Beer in China: Part Three
“This Dirty Little Cup Really Sets Off the Starchy Adjuncts”
Here’s another fairly minor observation I made about beer culture in China: I’m pretty sure it’s a social faux pas to drink beer straight from the bottle there. Every time you order a bottle of beer, no matter the size or how crappy the brew, it comes with a little drinking glass that you are to keep filling as you go.
I usually* just used the glass because it was there. However, some of my travel mates were out drinking one cheery night, and another table of Chinese patrons kept raising their bottles toward them and making different motions, all while laughing and saying things in Chinese to my friends. “We thought they were just toasting us and being friendly,” one of my American friends told me (by the way, this behavior is so common there that this would have been my first thought as well), “but then we began to realize: Hey! I think they’re making fun of us for drinking straight from the bottle!” I haven’t been able to verify this idea about drinking from bottles since getting back to the states, but I’m pretty sure she was right.
And now for the asterisk part of the discussion:
*Like I said, I almost always drank from the little glass, and I do firmly believe in the old “When in Rome” saying. However, while it may be uncouth to drink straight from the bottle in China, below are a few thoughts about why this isn’t always the most logical approach to downing a beer in the PRC:
- The little glasses sometimes come to the table a bit wet. Unknown water is your enemy in China. Short of a napkin, I’ve used my shirt to thoroughly wipe a glass dry and then let it sit for a minute or so to evaporate what moisture was left. You know, just to be safe (or paranoid, depending on your point of view).
- In a very modern, mall-like bullet-train station, my two friends and I ordered 12 oz. Tsingtao bottles, and all three of the glasses that came with them were damp and stunk of stale beer, as if they had not been washed after last use. Bottles are at least (relatively) sanitary, and these bottles had just been opened, so we went ahead and yokeled it up and passed on the glasses, thank you very much.
- When in doubt about the glass, remember: In China, you’re probably not drinking Old Rasputin, so glassware is often not really a necessity. In fact, wait a minute… That’s a 2.5% abv Snow adjunct lager sitting in front of you, for God’s sake! Who cares?