Here’s a few remaining snippets from Yangshuo and Guilin.
A speciality of Guilin and Yangshuo is Beer Fish or pi jiu yu. This is often a catfish steamed in beer and then served in a tomato sauce that looks like sweet and sour. We thought we’d missed out, but we snuck it in as our last meal of our Guilin leg. It was good, but the stars were the cucumber served Guilin style with garlic, chilli and vinegar. Outstanding.
We hadn’t eaten during our rooftop pub crawl and I’d read about the London Tavern that had recently opened. This was our first Western meal and it didn’t disappoint. I had Cumberland bangers and mash, whilst my daughter ate an “awesome” steak sandwich. The inside design, the beer menu, the food and the English chef/proprietor complete with chef’s whites transport you from Yangshuo to a UK tavern. The beer list was awesome and Thwaites beers are well represented. I hadn’t the Lancaster or the Indus Pale Ale and they were both terrific. Great if you want a break from Liquan beer, Guilin noodles and beer fish.
Another oddity is Le Votre. This is a relative veteran of Yangshuo and is in most of the guidebooks for its food. A Karst provides an impressive backdrop to restaurant and a small brewing operation.
They make a pale ale and a black beer. I never got to the black beer, but their pale was underwhelming. Still marks for being the only craft brewer in Yangshuo.
The last place of note is a bar that doubles as a Bike Shop/Tour Arranger/Rockclimb organiser during the day. At night Bike Asia becomes the Rusty Bolt.
Yangshuo is a serious rock climbing region with hundreds of climbs “bolted”. In the evening wiry people talk about the day’s events over a range of German and local beers.
Talk about maximising your space.
I love a good rooftop bar and Yangshuo has three of the best. All offer the most spectacular views and if there’s a better twilight and evening on a rooftop in China, I’d be very surprised. None are easy to find, but they are all worth the effort. What adds to the impressive spectacle is that the Karsts are lit up once the sun sets, making the back drop even more dramatic.
Monkey Jane is an infamous hostel. This place is all about partying very hard and budget drinking. The rooftop bar is up 6 flights of stairs. The views are 270 degrees and 360 degrees if you are insane enough to climb up a rusty ladder to the water tower. (Yes, I was insane enough). You can the other two bars in the second photo. Get here for twilight before the shooters come out.
Mojo Rooftop Bar is the easiest to find, so long as you know to go through a hotel foyer which also has a silver smith and a doctor fish spa (fish that eat dead skin off your feet). There’s a lift which gets you to the 4th floor then walk to the 6th. This is the most substantial of the 3 bars. Large indoor and outdoor areas with one of most inclined pool tables in it as well. This place is definitely a dancer’s paradise, but also provides an amazing view of the third bar, which is silhouetted against the Bi Lian Karst that dominates the Yangshuo skyline. A couple of unique German beers as well with the Hessenbrau Weizen being really good.
The last of the trio is the Showbiz Rooftop Bar. Again tough to find, but we kind of knew where it was by judging its location from the Mojo. This bar sits on top of a youth hostel and whilst there is some nudge-nudge entendre to the names of the drinks – it isn’t in the League of Monkey Jane. Looking up to Bi Lian, which by this stage is all lit up, is a real thrill.
A must do pub crawl for any Yangshuo visitor.
The Chinese occasionally have a habit of running words together when they put the Pinyin translation of a phrase or name in print. That might explain why this beer’s name is so long. Still I can’t recall drinking a beer with a longer name than Landaijituanlanshi Pijiu or Beer. Nice bit of Chinglish on the can, which ends up promising to make you feel well. Even the presence of the “best quality Australian grain” doesn’t separate this bevvy from the very large pack of bland Chinese pale lagers. Still, drink enough of these and you won’t feel much at all.
Xi’an has a ton of places to see and a highlight for me was the Big Goose Pagoda (yes, there’s a Little Goose Pagoda and no, I don’t know why it’s called Big Goose). It’s in the middle of a very large public space and there are acres of fountains in front of the temple wall and large pedestrian strip at the back where many kites are flown. There’s also an impressive statue of a buddhist bloke. It was built in 652AD and offers awesome North, East, South and West views from the top floor. A must do on any trip to Xi’an.
The stair climb and all the other walking around the temple left me parched and I didn’t expect to find a bar until we travelled the 4km back to the city centre. We randomly took a road looking for a cab and was delighted to find found a great little strip of bars with views of the Pagoda. Most were small Chinese bars serving Chinese Budweiser and Chinese Carlsberg. I chose the Bierhaus, which served genuine Paulaner and even had a crowd of genuine ruddy faced Germans enjoying some steins. The menu offered Bavarian fare including white veal sausage and Schnitzel. Amazing what you stumble across.
Happy Chinese New Year to you all. As I type this post, there will be fireworks galore going off in China and Taiwan as the Chinese New Year celebrations get underway. Tonight is Chinese New Year Eve, which kicks off 15 days of partying and general bonhomie. It is a great time to be in China, even though it is still bitterly cold in many parts of China, particularly Beijing, where I lived for some time. Chinese New Years Eve in Beijing tonight is -15 degrees. This year is the year of the Dragon. According to Chinese beliefs, a year of the Dragon is supposed to be quite auspicious – where good luck, success and happiness abound. That would be good if that occurs this year, given how diabolical the world’s current state.
There’s plenty of big eating and drinking at this time of year and there’s no shortage of booze options available. The beer scene is big and growing, and Tony from Toowoomba has started to discover some craft brewers that have emerged of late. You’ll recall the Aussie that’s set up a brewery in a major Shanghai hotel and he’s now found a couple in Beijing.
Tsingtao is China’s second largest brewery and was founded in 1903 by the Germans in the city of Qingdao. Qingdao is the home of one of the great beer festivals, which is held in August. I can’t imagine how much of the standard Tsingtao is made annually. That’s the standard bevvy that is widely available in Chinese restaurants and even at Dan Murphy’s. There’s not many varieties of Tsingtao, but there is a stout that is reasonably widespread in Beijing. I turned one of these up in a bottle in Sydney’s Chinatown. It’s not the greatest stout, but it has a go. At 7.5% it doesn’t muck around. It’s thinner than most of the Australian Stouts and less complex, but has a pleasant bitterness.
The less than can be said for Draco Super Premium Beer the better. It made for a good tie-in to this post, but that’s about it. The can talks about being brewed with German inspiration, but then like many Chinese or Taiwanese beers actually contains rice. I’ve had good Chinese beer – I’m yet to have a good Taiwanese beer – and Draco maintains that track record.
Happy Chinese New Year to you all – and maybe the auspiciousness of the Dragon prevail.
Great Leap Brewing is yet another Microbrewery to commence operations in Zhongguo. GLB have their main brewery in a Hutong in the City and a second at the foot of the Great Wall in a village close to Mutianyu.
BoTF recently sampled GLB’s signature Pale Ale created by Brewmaster and owner Carl Setzer at the Schoolhouse. The clear one litre bottle provides the drinker with an uninhibited glimpse of the beautifully cloudy honey brown colour. The tasting imbibes a very fruity almost juicy flavour with very little head. It is definitely different and far from unpleasant but leaves the drinker wondering whether in fact if this is indeed a beer or possibly a cider. None the less as one continues to work through the balance contents of the bottle the complexity of flavours really start to emerge.
Carl has another couple brews in his Quiver which BoTF looks forward experiencing soon.
Leon has created with what might be a first with craft brewers with a “limited release” Irish coffee flavored Stout. The smell of “Mash” alone gets the nostrils flaring. The tasting is nothing less then sensational. A unique combination that this BoTF correspondent has not experienced before. A beautifully punchy Stout with with equally punchy coffee flavour.
A sodden weekend in Sydney kept this correspondent close to home, but eventually we had to break out and the local Yum Cha was the option. Sydney’s Chinese restaurants aren’t a beer lover’s haven, but you aren’t going there for that. The local China gave me a chance to re-acquaint myself with a beer with which I’d gotten quite familiar when I was in China.
Apparently China has over 600 brewers (I reckon there’s probably more than that). The Chinese drink shitloads of beer and Pearl River Draft is a classic example of the beer of which you see crates of empty bottles in streets of major municipalties around China. Pearl River draft is pretty same old same old. There’s not even the maltiness that many Chinese beers have because of the German heritage of many of the breweries that have long been taken over by State Owned Enterprises. Great with yum cha and this beer, won’t overwhelm anything on the yum cha trollies.
I used to love a good yum cha. Cheap and plenty of variety and inevitably something you hadn’t seen before. Those days are gone, and I don’t think I’ve had a yum cha that was good value and mind blowing for 10 years. The chicken feet on the weekend were probably the highlight, but I had to eat all four feet, because of tentativeness of my companions, which is way too much mastication. If you are going to have yum cha – then Guangzhou on the Pearl River is the place to go – and it is probably still as cheap as chips.
Guangzhou is an incredible place. When a city is between 6m and 24m in population depending on to whom you speak, it is going to be cool. Guangzhou is the home of Cantonese cuisine. There’s a cliche that if it has 4 legs and it isn’t a table it will be eaten in Canton. I heard this saying from a Cantonese just before they asked me if I’d eaten rat. I never managed rat (pigeon, dog or cat) but I did get to eat snake – and that’s recommended. Didn’t get to try a RMB 200 snake vs a RMB 88 snake (I had the RMB 88 snake). Probably increases the libido.
A business visit last year to Shandong involved a stop in Binzhou and a very local lunch in the middle of summer wherein a bottle of Taishan beer was produced. A further visit this week to the same location had a more investigative approach and the return home with a carton.
The Shandong Taishan Beer Co., Ltd was established in 1979 and then transferred to a Sino-Hong Kong joint venture in 2000 that started to invite German beer experts as technical advisors for brewing process which appears to have has led to a further joint venture with Crouts. They have a website www.china-kritzer.comwhich has very funny sino-German beer maid interaction that shortly after opening our Sino censor friends closed local access to the site. I will be interested to know whether members had any difficulty. As a consequence of an inability to further research the sampled lager this post lacks technical follow though. Kritzer appears to be a German Craft beer and describes its interaction with Taishan as “being made of German high quality yeast and Taishan sierra 280 metres deep places high quality natural water” looks like the Chinese did the English translation.
Chinese beers sampled already by BotF are generally been found to be watery lacking strong flavours but the likes of Tsingtao are entirely drinkable. The Taishan beer sampled by this correspondent is a wheat ale that has all the hallmarks of what you would expect from a German beer. It is as thick and as malty as a Coopers and the flavours lingers.
The 720 ml standard bottle is sensational but it does lack some punch with at 2.6% alcohol content. None the less this Sino-German Beer JV gets a big thumbs up.
On Saturday night, a visitor to the Cantina surprised with a six pack of Harbin Beer. Now this BotF correspondent spent 7 months in China and was pretty partial to the odd stubbie of Harbin – in particular Harbin Black. What BotF didn’t know is that Harbin Beer, like many labels around the world has become part of the Anheuser-Busch InBev empire. This is the latest in a series of takeovers that have marked Harbin Beer’s history since it was founded by a Russian in 1900, which makes it 3 years older than Tsing-Tao.
Harbin is in the far North-East of China and is popular place to visit, particularly in winter when it holds its ice festival. For 3 months of the year, Harbin’s average temperature is minus 15. In summer, Harbin holds a beer festival that is now dominated by Budweiser – but it would still go off – as the Chinese just love to get hammered – and more than the odd Russian would visit as well.
This version of Harbin Beer is pretty innocuous. Probably wasn’t cold enough – but it didn’t have much cut through in terms of taste.