Thursday, August 31, 2006

Qingdao Beer Festival

I mentioned a few posts ago that I went to Qingdao last weekend with Louise. The highlight of the trip was the annual Qingdao Beer Festival. For one or two weeks, beer companies from around the world setup a tent, serve their beer, and hire Chinese rock groups, kareoke singers, and models the size of a chopstick (and with the personality of one) to lure people into their tent.

Most Chinese cities have a local beer brewery. Yantai beer is not bad, and at 3RMB per liter ($0.38), you really can't complain. During the summer months all of the restaurants and BBQs serve sanpi, a less carbonated, slighly sweet beer with no preservatives. The no preservatives thing means that you must drink it within 2-3 days of brewing, which is not usually a problem; a BBQ can go through 10+ kegs on a busy night. And we must not forget the always present Tsingtao beer, even available in the US.

I do quite like the beer usually available here, but I was quite excited to have some German, Belgium, Mexican, and other libations available. We walked around the festival and after sitting through some mediocre kareoke singers at some German tents (let me tell you, there is nothing like listening to Chinese pop songs blasting at 200dB while being surrounded by German flags and pictures of Umpa Bands and bratwurst), we settled in the Belgian tent for some Bitburger. The crowd was lively and the band was half decent. Little did we know what a treat we were in for.

After a few performers, this burly looking Chinese man came up on stage holding two butchers knives, two cucumbers, and an oddly shaped piece of metal. Now, of course I was waiting for the Siamese-twin midgets to show up, thus filling all requisites for the world's strangest performance piece, but alas there were none. Not knowing what to expect, we watched as he sliced and diced the cucumbers in midair to prove that, yes indeed, what he was about to do would surely get you admitted to most mental hospitals.

He used the funny shaped peice of metal as a vise to hold the two knives blade upwards on the ground. The then had a fat Chinese man climb onto his back, and then proceeded to carefully STEP ONTO THE KNIVES!! What a sight! A Chinese guy standing on two butchers knives with another on his back, whilst singing kareoke and ganbei-ing beer with the crowd that was now going pretty crazy.

The fat dude crawled off his back, and the singer jumped from the knives to the nearest table where people were eating and drinking. His performance would have gotten any crowd going due to his extreme enthusiasm, but they went absolutely nuts when he poured a pitcher of beer over his head, tore off his shirt Hogan-style, and started smashing everyone's dinner plate on his head!

By now, all 200 Chinese people in the beer tent had realized that there were foreigners amoung them, and I was being ganbei-ed every 30 seconds with pints of Belgian beer. I made more single-serving Chinese friends that night (yeah, just watched Fight Club) than I could count.

By far the strangest part of the evening was when a father pushed his 7 year old daughter up to me. Holding a 1/4 filled pint glass in her hand, she proudly proclaimed, "Ni hao! Ganbei, woda laowei pengyou!" It took me a few seconds to register the fact that a 7 year old girl was ganbei-ing with me (they have not drinking age in China), look up at the father with a "are you f-ing serious look", realize he was, and then chug Belgian pijiu with an elementary school girl.

And boy could she chug... I've got three words for that girl: Future KTV girl.