Qingdao brewer helps residents of Gansu city improve livelihoods

By XIE CHUANJIAO in Qingdao, Shandong | (China Daily) | 2021-12-01

Editor's Note: China has announced victory in the fight against absolute poverty, and is now embarked on the important task of consolidating and expanding that achievement and pursuing rural vitalization. China Daily is publishing a series of stories looking at how Chinese people are working for this cause.

Wu Yanli hails from Qingdao, Shandong province, a place long known as China's capital of beer.

The coastal city is home to the world's fifth-largest brewery, Tsingtao, and to Asia's Oktoberfest, the annual Qingdao International Beer Festival, so it's no wonder that Wu, 53, has a deep interest in beer and has dabbled in brewing.

Chatting to friends just over two years ago, he first heard the term "East-West in-pair aid" and learned that the local government was making an effort to introduce businesses to the Wudu district in Longnan, Gansu province. That gave him the idea of turning his long-standing interest in beer into a business.

"East-West in-pair aid" refers to a policy under which the developed regions of eastern China have been paired with underdeveloped regions in the west over the past 20 years to help boost the latter's economies and reduce poverty.

Qingdao has been paired with several cities, including Longnan, and its West Coast New Area, where Wu lives, is paired with Wudu.

Realizing that it might be a good opportunity to achieve his dreams, while also helping those in need out of poverty, Wu started researching the market in Longnan and discovered that the city had great potential for the sale of beer.

"Longnan residents like to go out after supper and enjoy the nightlife," Wu said.

Beer is an essential component of nightlife, and his investigation suggested that at the time, Longnan people were consuming an estimated 200,000 metric tons of beer a month.

"However, most of the beer wasn't made in the city," he said.

So Wu and two friends opened a brewery in Wudu in November 2019 with an investment of 30 million yuan ($4.68 million).

Covering about 1.3 hectares, the brewery can produce 20,000 tons of craft beer a year. It is said to be the first modern open-style craft brewery in Longnan, and it fills a gap in the brewing sector.

Named the QingLong Brotherhood-the "Qing" and "Long" referring to Qingdao and Longnan, and the "brotherhood" symbolizing the joint pursuit of development and prosperity-Wu said the brewery has introduced experienced brewers to the area and uses premium malted barley.

"We also considered local drinking habits and the climate in the brewing process," he said. "Our first step was to tap into the local market. Our next will be to focus on developing new beers."

The brewery mostly makes stout and ale, but it plans to introduce new beer flavors made using local agricultural products, such as cherries, Sichuan peppers and loquats.

"In the long run, we plan to diversify by building a beer-themed square, for example, and by holding exhibitions on brewing and organizing cultural events to spread awareness of beer, and boost the local economy," Wu said.

The brewery has created job opportunities, especially for those struggling temporarily, and employs two dozen people from low-income households. Wu said he hopes his business will not only increase their earnings, but also encourage workers to learn new skills.

One of the workers, Guo Xiaoyan, said that due to the COVID-19 epidemic, she was unable to leave Longnan in search of work.

"The local government told me about the brewery, and after work, I have time to look after my two children," she said, adding that the money she earns has enabled her to pay for their schooling.