Tsingtao (Qingdao) beer is not good beer. It has about as much flavor as an old rag and has even less aroma. It is filled with so much rice and sugar that its malt is only barely noticeable. When poured, its thin white head disappears almost instantly — a cruel magic trick. It is not good beer by any stretch.
Any yet…. I enjoy it every time I drink it. Tonight I had a couple bottles at a hot pot restaurant with my wife. Every sip was both predictably disappointing (for my beer nerd self) and deeply satisfying (for my nostalgic, sentimental self). When I was in college, I spent a year studying Chinese in Beijing. Every Friday, after our classes, we would sit outside our dormitory, eat roasted meat skewers, and drink large 600ml bottles of Tsingtao beer. Even in the frigid northern Chinese winter, there would always be people sitting outside drinking oversized bottles of piss-colored, flavorless beer.
Whenever I drink Tsingtao, I remember those days. Since then, I have tasted countless superior beers, and nowadays it barely enters my mind. I rarely drink it — usually only at restaurants where there is nothing better — but when I do, I can’t help but remember that year in Beijing.
Everyone has their guilty pleasures. I’ve read articles from master brewers and beer critics where they discuss the adjunct-filled mass-produced beers that they enjoy. Tsingtao is my guilty pleasure beer.
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