Beginner’s guide to Chinese beer

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Beer, as we know it today, was first brewed in China in 1900 when a brewery was founded in Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang Province. The country has never looked back.


Today, there are more than 1,500 domestic beer brands in China making it the world’s leading nation for beer production and consumption.

If you visit China, don’t order a Western beer brand. Be adventurous. Here’s a beginner’s guide to Chinese beer to help you get started.

TsingTao Beer

Tsingtao is currently exported to more than 90 countries around the world, so it is likely you’ve heard of China’s most popular beer.

First produced in 1903 when Germany and Britain opened a beer factory in Qingdao, TsingTao has become a Chinese cultural staple that has transcended the country’s drastic changes over the past century.

According to the company’s website, the first Tsingtao beer was most likely served at a live kung-fu fight in 1904 and it was also the first Chinese beer imported to the US back in 1972.

Snow Beer

Snow Beer, also known as Snowflake Beer, is a light lager that was first brewed in 1993. It has managed to become a serious contender to TsingTao Beer in less than a decade.

Despite being primarily sold in China, it is the world’s best-selling beer brand in the world, boasting annual sales of about 110 million hectolitres—enough to fill 12 Olympic-sized swimming pools with beer every day.

The brand currently has a sponsorship deal with the Spanish Football League and is also, unsurprisingly, one of the main sponsors of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

Harbin Beer

China’s oldest beer dates back to 1900 when Jan Wróblewski, a German citizen with Polish roots, founded a brewery in Harbin to supply thirsty Russians working on the Trans-Manchurian Railway project.

Brewed with a distinctive European flavour, Harbin Beer has managed to preserve its unique taste and heritage for well over a century and it shows no sign of stopping.

Interestingly, Harbin Beer is also vegan friendly, with the company claiming that they do not use animal products in the processing or filtration of any products.

Yanjing Beer

Yanjing Beer is the official state beer of China, a distinction that was bestowed on the brewery in 1995 and is also humbly printed on its international labels.

Founded in 1980, the name comes from the old name for China’s capital city and it is also remains a ‘Beijing stalwart’, deriving 25 percent of its sales from inside Beijing.

This rice beer is also made using mineral water found 90 metres below the YanShan Mountain, located north of Beijing.