It’s fair to say that most people in China enjoy a beer or two, be they locals or expats. Beer forms a big part of the culture here, so what better way to celebrate our shared love for all things hoppy than by checking out the best beer festivals in China. Below is a list of what I consider to be the top five, sure to leave you gasping for a pint by the end.
Location: Hong Kong
Few things beat a lovely pint of IPA while looking over Victoria Harbour. The harbour-front location for Hong Kong’s Beertopia beer festival must be one of the best in the world, with its stunning views and easy access to the city’s top bars and restaurants.
Now in its seventh year, Beertopia certainly lives up to its name, laying a pretty strong claim to being the premier craft beer festival in China, if not Asia. Last year, the festival welcomed more than 500 beers from all over the world. On top of that, live entertainment and music are provided all day and night, so there's plenty to keep you occupied.
With Qingdao being a former German colony and home of China’s most famous beer, it’s perhaps no surprise that it also hosts the mainland China’s most famous traditional beer festival.
Qingdao was under German control from 1898 to 1914, during which time, it's fair to say, the locals picked up the occupiers’ penchant for making (and enjoying) beer. It seems only natural that the city should host what could be described as China's equivalent to Oktoberfest.
The influence of Tsingtao is felt strongly at the festival, but fear not, there’s a lot more to this beer than the tiny watery glasses you may be used to drinking at KTV. In Qingdao, beer lovers can sample many different varieties of the city’s wrongly-spelt namesake beer, and just like Guinness in Dublin, they say it tastes better where it’s made.
Compared to the other craft beer festivals appearing on this list, the Qingdao International Beer Festival is very much a Chinese-style event, so make sure your mug (or bag) is full and be ready to gan bei!
Shenzhen has one of the most vibrant and active craft beer scenes in all of China, with more brewers and brewpubs popping up seemingly every month. There are top beers to check out from the likes of Taps, ET Brewery and Bionic Brew, the latter of whom also host the annual Shenzhen Craft Beer Fest.
Although the festival is still in relative infancy, having only been started in 2016, it’s quickly established itself as the city’s most prestigious craft beer event. A quick look at the invited brewers for 2018 reads like a who's who of China's best craft brewers. From Beijing, there's Slow Boat, Jing-A and Great Leap; there’s Liberty from Dongguan; Young Masters from Hong Kong; Devils from Wuhan and Master Gao from Nanjing.
There’s plenty of food vendors and DJ sets too, so you can wash down that IPA and dance the evening away.
Let’s get one thing out the way first of all. Nothing is going to compare to the actual Oktoberfest held annually in actual Munich. Being there for the festival is truly an unforgettable experience and one that cannot be recreated.
That being said, for those who can’t make the trip to Bavaria, China hosts plenty of slap-up shindigs that hold a candle to the best of the rest of Oktoberfest festivals around the world.
Oktoberfest parties can be found in most major cities in China. The Paulaner franchise of restaurant/bars always invites a German band to perform, but a personal favorite of mine is held in the city of Dongguan.
Dongguan is located between Guangzhou and Shenzhen. While not as large as either of those two metropolises, it still boasts a nice variety of restaurants and bars and a vibrant foreign community. It’s within such a community that Martin’s, a German restaurant run by a man from Stuttgart, has brought his own annual Oktoberfest party.
With a good selection genuine imported beer, authentic German food and a band flown in from the mother land who know how to get guests drinking and dancing, the whole place is rocking for a long weekend to remember.
No list of China beer festivals would be complete without an entry from the nation’s capital. While there is a number of beer festivals in Beijing, you won’t find a finer selection of ales than at the Beijing Invitational Craft Beer Festival.
The organisers try to take a slightly different approach that ultimately gives the visitors a more immersive and a hassle-free experience. The event is broken up into three- or four-hour sessions, where ticket holders can enjoy unlimited pours and also talk to the brewers. Each session is strictly limited, so you don't have to worry about long queues.
The numbers from 2018's event give a good idea of the quality and variety to be expected. There were 213 beers available from 39 breweries from 15 countries, spread out over North America, Europe, Asia and Oceania. I'm getting thirsty just thinking about it!
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Keywords: China beer festivals
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