beer reviews bottled beer

The Emperor's New Beer

Tsingtao, so Michael Jackson says in his 500 Beers, is “relatively mild but has notably more hop aroma and bitterness than most other golden lagers from China”. Faint praise but, nonetheless, Tsingtao makes the list. His Eyewitness Companion to Beer from a few years later describes it as a “hoppy, light-bodied pilsner”.

The Beer Book says Tsingtao is “crisp, slightly malty… nutty sweet” and it’s “aroma grainy, with a hint of sweetness”.

There’s no doubting that it’s an interesting beer in historical and cultural terms but, on our scale for rating commercial lager which runs from unpleasant, through bland, to very tasty, we’d place Tsingtao somewhere near the bottom.

Are we missing something?

13 replies on “The Emperor's New Beer”

Ah, the old argument. I find Tsingtao to be distinctive and perfectly drinkable (although it’s been a while since I opened one). I included it in my book “500 Beers” thusly “Unashamedly listing rice as an ingredient alongside the usual quartet, it’s hard to avoid imagining that you can smell it on the nose. The palate too has a distinctive Oriental note to it – green tea, perhaps? A gentle hop bitterness and green tea note pervade into the finish.”

And it also sparked a splendid internet row on the forum at;f=5;t=000478

I haven’t had it for a while but I remember it being slightly sweet and inoffensive. It’s the favourite lager of a friend of mine so I guess some people find something in it.

I quite like a chingdow. Maybe it’s my ageing tastebuds, but there used to be a distinct grassy hopiness that I no longer detect when I have it.

Tsingtao also do (did?) a dark beer which had loads more flavour. I’ve only seen it in Hong Kong.

It’s usually what I order in Hong Kong though Philippine San Mig isn’t bad either when served ice cold. I agree it isn’t the best lager but when it’s two for one in happy hour, it’ll do.

I’ve had the dark too, but it is just a caramel bomb.

In a word “no” you are not missing anything. It is the best of a bad lot, but heck when your major competition is a 3.5% cold filtered beer called “snow” it’s no wonder it’s the most (in)famous. MJ must have been on the road for a while for this guy to taste good…..

I’ve had fun trying to pronounce this in the Chinese restaurant in the past. I think it’s an OK beer. Good for the hot weather or washing a curry down. I think I get the very slight grassy note that Ten Inch Wheels but this may just be a bit of light strike (which I don’t really mind) in retrospect.

I tend to drink it every now and then in a Chinese restaurant, forgetting how much I dislike it, and usually wish I’d just had water instead. That’s it: it’s one of those beers I like less than water.

It’s a hopeless beer. There are lots of decent, drinkable mainstream lagers, but Tsingtao isn’t one of them. They’ve thrown a lot of samples and promotions at beer writers (I got some attention from them back in the day) so I suspect that may explain some of the past, more positive reactions to the brand!

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