West Coast New Area

Qingdao: the city that was built on beer

By Mike Peters | (China Daily Europe) | 2018-03-26

Bikinis, beach volleyball and other entertainment help a summer festival grow every year

It's a breezy summer day in coastal Qingdao, and I am awash in beauty and beer. I've been hanging out all morning with 48 lovely young ladies, each one a beauty contest winner in her home country. They've come to China for about 20 days of publicity appearances, ending with a bikini contest on the final weekend of Qingdao's annual beer festival which starts on Aug 16.

Andrea Torres, the 20-year-old contender from Panama, is participating in just one of the entertainments surrounding the festival. But she's not drinking beer.


A festival employee carries a glass of fruit-flavored beer at the annual Qingdao Beer Festival in the coastal city in Shandong province. Wang Haibin / For China Daily


Participants in a bikini contest learn about Chinese culture and crafts.

"Nooo!" she says, laughing. "When you do this, you have to be healthy, eat healthy."

Even more than most foreigners in China, these ladies are eagerly photographed by local admirers. Namibia's statuesque Carlen Nell, 18, is a camera magnet because she is extremely tall as well as pretty. Martina Stetiarova, 24, is also awash in a sea of camera flashes: The Slovakian is tall, beautiful AND blonde.

"The bikini girls" are quite busy: Learning to do Chinese paper cuts (photo op). Getting an introduction to Chinese opera (photo op). Lunch (no photo op - who looks good when they're eating?). Then we're off to the Qingdao Olympic Sailing Center (mother of all photo ops!)

"So hot!" one of the staff members sighs after giving his glamorous guests a seaside tour.

Bathing beauties

It's no coincidence that the bathing beauties are in town during the week of the Qingdao Beer Festival, this time in its 24th year.

Lin Xingyu, the director, chief consultant and primary designer of the event, has been here for each of the two dozen festivals. He's made such a study of the production that he's also a guest lecturer on the topic at both Peking University and Shanghai Normal University.

While beer is at the heart of the two-week extravaganza, this is no drunken frat party. Some college students naturally find their way to the nearby beaches with a bag of beer under each arm, but the festival season has grown with a variety of entertainments that gravitate to this time period: the bikini contest, a collegiate volleyball championship, a sailing week and two days of sailing competition with Olympic-style events. This summer the city is also hosting the International Horticulture Expo.

"Festivals are carriers of culture," Lin says, and many of the partygoers we meet in the streets say they're here for the performances more than the beer.

As we follow him through a museum on the grounds of "Beer City", the biggest festival venue, Lin waves proudly as we pass a wall of coasters, souvenir T-shirts and about a thousand other pieces of beeraphernalia.

"The first 10 years we had mostly domestic beers here," he says, "but as China's opening-up really got underway, we've had more foreign brands. That includes Carlsberg, the Danish beer giant with a huge presence in the country - in fact, it's brewed in China. There are also vendors here for beers including Maredsous (Belgian) Zwickl (Czech) and German brews Paulaner, Spaten and Erdinger.

"All big cities in China have some kind of festival," Lin notes, "but few have one based on something so indigenous, so tied to the city's identity. Most have to copy something from others." (Take that, Tianjin!)

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