Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chinese Beer Bags

Yes, you read that correctly.  In China, you can get fresh beer - in a plastic shopping bag from a street vendor!
He must be thirsty.
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A co-worker recently shared this information with me (thanks, Ben!).  He said that he actually witnessed this when he was in Qingdao, China on business.  When Ben asked his translator, "what's with the bags?", I don't think he was prepared for the answer.  Apparently, brewery workers are partially paid with beer, and they take their kegs to the streets.  People like it because of how fresh it is, so it is customary to see people walking the streets with their bags of beer.

I'll take a bag to go, please!
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Qinqdao is home to China's "largest and most prestigious" brewery, Tsingtao, which was founded by German settlers in 1903.  (I think there's a German phrase that goes something like, "Beer. Never leave home without it.")  Not only is it China's largest brewery, Tsingtao Lager is China's #1 consumer product exported from China.  (I think the exported beer is bottled though.)

Tsingdao Brewery
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So what do you do with beer in a bag?  I suppose you could take it home and transfer it to a mug, but that just doesn't seem like a whole lot of fun.  I mean, we're talking beer in a bag here.  I did a little bit of digging around on the Internet, and it appears that most people choose to consume their beer on the spot with a straw.

How do you drink beer from a bag?  One sip at a time.
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While you may never find another place on earth that sells beer in a bag on the street, you don't have to travel all the way to Qingdao, China just to try their lager (#1 consumer product export, remember?).  I have not yet had the privilege, but the next time I see Tsingtao Beer somewhere, I think I'll have to try a bag glass.  Prost!
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Alehoof, Ivy, and Hops

I have a desk calendar called "Forgotten English" by Jeffrey Kacirk, and there was an interesting entry for April 11th.  It was a word called "alehoof", which is apparently a botanical word.  Kacirk quotes Daniel Fennig's "Royal English Dictionary" (1775) which defines alehoof as "the ground-ivy [Glechoma hederacea], so called by the Saxons because a chief ingredient in their malt-liquor instead of hops".  Kacirk then talks about an interesting event called the Kent Hop Stringing Championship (see photo below).  He says:

"At this time of year, English hop plants begin to awaken from their fall and winter dormancy and need to be strung, allowing them to twine upward to heights of more than fifteen feet.
"Until the 1960s, a contest was held in Staplehurst, Kent, in which contestants secured the delicate hop shoots to poles for the title of Britain's Champion Hop Stringer.  Judges awarded points for speed and neatness based on the principles of the time-tested 'umbrella method,' in which string was run up to overhead wires and bound by a 'bander-in' worker forming a 'hill.'  Stilts were once employed by hopyard workers, but now most of the elevated work is handled with ten-foot-long poles tipped with piping, through which the string is fed.  Silver trophy cups were awarded to the winners, and pints of ale were distributed among all participants.
"Before the 1520s, which is when hops came to England from Holland, various bittering and flavoring herbs were used for beer, including dandelions, hay, pine needles, balsam, mint, tansey, wormwood, coriander, and even ivy."

Who knew??

Hop Stringing Competition
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A Hop-Stringer Named Johnny Hook (Pseudonym Anyone?)
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Hop Stringing on Stilts
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