Kunshan International Beer Festival

Yesterday evening Dev and I boarded a bus headed for the Kunshan International Beer Festival, held about an hour north of the city. Upon boarding the chartered bus, we were handed complimentary cans of beer to enjoy for the next hour or so, as the bus wound its way through the suburbs playing the Mamas and the Papas, Joan Baez, and Jefferson Airplane.

We arrived at the festival just as things were heating up: power ballads, provocative dancing, and a raucous children's play area. Uighur meat stick vendors were out in full force, offering your choice of camel, sheep, deer, or ostrich meat. Other vendors sold coconut milk and fried silkworms, as well as standard western fare like sandwiches and hot dogs.

Many beers were represented, including Harbin, Suntory, Tsingtao, Beamish, Newcastle, Heineken, and Budweiser, but the center of the action was the German tent.

The German tent was packed with almost a thousand happy beer fans in an approximately equal mix of German and Chinese, with other westerners and Indians thrown in for good measure. Ample quantities of beer were served by waitstaff in traditional German garb, and there was a huge spread of both German and Chinese food, including pretzels, saurkraut and sausages, potatoes, lentils, and spaetzle alongside stir-fried vegetables and meat. The tent was energized by the tireless enthusiasm of the German beer hall band, who sang rollicking German favorites for more than four hours, interspersed with joking asides in German and English.

When we arrived around 7pm, most people in the tent were sitting on the long wooden benches, talking quietly in groups of twos or threes, or huddled around the dinner buffet tables. Only an hour or two later, fueled by the free-flowing beer and upbeat music, everyone was cheering, singing, swaying arm in arm, dancing in the aisles, and standing atop benches and tables. Perfect strangers were laughing and embracing, and offering up cheers to the "Volk." All the while, little girls in long braids danced around aimlessly in the giddy, breathless circles common to five year old girls of all nations.

All of which goes to prove again that alcohol is truly the greatest diplomat.

We have some great photos here but nothing compares to the videos of dancing meat stick vendors, twirling dolls, and drunken camaraderie in the German beer tent.
(Sadly, we ran out of batteries before things really got out of hand.)