It is well-known throughout much of the world as well as in China, where it comes from the country’s second largest brewery. So why would a beer available in its recognizable green bottles all over the world be included on a website meant to highlight hyper-local street foods? Easy: because in its home city of Qingdao (Tsingtao is an earlier transliteration of the city’s name), you can purchase it by weight on the street. The Tsingtao brewery was founded in the early twentieth century when Qingdao was under German rule as part of the Kiautschou Bay concession (1898 – 1914). Of course establishing a brewery was a priority for the Germans living in Qingdao, so they built it in 1903 and it has been operating ever since. Think about that—it has stayed open while the city was controlled by Germany, Japan (twice), the Republic of China, and the People’s Republic of China. It was nationalized for many years (at which time the Chinese government changed some of the strict German beer rules to allow rice in the recipe) until the early 1990s when it was privatized once again. The Tsingtao brewery has been through a lot during its long history in the area, and it is a source of pride for many citizens. So in a way, it is no surprise that the brewery’s flagship product is available all over the city. Poke your head into many of the city’s hole-in-the-wall restaurants and you will find a keg of beer waiting for you. Ask the vendor for a bag (yes, a bag), fill it up as much as you want, weigh it, pay for it based on the weight, and you’re on your way.
You can either drink it right out of the bag or relocate it to a mug when you reach your destination. Qingdao is the only city I’ve ever visited where you can buy beer in a bag by the kilogram and then drink it as you wander the streets. It’s a unique opportunity that has resulted from the city’s unique history. Don’t miss it.