Qingdao is already home to China's flagship brew, Tsingtao Beer, but for 16 days each year, tipplers from around China and the globe head to this Shandong city to wet their whistles on an international selection of beers while enjoying the tug of war between stages tempting audiences with a variety of song, dance, performance and (of course) drinking.
The 2012 Qingdao International Beer Festival (Qīngdǎo Guójì Píjiǔjié, 青岛国际啤酒节) kicks off 11 August and runs through the 26th, moving this year to the fabulously-named Qingdao Beer Passion Square (Qīngdǎo Píjiǔ Jīqíng Guǎngchǎng, 青岛啤酒激情广场). Last year's festival, held at Qingdao International Beer City, pulled 280,000 visitors its first day—this year 30,000 pre-sale tickets were sold already on the first two days.
How to Party in Qingdao
The aforementioned Qingdao International Beer City hosts regular events and drinking, but nothing as big as August's International Beer Festival. Stands hawk beers by the pitcher, keg; while smaller options are available, remember: sharing is caring. Chinese drinking culture emphasizes togetherness (unless you're Li Bai) and you're likely to meet tables of new friends.
Beware, however, it's a drinking culture that doesn't emphasis moderation—the standard Chinese toast, gānbēi (干杯), literally translates to, "dry cup." Feel free to toast, "suíyì" (随意), which means, "to your pleasure." Offerings on tap include German Paulener, Japanese Kirin, American Miller (no relation), Singaporean Tiger, Mexican Corona and the city's own Tsingtao Beer.
Most of the beers are on the light side and don't expect something from some Colorado microbrewery, but this is the biggest beer fest in China—dark beers and things you're normally more hard pressed to find in the Middle Kingdom can be found.
Not easy to find in China or anywhere else, Tsingtao also produces a dark beer (hēi pí, 黑啤). The most common entertainment (besides the drunken antics of your table-mates) are live singing performances, generally on par with karaoke, but on key. While you won't enjoy it on the same level as that Bob Dylan concert in Shanghai, the atmosphere is a lot of fun. Besides singing, expect choreographed dancing, bikini models, art auctions, acrobatics, people downing their brews on stage and more. Like any other attraction in China, the crowds (and the queues) get bigger on weekends. Once inside, food can get pricey and queues are long, so it's not a bad idea to smuggle in a few snacks or have a good meal before going in.
How to Get to the Qingdao Beer Festival
Qingdao Beer Passion Square (Qīngdǎo Píjiǔ Jīqíng Guǎngchǎng, 青岛啤酒激情广场) 11 August-26 August, 2012 10am-11pm daily Take a cab to the square [formerly Century Square (Shìjì Guǎngchǎng, 世纪广场)]. Bus no. 102, 104, 110, 125, 230, 301, 304, 311, 312, 313, 314, 317, 321, 362, 375, 382, 386, 501, 606 and 802 stop near the square.
At night, bus no. 11, 102, 321 and 362 are designated buses to head over to the beer festival. Qingdao can be reached via rail, bus or it's easy to more to Qingdao than beer.