Blog News

1. Comments are still disabled though I am thinking of enabling them again.

2. There are now several extra pages - Poetry Index, Travel, Education, Childish Things - accessible at the top of the page. They index entires before October 2013.

3. I will, in the next few weeks, be adding new pages with other indexes.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Things I Miss About England #3: Beer (Well, duh!)

Let's do the most obvious one.
If I lived in Shanghai or Beijing, or even Yangshuo, there would be no need for this post. But I don't. I live in Baiyin. We have quite a selection of beers available here. There's Tsingtao, Hyung, Snow, Yellow River, Harbin and a few others. 
And they all taste exactly the same.
The most discerning palate in the world would be unable to distinguish any of them in a blind taste test except maybe Harbin which sometimes (though not always) seems to have a slightly appley flavour.
They are all pale yellow lager-style beers with virtually nothing to recommend them beyond the fact that there is nothing else available.
And they're cheap. The prices range from about 30p a bottle to about £1.20 a bottle depending on just how down market your bar is.
They are also insanely gassy. Mike and I once devised a bar game. When you are both about halfway down the bottle you pick it up and swirl the beer as gently as you can. The froth will rise quickly to flow out of the bottle neck. The objective is to build the highest tower of froth on top of the bottle as you can without it running down the sides. The record was about an inch and a half.
You can continue playing even when there is less than an inch of beer in the bottle.

Now I have omitted the fact that there are two bars here that do dark beers. These are, I think from the labels, Chinese attempts at European style dark beers. By and large failed attempts. They do have some flavour and I do drink them occasionally but they are far too sweet for my palate. They are also between five and ten times as expensive as the fizzy yellow stuff.

So, I often find myself fantasising about the way that in England I could walk into pretty much any pub and get a decent pint and in a good pub get a choice of a dozen decent pints. I could select from all kinds of style of beer at all kind of strengths - that's another thing here: the strong brews are 3.5%, the weak ones 2.5% - and have a great time drinking it all.

In summer I could sit out in the Black Eagle beer garden with a few pints of one of their guest ales and pass a perfectly pleasant Sunday afternoon.

I could go to Wolverhampton Beer Festival and spend the night drinking myself silly on halves without having to duplicate anything.

I do miss beer.

Thankfully, I have signed up to teach summer school in Yangshou and while I can get the Chinese stuff there too, I also know a few splendid bars that have imported bottled beers. It's pricey but it's worth it. And I'll be there in about six weeks from now.

I'm counting the hours.