It’s a pong-off? Rickshaw to challenge Pyro to beer-athletics match

An inside source says The Rickshaw beer pong champions plan to challenge their counterparts at Pyro Pizza to a match that some observers are already saying would rival last year’s Olympics. Beer pong is a sport that  requires a fine balance between drinking ability and hand-to-eye coordination, with studies showing top players have superior “fast twitch” muscles, particularly in the elbow area. The source says a represenative of The Rickshaw team will deliver a hand-written challenge to Pyro to play the match in a neutral location, with The Bird’s Nest seeming an ideal spot. More details to follow…

Wine in Beijing: Chile’s potential, China’s problems, Australia’s invasion, and more

Because the back-end of this blog was as accessible this week as a front-row seat in tomorrow’s October 1 parade, I have been posting more on sibling site Grape Wall of China. Here are a few recent post that might interest wine imbibers who read this site…

Sour grapes: When it comes to poor Chinese wine, don’t shoot the wine maker

“The past few months, I have been lucky enough to visit wineries along the northern swath of China – in Xinjiang, Ningxia, Shanxi, and Hebei. One thing I notice: the wines made by many producers do not reflect the skill of the wine makers.” I note three issues wine makers face, including unripe grapes, too-high yields, and the prospect of blending in imported bulk wine, and then explain how the nature of China’s consumer market allows it to happen.

By bulk, by bottle: Is Chile the key to changing China’s wine scene?

A random thought: Could Chile be the key to shifting the China wine market? The idea: Roughly 55 percent of the imported bulk wine entering China the last three years hailed from Chile; this is being blended with local wine and bottled under Chinese labels; this means consumers buying these wines are getting a “taste of Chile“; and when these seek to buy cheaper imported imported wines, those from Chile are a top option. The point? Chilean wines stand to offer the average consumer a combination of familiarity (“Hmmm, this kind of tastes like [enter big brand name], only better”) and price (“It’s not that much more expensive”). See the article for more details.

Drinker beware: Canadian wine label controversey holds lessons for China

Most consumers are unaware that many “Chinese” wines they find in supermarkets, restaurants, and elsewhere include imported bulk wine. The amount of bulk wine in recent years is somewhere between 10 percent and 40 percent, those numbers ranging from official statistics to estimates based on the double-counting of local wine production. Blending imported wines with Chinese ones tends to improve overall quality, but the issue is that domestic labels rarely indicate this foreign content. This post looks at how a recent wine labeling controversy in Canada holds lessons for China.

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No worries: Australia targeting China wine market at every level

China has maintained a steady presence as the number two source of bottled wine by volume in China, taking 20 percent to 22 percent of the market the past five years. It has also been striving of late to change its image from being a maker of good but relatively cheap wine to one with a diverse range of styles and premium wines. And now, in 2009, it has emerged as the second biggest source of bulk wine for China.

Brew tour: Xenon Yuan, aka “China Beer Geek”, leads pale ale tasting in Beijing

beijing boyce bars blog beer tasting 1-

In mid-July, a group of three beer enthusiasts gathered at my apartment for a beer tasting led by Xenon Yuan, author of the new blog ChinaBeerGeek. We tried about a dozen pale ales, about half of them available in China and the rest hand-carried in by Yuan. We tried them against a sharp cheddar and a blue cheese. Here are Yuan’s tasting notes (for more details, such as the differences between pale ale and India pale ale (IPA), or between American and European interpretations of these styles, see his blog). I’ll post an interview with Yuan on Monday about Beijing’s best beer bars, how to protect your brew at home, and more. Here are some of his comments from the tasting…

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“The beers available in Beijing were as follows:

Greene King IPA, 3.6% alcohol by volume (ABV). Not an authentic IPA, but actually an “ordinary session bitter”. (UK)

“Morland’s Old Speckled Hen, 5.2% ABV. Now owned by Greene King, but maintains a separate yeast strain. See full report for my warnings about clear glass bottles.

“Fuller’s London Pride, 4.7% ABV. Another classic English pale ale.

“American brewers tend to use hops that are a cross between traditional European varieties and an indigenous wild variety native to the Americas. These new hops produce flavors and aromas that are described as “citrusy” or “piney”, unlike the “grassy” or “earthy” qualities common to their European cousins. Out of this came a whole new incarnation of pale ale.

“To introduce this style, I chose North Coast Brewing Co’s ACME California Pale Ale, imported to China through the American Craft Beer Partners by DXCEL. 5% ABV

“When we moved to IPA’s, I started off with Brooklyn Brewery’s East India Pale Ale, again imported by DXCEL and now available in many cities throughout China.

“Aside from these beers, the rest were from my personal stash. They are arguably more “extreme” variations, such as the “double” or “imperial” IPA. (This style in particular was my choice for moving onto the blue cheese, by the way.)

“Again, you can read more about these beers and our encounter with them at my new blog. They are listed below for reference.

“As should be apparent, this was quite a long night. In the future, I hope to conduct more such tastings, and hopefully with a few more people so as to lessen the burden on our livers. Moreover, I have so many more styles and categories of beer to introduce people to, foods to pair them with, and surprises to reveal.  A whole world awaits, full of new tastes, smells, and flavor possibilities!

beijing boyce bars blog beer tasting 2

beijing boyce bars blog beer tasting 2

Beer Jing: 12 Beijing bars team up for an October brew fest

City Weekend and beer distributor Dxcel, known best for its Australian and American brews, are teaming up with a dozen Beijing establishments in October for the innaugural Beer Jing festival.

When you drink a Dxcel-distributed beer – say a Brooklyn Lager, Crown, or VB – at one of these dozen spots, you get a stamp in your passport for that place.  Be among the first 20 people to get eight stamps and you will be invited to the Beer Jing party on October 29 at Danger Doyle’s at 7:30 PM*. According to the press release, participants will  “taste some of the most exotic microbrews the world has to offer.”  The doors open to everyone at 9:30 PM and for RMB100 you can drink beer to your liver’s content.

To participate, pick up a “passport” at one of these bars: Danger Doyle’s (map), Rickshaw (map), Kro’s Nest (map), Ned’s (map), Frank’s Place (map), Westside Café, Union Bar and Grill (map), Unconditional Love Coffee (map), The Den (map), Nola, Vineyard Café (map), and Tim’s Texas Barbecue (map).

You can also find good deals on the Beer Jing brews during October at Kro’s Nest every Thursday (five beers for RMB80), at The Den every day (RMB25), and at Nola where prices range from RMB30 for VB to RMB26 for Blue Star. All 12 spots will offer a 20 percent discount on these beers during the “Beer Jing weekend”, October 16 to 18.

* You need at least eight stamps to qualify. Send a scan of your passport to Lee Mack at leemack@cityweekend.com.cn by October 26.

Top five watering holes: Samantha Ma on Tun, Red Moon, Xiu, and more

Every night is ladies night – well, almost – for bar explorer Samantha Ma. Here are her five favorite spots to go in Beijing. (See more top fives here.)

beijing boyce bars blog top five watering holes samantha ma

Tun (map): The best ladies night in town! Big drinks to lighten things up, and crazy dancing. A great way to release your stress after a hard week’s work – and free to boot.

Red Moon (map) (the one at the Grand Hyatt, not the one in Sanlitun): Great lounge band that performs Western and Chinese classics, making use of traditional instruments like the erhu and guzheng. And great cocktails!

Salud (map) (Sanlitun): I liked their spiced rums. Sitting outside on a weekend night watching Sanlitun go by is fantastic fun.

Danger Doyles (map): A great bar  and the rooftop is perfect on a nice summer night. The pool table is a little beat up, but there is hardly ever a wait, and they have free pizza on Wednesdays.

Xiu (map): Bejing’s new “it” bar really is nice. An elegant atmosphere, good drinks (although pretty expensive), and great live bands when I’ve been.