bad beer

April 11th, 2007

So last night, to celebrate the news that my boss is happy to keep me here for another year, we went to Big Pizza.

Big Pizza’s all-you-can-eat-and-drink buffet  has become one of our favourites. The food isn’t great, but it’s certainly edible, and all you can drink? Need I say more? At the very least, we always get our money’s worth. Most of the time we get a decent feed.

So we went there last night. And we discovered something: It’s changed! It’s cool now! Big Pizza also does deliveries, and the last time we had pizza, that’s what we did. It’s always a pain in the arse because no matter how many times we order a pizza to be delivered, and no matter how well we explain how to find our place (and it really isn’t that hard), the delivery guy always gets seriously lost. Anyway, it’s been some time since we actually went to the restaurant for the all-you-can-eat-and-drink deal. And they’ve redecorated. Seriously redecorated.

I remember when Big Pizza first opened it’s Wudaokou branch. I don’t know if that was the first branch or not, but it certainly was the first one I knew about. That was about five years ago. Then just after I escaped Tianjin I took lzh there for pizza and discovered that in the five years it had been open the only thing that had changed was that they now had a clientele. I must have been one of the first customers. I remember going there with a few friends not long, as in a week or two, after it opened. Apart from our group of four or five, there were maybe half a dozen other customers in the whole place. That was pretty sweet. All you can eat really was stuff yourselves full, there’s no competition for food. The same applied to the drinks, and being drinkers all, we did our best to relieve them of a keg or two. Then when I escaped Tianjin and took lzh there all of a sudden there was competition for space as well as food and drink. So much so that they’d instituted a number system. You walk in, take a number, and wait, because the buffet area really is that packed. Lunch times are ok, usually, but even weekday nights you can be left waiting until a table clears for you. That’s alright, though, it means they’re going to stay in business for some time yet, meaning we get plenty of reasonably priced pizza.

So last night we went there and they’d completely redecorated. This was our first time there since before Spring Festival, so I guess they’d taken advantage of the holiday (and the fact they’re in the university district, and so wouldn’t be losing any cash by closing down over the holiday) and redone the place. It looks cool now. Kind of a hip, urban, semi-industrial look. The walls have hip, grafitti-style paintings. The ceiling has all the ducts and pipes and cables exposed and painted a cool sky blue. Well, it looks about as cool as it is possible for an all-you-can-stuff-down-your-gullet place to be cool. They’ve also rearranged things so they can fit more tables in, which is good, cos that cuts down waiting times and keeps them even more in business for even longer. Doesn’t add any to the noise level, though, fortunately.

So we got there. We ate. We stuffed ourselves. I drank our money’s worth. It was that nasty Chinese draught beer. Here’s the unfortunate thing about beer in China: The bottled and canned beers are all much of a muchness beer-wise, but the quality does vary noticeably. That’s why I almost always drink Snow. Tsingtao when there’s no Snow. Yanjing when there’s no Tsingtao or Snow. Hapi in the absence of the others. Serious formaldehyde hangover in the absence of any of those beers. But the draught beer is all equally bad, whether it’s branded Tsingtao, Yanjing, Beijing or what. It’s as if there’s one brewery in the whole country churning out this nasty, sweet, heavily formaldehyded piss-coloured, ridiculously fizzy shit liquid, pouring it in kegs, and calling it draught beer.  After a year or two drinking Chinese beer, bottled, canned, or draught, you’ll be able to handle a few of these without too much hassle. But you’ll learn to recognise that formaldehyded feeling. And that all depends on how old the beer is and how well maintained the equipment isn’t. I suspect last night either the beer had been sitting in the restaurant a few weeks too long or it’s been quite some time since they cleaned out the pipes. And they’d certainly pumped far too much gas into the beer.

The result? This morning that familiar old formaldehyde headache woke me up bright and early to wish me a happy and productive day off work. Goes without saying that I hadn’t slept that well to begin with.

Oh well, a bottle of hair-of-the-dog at lunch time cured me just fine.

Oh, and now they have a pizza that has bacon on it! It’s weird, I never really liked bacon when I was in New Zealand, shit, I hardly ever ate meat of any kind back then, but when I tasted that pizza last night I was in heaven! Mmmmmmmmm….. Bacon pizza……..

4 Responses to “bad beer”

  1. Matt Schiavenza Says:

    I’ve tried Snow on your suggestion and I must admit I haven’t noticed it being any better than Tsingtao. Both are acceptable, though, as you say.

    In Kunming we have the local Dali beer (shitty) and something called Lancang (even shittier), so the Snow/Tsingtao duo is usually good enough for me.

    But one thing- I’ve actually gotten into drinking Great Wall Wine again. At 29 kuai a bottle it ain’t bad and the hangover isn’t either, unless you combine the wine with tequila shots which I did the other night. Brilliant work, Matt!

    Anyway interesting post- lord knows you could write about beer every day and I would still gobble it right up.

  2. wangbo Says:

    I would say Snow is a little cleaner than Tsingtao. Having said that, I certainly have no problem drinking Tsingtao. And I agree that the more drinkable Chinese wines are fine- and not being much of an oenophile I don’t find myself getting all snooty about Chinese wines. Fermented grape juice is all it is, it can be divided into drinkable and rat poison, and that’s about all any sane beer-lover can say about wine. Tequila, though, is evil.

    I remember Dali and Lancang beer from when I was in Yunnan about three years ago. I agree with your assessment. Well, I’ve had worse- remember that shit they serve up in Changzhou? What was it called? Tianmuhu? I remember drinking a beer that only came in small bottles- Xiao Xuanfeng/å°?旋风 I believe it was called. That was alright. Might be one to look out for.

  3. susan Says:

    You meat eater! And bacon too! Oh yeah, good stuff on pizza! They don’t cook too many dishes without meat in China. I didn’t like pork til I went to china and then found it wasn’t as strong tasting as NZ pork. Have you tried snake? Yummy!!! :)

  4. wangbo Says:

    ummm…. I probably have eaten snake, I just can’t remember. That year I spent in Changsha, well, pretty much everything was on the menu.