There were a lot of reasons to pour alcohol down your gullet this past weekend. A toast of Veuve Clicquot for your Valentine's love, shots of Johnny Walker amongst compatriots during Lonely Hearts Sunday, a 30 pack of Budweiser for All-Star Weekend, or glass after glass of Huangjiu to honor the dawning of the Year of the Tiger. If you somehow managed to avoid all of those, then I suppose congratulations are in order. But the Chinese New Year is often a long celebration, and one that can happily bleed into tomorrow's start of Mardi Gras. So if you haven't been drinking, or just want to keep the party rolling, we took the liberty of sampling two versions of our country's most popular Chinese beer, Tsingtao.
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Tsingtao actually came to be in 1903, thanks to some German brewers who wanted something to drink in China. It went on to be operated by the Chinese, the Japanese (during World War I) then back to the Chinese (after World War II). Now, it is partially owned by Anheuser-Busch. Go figure. So while we, quite sadly, couldn't manage to find any Tsingtao Spirulina Green Beer, we did pop into BevMo! and buy both the Tsingtao Lager and Tsingtao Pure Draft. The Pure Draft is apparently brewed at a low fermentation temperature, and with pure mountain water. Both, it turns out, are described as having "high malty flavor & well hopped character." But what happens when they're cracked open and put to the test? Well if you've ever had a beer at a Chinese restaurant (or gone on this personally adored adventure), I can almost guarantee that you already know what Tsingtao Lager tastes like. It is a mellow, light beer, with a bit of sweetness that tends to cut well into everything from greasy egg rolls to spicy tilapia hot pot. It is, alas, a beer I never expected to analyze with too critical a tongue.
Then there is the Pure Draft, which is lighter, crisper and a bit more, well, to state the obvious... pure. The Lager also, it turns out, has a much stronger aroma, while the Pure Draft is nearly odorless in contrast. When both are at their coldest, it is a difficult comparison, but as they warm up the differences become slightly more apparent (not that we recommend drinking them warm). In the end, though, I must say that after switching back and forth, sipping one, then the other, my brain began to tire, blurring the lines and eventually convincing me that both, quite frankly, are perfectly acceptable. Drink enough of either, and any analysis, I assure you, will be rendered moot. Happy new year, and watch out for tigers.