Check out this post from Battered Leather Journal about experiencing the Qingdao International Beer Festival.
On the cab ride to the International Beer Festival it is my turn to get all the attention of the driver. This guy is chatting “with” me in Mandarin like I’m not a tall, blonde, white guy shaking my head at him. The way I stick out, my thumbs are almost physically sore. But this guy hardly stops – and when he does it’s to give me a chance to respond. Man, get a clue! Then he sees an Amway building and points at it as if to say “All your friends work there! We should stop and say hi!” In the end it’s much better than having a rude guy who hates Americans drive us around, but it is still awkward to have this guy expect answers to the questions that I’m assuming he is asking me.
The Beer Festival is fairly astounding, for so many reasons. My immediate reaction is to the sheer magnitude of the event, all dedicated to drinking beer – it is the biggest beer festival in Asia. And I’ve never been to Oktoberfest, which must be the only thing that compares, so this is a revelation for me. There are huge pavilions from breweries around the world (“No way, Hofbrauhaus!? We’ve been to that brewery in Munich!”) enticing you with benches and tables to sit and drink and stages offering a wide variety of performing acts all day long. We watch singers and dancers; beauty pageant bathing suit competitions; fire breathers; belly dancers; the Asian Destiny’s Child, complete with multiple matching wardrobe changes; a wailing alto sax player; and, in an odd change of pace for how late into the night and how drunk everyone is, a guy playing a very traditional Chinese stringed instrument.
Outside the pavilions there is a all-out carnival. We venture onto the dragon swing ride (that one ride at every carnival that is some sort of dragon or big boat that swings back and forth like a pendulum) and, maaaaybe a little drunk by now, enjoy ourselves and laugh and scream. While the ride operator can hardly stand in his little booth because he’s laughing so hard at us, a little boy with his siblings can hardly sit still in the ride because he is crying so hard from fear.
For us, the main attraction outside the tents is the Ali Baba chuanr and grill. (Get it? Chuanr and grill? Like bar and grill?? GET IT?!?!) They are two Muslim men grilling kebabs of lamb, spiced with that magic combination of I-don’t-know-what. They have masterfully cut their meat to avoid my one occasional problem with chuanr, which is that sometimes entire chunks of meat get wasted because I cannot stand the texture of chewing on fatty gristle while trying to get the good stuff. But these guys, these geniuses, offer thick, beautiful, tender, lean, juicy meat that simply detaches itself from the inch of fat on the end of each one. So it cooks in the fat, stays moist and flavorful, but when you pull the meat off the stick, the fat stays and can easily be chucked in the trash. A combination of very high quality meat and brilliant butchering, I think. These wonderful men serve us, by far, the best chuanr in China. Every hour or so one of us stumbles back to their stand, gets six more heavenly sticks for the group, and returns to the beer. Heavenly, indeed.
The other astounding thing about the festival is how much attention we are getting. Even though we are used to it from the first three weeks, this day has brought it to a new level. As the sun grows weary from the day of drinking and goes to sleep it off, we are really just getting going in the tents; and as the night wears on, and the tents are serving beer in plastic cups because they’ve run out of steins, we just get awesomer and awesomer in the eyes of our imbibing Chinese counterparts. Performers come over to sing, dance, and guzzle glasses of beer on our table. Huge groups of teens join us for stranger photo-shoots. A man gives me his hat for gan bei-ing with him. (Gan bei [gon-bay] verb -bei-ed, bei-ing 1. to make random eye contact with an intoxicated Chinese person, clink your classes together, and down your entire drink: A man got mad at me when I didn’t finish my whole drink after gan bei-ing with him.) We get up on stage and dance with the performers. There may or may not be a situation where someone from our group goes to make friends with some drunk men in the hopes of getting us free beer. I play a ring-toss game outside and before I’m done there are about thirty people who have stopped to watch me fail miserably.
By the end of the night, the Phenomeblonde phenomenon creates another twenty photo-shoot strangers, and I think Kristy probably gets even more. (My total is now at forty!) During the craziness, each of us loses something: I lose my lens cap; Sam loses her . . . contacts case?; and Kristy loses her . . . camera battery or something?
We make our way back to the hotel after seeing a guy sitting down and passed out, with his arm holding the back of the bench supporting all of his weight to keep him from falling forward into his own vomit on the ground.
Too much information?
Qingdao International Beer City on Google Maps
Ctrip Booking for the 2010 Qingdao International Beer Festival
Tipsy Animals on Parade: Mascots of Qingdao International Beer Festival
Qingdao International Beer Festival Official Site (Chinese)