bar and you’ve nailed it. The sports gear that adorns the walls is from a number of different sports and they’ll show anything (which they kinda have to do, given the wide variety of clientele). Super 15 Rugby, 6 Nations Rugby, International Rugby, college basketball, all leagues of Soccer/Football, Australian rugby league. If it’s round or oval and bounces it’ll be on at the Swan with Two Necks. The beer selection is mediocre, but that’s not the main game here. It’s about volume of grog, food and sport. Happy hour is 30% off beers between 4 and 8pm Monday to Thursday, which means a pint of Carlsberg or Tiger is $2.70.
We had a feed with Mrs TfT and our respective kids. The pubs in China are pretty liberal with kids being around and sometimes you wonder if the menus cater to them as opposed to adults. To be honest, the food was pretty bland. The kids liked their burgers and cheese smothered fries, but we were underwhelmed with our Chicken Kiev and Buffalo Wing salad, but this joint isn’t going to thrive on being cordon-bleu.
We needed a feed, because we’d been stomping around Tiananmen Square and the Great Hall of the People all day. Always impressive, the spectacle of Tiananmen was enhanced by the sight of a policeman on a Segway. As intriguing a sight as a policeman is on a Segway is the presence of an iconic US beer being available everywhere in China. Pabst Blue Ribbon just screams working man USA, yet here it is in tall cans in mamy bottleshops and convenience stores. It’s about 60 cents a can and is made in China. There’s plenty of these 400ml tins around and the logo and name for Blue Cowrie had me intrigued. The contents didn’t however.
I previously lamented the lack of a local Nanjing beverage. Well, Xi’an certainly has its favourite drop and it’s Hans. I think it is a local brand that had been taken over by Tsingtao, and in all the restaurants around town you can’t get anything else. It’s the beer they drink round here.
There’s at least 4 varieties – Red Wolf, 9 degrees, Pineapple and Dry. The Dry is easily the most popular and the Xi’anians give it a fair old lash. I’ve only one bloke drinking rice wine, everyone else has been pouring Hans Dry down their throat like it is their last. Let’s just say it is an adequate session beer and not really distinguishable from the 9 degree.
It doesn’t add much to the cost of a meal either – generally most places charge between 5 and 10RMB for a 560ml longie. Again, if you are prepared to eat on the street amongst the locals, it’s bloody cheap. Xi’an’s famous for its Muslim quarter and there are an infinite number of shops dishing out noodles, soups, meat on skewers, dumplings and sweets. One dish we tried was Biang Biang Mian, which is 3.8m long paper thin noodle in a shallot and chilli sauce. Awesome. And if you go to Xi’an find the First Noodle Under the Sun restaurant.
A few years ago, there was a surge in Chinese character tattoos. Hollywood starlets, footballers and thugs were getting inked with script from the Art of War and the like – sometimes with absurd results. At the time a comedian speculated as to whether Chinese were getting inked with English script. Well, the China Daily in its quirky article of the day, gas revealed that Chinese people are inking themselves in English or in some cases, Chinglish. Gees, you could have some fun.
Yesterday we vowed to eat local and I vowed to drink local. As a result, we ate well, I drank functionally and we spent very little money. My meal of 5 pan fried pork dumplings and a bottle of Snow Beer (an insipid, ubiquitous pale lager) cost 12RMB or AUD$1.82. Snow Beer is even more commonly available than Tsingtao. What’s been disappointing is that I haven’t been able to find a local Nanjing drop. Hopefully better luck in Xi’an.
The girls did even better with a bowl of noodles, prepared in front of them, a spinach filled bun and two bottles of orange drink costing 13RMB. They rated their noodles, despite not really being able to identify the three sauces added to the bowl and mixed in.
We had a good chuckle when we saw this bloke. We thought he must be an expat, but no he was Chinese. This is the first push-bike rider we’ve seen wearing a helmet and wearing bike clothes. Far better suited to sipping a soy piccolo latte at Bacino Cafe on the Corso at Manly than the rough and tumble streets of Nanjing.
The other 999,999 cyclists look more like this woman who almost became a hood ornament of the taxi she rode in front of. At least she wasn’t on her mobile phone or carrying her extended family on the rack at the back. Actually, she’s hardcore or poor because she’s on a push bike as opposed to the 90% that are on electric bikes, which have pedals and a throttle.
One of the highlights of Sydney’s Level 41 restaurant was taking a leak. The men’s urinals had the most amazing view and it felt like you were pissing all over the Eastern Suburbs. Well, I’ve got to say I’ve found a better and higher place to bleed the lizard.
On the 94th floor of the Shanghai World Financial Centre building is one of the world’s great bathrooms. The view on the day I strained the spuds wasn’t the best, but it still took the breath away. On a clear day, there would be no better place to drain the main vein (thanks Barry McKenzie).
The SWFC stands at 492m tall and is known as the bottle opener. According to a local, the shape was supposed to be a circle, but the building’s owner is Japanese and the authorities felt it would look like a japanese flag. The observatory walk is on the 100th floor and there is glass in the floor, which is at the top of the bottle opening bit. A must do in Shanghai. They’re building one next door which will be 200m taller!
The beer of the day is a real surprise. It is a dark lager from Vietnam. I think the standard pale lager has graced the pages of BotF before. Beerlao Dark Lager is a thick, treacly drop, which packs a 6.5% punch. A bit sweet for mine, but given I’ll be drinking gallons of pale Chinese lager, this was a welcome diversion.
This is the briefest of posts. I’m not sure if it will even work. Yesterday this correspondent travelled to Shanghai and had a great opportunity to compare two major city’s airport rail connections.
First, Circular Quay (yep I started my journey on a ferry) to the Sydney International Terminal – $36 Aussie, a few stops and about 20 minutes. The Shanghai Maglev from Pudong Airport to Longyang Road – 150 RMB or $23 Aussie, no stops, top speed 301km and 10 minutes. One of Sydney’s great ripoffs. No debate.
My first beer on this trip was dictated by the local family mart. None of this separate liquor stores here in Shanghai. Coke Zero, Vitamin Water, Tsingtao, rice wine, JD and coke all happily co-exist in the one fridge. Hadn’t had Suntory Beer before. When My internet works, I’ll find out more.