Unfortunately good luck on the weather front did not accompany us on our visit to the Great Wall and our day was “misty” as the locals like to say, which means it was a little like Pea soup and in complete contrast to the previous days “Beijing Blue”. BoTF took the opportunity to review two previously un-encountered brews according to the Beer list. These two beers could not be more different.
Corsendonk is a beautifully balanced entirely drinkable beer with a rich heritage and sits very well within the high benchmarks of Belgian brewers. The website details a very interesting history of the brewery which dates back to the 1600’s and was originally operated by the Corsendonk monks.
Fullers 1845 is entirely different story. To this day, both in my official correspondent capacity and in private consumption surroundings have I found a beer to be un-drinkable; Fullers goes fairly close to reaching that unenviable status. It is shocker; ones breath is taken away after the first sip with the experience being akin to drinking burnt molasses (maybe the batch was bad). The really disappointing thing is that it reads beautifully both on the label and the website but pensive anticipation quickly evaporates upon sampling. The only saving grace was that the 6.3% alcohol content started to kick in about half through the bottle and nullified the taste buds.
The National Holidays have provided this BoTF correspondent and his family the opportunity to escape Beijing to a not-so-touristy section of the Great Wall called Mutianyu. Bladdamaster and his family were also regular visitors to this spectacularly picturesque and natural section of Chang Cheng when living in China. Our lodgings are at a renovated Hutong which has all of the creature comforts of a five star hotel (well almost) nestled amongst the village and affords an amazing glimpse of the real China. Anyway enough of the cultural lesson and onto more pressing matters.
There appears to be an increasing number of German wheat beers appearing in China and Licher is worthy of a solid review. The brewery has been around since 1854 but unfortunately the website doesn’t offer an English translation allowing a more detailed summary. Notwithstanding Licher claims to be a market leader in wheat brewing and are based in Hesse. The beer itself is a cracker and offers a crisp and refreshing taste with a wonderfully cloudy texture. The 500 ml bottle ensures that the drinker is not left wanting and 5.4% alcohol content ensures a great night sleep after a day of climbing. Definitely one to keep an eye out for ………..
On Monday, BotF and his daughter drove about 110km north-east of Beijing to the best part of the Great Wall that is readily accessible from Beijing. The stretch of Wall that is open for walking upon is 12 kms between Jinshanling and Simatai. It is extremely steep and in some places quite treacherous, particularly if you have vertigo. Alternatively you can do the lazy man’s version that was chanced upon by BotF on his last trip. Zoe had been up pretty late for the last couple of nights, so it was important to minimise her physical exertion.
You start and finish at Simatai – and instead of a 2km walk to the base of the wall from the carpark, you walk 100m to a cable car which takes you over half way, then catch a large inclinator to about 200m from the base of a tower that is quite high up. There’s only two towers after this where there is a steep climb and you get to the furthest extent of the wall. A 12 yo guard blocks the way. You get to the tower on the furthest left of the first photo and get exceptional views of the inaccessible bits which really are a feat of building and engineering.
You turnaround, and it is pretty much downhill from there until you get to a flying fox, which takes you about 500m from the carpark and a boat then takes you the rest of the way. If you don’t dick around, it can take less than 90 minutes all up (the cable car is pretty slow) – but it is worth soaking in the view.
You are rewarded by a bar with one of the finest views of any bar in China, with an expansive deck. There is a youth hostel nearby, and I reckon the Lite Bar would go off on a hot summer’s night.
Today’s beer porn features another of Saranac’s brews. These guys are very serious, with 5 regular brews, 8 current seasonals, a ridiculous 33 seasonals in the archives and some other labels – like Utica. I picked up the Pomegranate Wheat Beer seasonal a couple of days ago, and tried it when I got home after the Wall. Very smooth, with a slight astringency which is actually pleasant. Some ideas to pass on to the 4 Pines brewery.
Outside of the main centres, little general stores abound. You can buy everything from soft drink, beer, noodles, clothes pegs, cleaning equipment, meat, swimmers etc. They are generic in appearance, but have a different eclectic range. BotF pulled in to buy some supplies for the day’s visit to the Great Wall by the sea at Shanhaiguan and spotted a beer with a kangaroo on the label. Unfortunately the label is too difficult to read in the photo, but what it essentially says is that Bull Beer – the brewery – has carefully selected the best Australian Wheat because it has spent 16 hours a day in the sun and therefore ensures a really good beer.
Nice idea, but something was missed between the selection of fine Australian wheat and the brewing, because unfortunately this tasted like bilge water. So much so that it was an effort to get it down.
The second photo is of a beer label, where the only English on the entire label is “Taste of Life, Return to Self-Heating”. Looks like a Yanjing bottle, but the labelling gives nothing else away, including the bottle top. Beer had some taste.
BotF ventured to the seaside town of Qinhuangdao with his daughter and Tony from Toowoomba’s family for the weekend. Qinhuangdao was a venue for the Olympics in 2008 and hosted mens and womens soccer and the windsurfing. Nearby is a beach “resort” town called Beidaihe and to the North is a town called ShanhaiGuan where the Great Wall meets the ocean.
Whilst trying to find our hotel, I kept an eye out for a drinking hole, but other than the ubiquitous KTV (karaoke) barns, Qinhuangdao looked like a place free of drinking establishments (not that BotF was expecting to get away). Later on, BotF had to venture out onto the streets to purchase a swimsuit for his daughter and was stunned to discover in his travels the most unusually name bar he’d seen. There must be some Chinglish going on with the name “Age of Burning Lives Bar”, but despite looking, the insides of the bar offered no clue as to the origins of the name. The insides of the bar were intricately decorated and almost everything was covered in graffiti.
There were two kids running the bar when I walked in and they were very pleased with my “Feishung Hao” or “Very Good” comments, but I couldn’t get any further conversation going other than gesticulations to find out more about this place. Presumably it has live music. Tony from Toowoomba may get back to Qinhuangdao before I do, and if he does – I’ll get him to report back.
A quick googling doesn’t reveal any reference to “Age of Burning Lives” as a phrase so it remains a mystery. Love to be there if this place went off though.