Local Drop Hits The Spot Chengdu Reviews
Nov 03, 2007
Often affectionately referred to as the land down-under, Australia is known for its long hot summers and the copious amounts of beer that quenches the thirst of many millions of antipodeans all year round. According to Kirin Research Institute of Drinking and Lifestyle - Report Volume 29 – “Beer Consumption in Major Countries in 2004”, the volume consumed in China was 4.67 million kilolitres more than that in the United States, which firmly establishes this Asian country as the largest beer market in terms of both production and consumption. However, when it comes to the average amount of beer consumed by individual persons, then the Aussies are streets ahead in this respect.
Although some societies appear less susceptible to the cultural influence of alien beverages than others, convivial foreign business consultant David Schroeter from the state of Victoria advises that Australian drinkers these days are very interested in tasting and appreciating the different amber fluids available as they travel to more diverse destinations abroad. Reluctant to refer to himself as a beer-drinking expert because back home, an expert is jokingly regarded as a “drip (or fool) under pressure”, companionable nationalist David shared his thoughts in between sips and swigs during his recent stay in the sweltering, hazy, sub-tropical humidity and heat of metropolitan Chengdu.
Australia's most famous beer moved into the Chinese market during the 1990s. From its brewery in Shanghai, Foster’s Lager has been produced “to the same strict standards as elsewhere in the world” for distribution across the People’s Republic. But, even in alcoholic watering holes in Sichuan where beer is usually served at room temperature, local drinkers like their brews sweeter, and with fewer hops. Hops usually add the characteristic bitter taste to beer. While all brewers round the globe use cane sugar, oats, sugar beet and corn for brewing “adjuncts” - fermentable sugar which complements malt sugars in the fermentation - Fosters China follows on local practice and uses rice.
Our amiable featured traveller commented immediately upon tasting the contemporary oriental version, that it was different to the ale that was first ever launched by the Fosters’ brothers as a full strength lager in his home state down-under in 1887. The original signature full malt character on the mid-palate, blended well with a delicate creaminess and crisp, clean hop finish, thus creating a perfect balance to the beer. As a lighter European style lager, it became the beer of choice for Australian drinkers, largely thanks to the innovative refrigeration process. David felt that the Foster’s Lager served off beer taps in Chengdu tasted more like a draught beer, so he decided to try something else.
After paying from between twenty to twenty five yuan in certain foreign establishments around town for a pint glass of the hybrid fluid, a request was made to sample a cold local beer. A bottle of “528” Blue Sword and an empty glass were obligingly produced. It should be noted that foreigners do not normally put ice in their beer. Instead, they prefer to have the full bottle refrigerated a while before it is opened. Still marked-up, but more affordably priced at six yuan, the 528 beverage tasted completely different. It was more like a lager than the Foster’s Lager itself. For a man with a wealth of experience, it was a very drinkable experience indeed in the torrid lunchtime heat of a summer’s day.
The mention of Sichuan wines being of long standing importance in the history of national wine production and wine culture development triggered a desire to perform a personal analysis. Wine production in Sichuan in the ancient past had been developed and is still unfading in these current times. The delicious spirits enjoy high reputation internationally, such as - Luzhou Laojiao, Yibing Wuliangye, Mianzhu Jiannanchun, Chengdu Quanxing and Swellfun. Whether at a state banquet or a small party, people are often surprised about the superb flavour and taste of the wines. As a wonder of Chinese wine culture, the well-known Sichuan wines leave a permanently pleasant impression.
In line with the demands of his regular schedules, David Schroeter is fascinated by travelling to different parts of China. This enables him to indulge in and appreciate the various food and beverage cultures, as he moves from province to province. With the aid of a native assistant, he has now had a careful look around Chengdu and realizes how wonderful this city is. Whilst walking along a footpath one day to a bookstore, attention was drawn to a bridge from an earlier dynasty. A close inspection of its carved features, suggested that perhaps the bridge was one thousand years old. “Until people tell you the history about the objects that you are walking by, you don’t really know the local layout.”
There are other historical and cultural treasures nearby that beckoned our man with a hat. These include the seventy one metre high Giant Buddha of Leshan, which was carved out of a hillside in the eighth century, and looks down on the confluence of three rivers. It is the largest Buddha in the world. Another famous heritage site in Sichuan is Dujiangyang irrigation project, some sixty kilometres north west of Chengdu. David is from a picturesque country region that supports well over eight hundred farms, and this enables him to recognize the importance of the work undertaken in the 3rd century BC by famed prefect and engineer Li Bing to divert the fast flowing Min River into irrigation canals.
Parting is such sweet sorrow and after a few weeks, the inevitable does not become any easier. Chinese people say that Chengdu is a city that once you arrive; it is a place that you will not want to leave. This applies equally to the ever increasing number of foreign visitors. David Schroeter enjoys reciting poetry. As an author in his own right, there is no doubt that lingering memories will be the source of creative inspiration in due course. Once the word has passed around about this fantastic destination, more will want to experience it for themselves. As for David, he is likely to have at least a couple of bottles of “528” Blue Sword stowed in his bag as he cruises away down the Yangtze River.
Expatriate writer Warren Rodwell has been in China since 2002, and teaches university postgraduates in Chengdu. Many of his feature stories, reviews & photographs have been published online or in hardcopy media form. Warren also narrates documentaries and administers various websites as part of his efforts to promote Chengdu & Sichuan culture(s) more globally.
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