Recently on my blog, Kasper On Tap, we have had interesting exchanges about Chinese beer. It started off with a discussion of Harbin, a Chinese lager wrapped in faux rice paper and sold in Baltimore for $2.25 for a bottle that is slightly bigger than a pint. I said it tasted like Heineken and enjoyed sipping it while watching the Olympics.
From there, readers weighed in on pollution in China, on mergers in the beer world (Harbin is owned by Anheuser-Busch, which is being acquired by In Bev) and on better choices of Chinese brews. We even had a missive from Rick Maese, one of The Baltimore Sun's writers who was in Beijing, reporting on what the locals were sipping.
The bottom line seems to be that the world is getting smaller, international breweries are getting bigger, but beer is not necessarily getter better.
Posted by BryaninTimonium:
"Harbin and Northern China have some of the most polluted air and water in the world. I think I'll take a pass."
Posted by Maese from Beijing:
"I can report that many folks at these Games are partaking primarily in two Chinese beers (or so I've heard): Tsingtao, which seems to be more widely available and tastes a bit like China's answer for Bud, and Yanjing, which unlike Tsingtao, is a pilsner that actually is brewed in Beijing. It's also much cheaper than Tsingtao, though maybe not as popular."
Posted by Hunter:
"A-B distributes Harbin in the U.S. as its 'premium Chinese beer.' Having lived in China for a good bit of time, I can report that it's nothing special over there. With the exception of Tsingtao, the Chinese beer market is extremely regional, and Harbin happens to be the beer of (surprise!) the city of Harbin and its surrounding area. Yanjing is the regional beer of Beijing/Hebei - and it's a little too sweet. Like most Chinese beer, it's nothing to write home about.
"One of the more interesting Chinese beers I've had was 'Xinjiang Black Beer' (xinjiang heipi) from out west. Think schwarzbier."
Posted by Rick:
"The latest copy of Fortune has a two-page item called '99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall' and it lists their editor's top 99 beers that trigger fond memories, or were their favorites at some point. They point out each brand, the year it was first brewed, and who is brewing it now.
"Since In Bev now owns so many breweries, they made it simple and put a darkened circle around each of the In Bev brews."