Taihu Brewing 臺虎精釀 comes to Madrid

The quiet and attractive barrio of Pacifico just outside the historic center of Madrid may not the place you’d expect to find one of the most exotic beers from Taiwan’s famous Taihu Brewery. But just step inside the amazing and cozy beer shop, Espuma, (C/. Juan de Urbieta 13, Local 16, 28007, MADRID, Metro L1 y L6 Pacífico y L1 Menéndez Pelayo.), and you’ll find yourself immersed in the world of craft beers.

Espuma, the shop

Espuma, the beers

The owners are real experts on craft beer and brewing and have started to make their own delicious beer Wit-toria. Apart from the many delicious beers for sale in bottles and, increasingly, in attractive tins, they always have two beers on tap for customers to try.

Taihu Smoked Plum Lichtenhainer臺虎烏梅

On this particular day when I visited Espuma, they had on tap Taihu Smoked Plum Lichtenhainer 臺虎烏梅. It’s a beer that doesn’t leave anyone indifferent: you’ll either love it, or find it downright weird! For me, it was weird on the first sip; then love on the second one.

Pulling a pint of Taihu Smoked Plum beer in Espuma

It’s the use of these smoked plums that gives the Taihu Smoked Plum Lichtenhainer 臺虎烏梅  a smoky fruitiness that no other beer can match; furthermore, it has a refreshing sour tartness that quenches any thirst, even when it is 35º outside. I hope the barrel, the only one they have in the shop, won’t run out too soon!

The flavor of  sour plums, smoked or sweet, is one of my favorite flavors from China and Taiwan. These sour plums, together with rock sugar and other ingredients like sweet osmanthus, are used to make a refreshing cold drink known as Suanmeitang 酸梅汤 often sold in street markets. Even though it is called a soup in Chinese, it is actually a drink. Besides refreshing, Suanmeitang is also believed to be good for your health, as it improves digestion and may inhibit the buildup of lactic acid.

 

酸梅 Sour Plums

Espuma came across the beer at the Founders Madrid Beer & Music Fest in the Patio of Conde Duque Madrid where Taihu Brewing had a stand. Intrigued by the unusual flavor, they decided to purchase a barrel and take it to their shop.

About this Beer:

Here are some professional reviews of the beer from ratebeer.com:

(Click here for Spanish version)

A Taiwanese twist on the German classic. The 40% Cherry wood smoked malt and 40% malted wheat lend smoke heft and body to the palate. We quick sour with a house culture, kefir-derived lacto blend down to 3.2 for a robust tartness. The Taiwanese smoked plum adds a deep fruity/smoky balance on the nose and a refreshing grassiness on the finish, complex but crushable.

The type of beer used in the Smoked Sour Plum is the Lichtenhainer. This description comes from www.beeradvocate.com:

“Lichtenhainer is also a pale beer brewed from lightly smoked malt, though only barley malt is used. The approximately 8º Plato wort is very lightly hopped and only boiled very briefly and exposed to either a spontaneously appearing or deliberately started lactic acid bacteria infection that gives the beer its weakly sour taste. The mostly young beer, which isn’t expected to be clear, is usually served from a barrel.”

Combining both smoky and sour tastes in one beer is unusual—but not unique. At least not in the past: In the first half of the 19th century, Berliner Weisse was also brewed with smoked malt”.

About the Brewery: Taihu Brewing (臺虎精釀):

The Taihu Brewery is Taiwan’s number one craft beer brewery. It has 5 five founders, three Taiwanese and two Americans. Due to Taiwanese laws forbidding brewing inside the capital, brewing takes place in an industrial area outside Taipei. However, the company has a number of taprooms at prime locations throughout the city to satisfy the demands of its thirsty customers (see below).

Taihu’s head brewer is Winnie Hsu, the lady responsible for “putting the tiger in Taihu beers”. She studied brewing beer in Atlanta and Phoenix in the USA and later in Germany where she perfected her technique. Click here for an interesting interview with Taihu’s head brewer.

Apart from the amazing variety of beers, which include IPAs under the name Hop Lanterns, and a host of experimental beers including one made with Kumquat oranges, Kumquat Kölsch (金桔科隆), Taihu Brewery has also developed a Coffee IPA (blond) that uses Coffee from Kenya. This IPA is exclusively sold in Starbucks Reserve location in Shanghai.

The attractive logo below uses the two characters that make up Taihu 臺虎. Tai  is for Taiwan and Hu is for tiger.

 

Another thing that really makes Taihu’s beers stand out are the incredible designs of the labels on the tins, created by the Taiwanese artist Yao Ruizhong姚瑞中). Each can represents a different Taiwanese landmark. Take a look below.

The red of Wuling Maple Farm, Taichung (台中武陵): ‘Mai Xiang’ (麥鄉), or Taihu Bright Ale‘:

The blue of Si Shou Moutain, Taipei (台北四兽山): ‘Taihu IPA (臺虎IPA)’:

The purple of Beinan, Taitung (台東卑南): ‘Xiao Mai’(臺虎小麥), or Taihu Weisse’:

and the green of Guanziling Hotspring, Taichung (台中關子嶺): ‘Kumquat Kölsch (金桔科隆)’:

Where to try Taihu beers in Taiwan:

You can find  Taihu Tap Rooms at least 5 locations in Taipei and one in Taichung. The Tap rooms, Chuoyinshi 啜飲室 literally meaning sipping rooms, have a bewildering selection of beers on their chalkboard. Interesting snacks accompany the beers. If only they had been there in 1997 when I studied Chinese in Taipei!

For a short time while the barrel lasts you can also come to Espuma.

 

Chong’an Market 重按市场: Guizhou 贵州省

Chong’an Market 重安

Guizhou Province 贵州省

From our diary (August 2005) Updated

Chong’an Market 重安市场

Arrival

Chong’an Market 重安市场

The early morning mist and heavy cloud cover bestowed an eerie atmosphere over Chong’an 重安. The river was motionless and silky smooth like a millpond.  The town and the surrounding scenery seemed as if suspended in a  landscape painting. Silence reigned.

Chong’an Market 重安市场

Then there was a shout, a curse and the haggling began. Chong’an Market was open for business.

Chong’an Market 重安市场

The huge market held in Chong’an every five days is one of the best and most colourful in Guizhou. The local Miao 苗族 and Gejia 革家 ethnic groups swamp the small scruffy town in a frenzy of buying and selling that lasts the entire morning and carries on into the early afternoon.

Like the huge Sunday markets in Anshun and Rongjiang, Chong’an market is a farmers’ market, not a place to pick up souvenirs, but [Read more →]

Chejiang Village: Rongjiang Guizhou Province

Chejiang Village 车江

Rongjiang 榕江

Guizhou Province 贵州省

Chejiang Drum tower 车江鼓楼

Chejiang 车江

Just a few kilometers out of Rongjiang is the Dong Village of Chejiang 车江, A rustic place with a couple remarkable structures including an enormous Drum TowerChejiang is a peaceful and lad-back where locals get on with life and curiously observe the odd foreigner who strays into their village.

Chejiang 车江 Curious Local Dong Lady

Chejiang is really a cluster of Dong Minority 侗族 hamlets, spread out along the road heading east from the bridge. Bus number 1, leaving from in front of the Qingfeng hotel will take you there in less than 10 minutes.

 

Chejiang 车江

The highlight of Chejiang is an enormous Drum Tower that can be seen from quite a distance. It has been fenced in and provided with a ticket office (un-staffed after 5 o’clock), but in the late afternoon, after 5 or 6 o’clock, village life around the Tower resumes.

Chejiang Drum Tower车江鼓楼

Local ladies take their buckets to a well on the premises, while [Read more →]

Bakai Village: Rongjiang Guizhou: The Miao 苗族 and their amazing garments

Bakai Village 扒开村

Rongjiang 榕江

Guizhou Province 贵州省

Bakai Village 扒开村

After spending the morning strolling around Rongjiang’s huge Sunday market we were left with a few hours to kill before we had to catch the last bus back to Kaili. There wasn’t enough time to go to the amazing Dong Village of Zengchong so we looked for a closer alternative.

Bakai Village 扒开村

Walking around the market we had noticed that some ladies had come to town in the most amazingly embroidered dresses and trousers. We asked the receptionist in the hotel about them and she told us that they were Gaoshan Miao 高山苗 or High Mountain Miao from the village of Bakai 扒开村 some 15 kilometers away along the Duliu river. I had never heard the name, Gaoshan Miao, before or since so it might just be a local name for the villagers living along the Duliu River.

Bakai Village 扒开村

Before we could say any more she was already recommending that her ex-boyfriend, who just happened to be a taxi driver, could take us there for the modest fee of 60 Yuan for a round trip to Bakai village. And before you could say [Read more →]

Praying Didn’t Improve My Photos: Jingesi (金阁寺)Wutaishan Shanxi Province

Jinge Temple 金阁寺

Wutaishan 五台山

Shanxi Province

Wutaishan 五台山 Jinge Temple 金阁寺

From Our Diary

‘ Adam asks the monk if he can take a picture of the statues, the monk gives a long speech, at the end of which we understand: “Yes you can, if you pay your respects to the Buddha”. Adam takes this to mean that he has to ‘kow-tow’ and starts doing so – accompanied by the sound of the monk hitting the alms bowl. He donates 10 yuan.  He`ll do anything for a good picture’.

The Luohan / Arhat Hall

Wutaishan 五台山 Jinge Temple 金阁寺

The Jinge temple 金阁寺 is a riot of colours, a kind of Buddhist Disneyland,  in which the most outrageous arhats or luohan 罗汉 – in Buddhism, a perfected person, one who has gained insight into the true nature of existence and has achieved nirvana (spiritual enlightenment) – we have ever seen are cavorting!

Wutaishan 五台山 Jinge Temple 金阁寺

One of our favorites is a luohan in a colorful patchwork robe who is doing the splits in the air – with his feet on two rocks – while joining his hand in prayer Another swings on a tree trunk. There are luohans swinging off the ceiling by one hand, a luohan that looks like a [Read more →]

International Women’s Day in China

During the One Child Policy (一胎政策) which finished in 2015, the Chinese government tried to persuade the population not to discriminate against having female children.  Unfortunately, the campaign was not successful and has resulted in there being far more males than females in China. Traditional families, especially in the countryside chose to have a male child over a female child.

This is a government propaganda sign in Rural China (Bakai, Rongjiang, Guizhou Province) reminding the local population that males and females are equal.

Boys and Girls are the same.
生男生女都一样

However, due the gender imbalance, the government is now asking women to lower their aspirations and be less picky when choosing a male partner for life.

There is still a lot of work to do.

 

Rongjiang Market 榕江市场 (Updated) Guizhou Province 贵州省

Rongjiang Market 榕江市场

Guizhou Province 贵州省

We are updating this article with new photos. Rongjiang 榕江 is dusty but expanding town in Guizhou Province 贵州省 that forms part of what is known as the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture 黔东南苗族侗族自治州; Qiándōngnán Miáozú Dòngzú Zìzhìzhōu.

Rongjiang is now connected to China’s High Speed Railway Network.  The Train station is 5km out of town and there are buses, 2 Yuan, and Taxis 10/15 Yuan, connecting Rongjiang to the train station. Rongjiang is on the Guangzhou – Guiyang line.

Rongjiang 榕江 is definitely not one of china’s most attractive towns. It’s dusty, slightly chaotic and white tiled. However, there are a number of redeeming factors. Not only does Rongjiang provide a fascinating gateway to minority villages, but it also has an amazing Sunday Market that sucks in a myriad of different ethnic minorities for the day.

If you are there on market day you are sure to come across the Dong minority 侗族 in huge numbers as well as various Miao 苗族 ethnic groups including the Gaoshan Miao (see Bakai article) and maybe even the odd Top knot Miao coming up from Basha village 芭沙村 near Congjiang 从江.

So if you find yourself passing through this area on your way between kaili 凯里 and the famous dong Village of Zhaoxing 肇兴; Rongjiang 榕江 makes for great break in the journey. In fact, just the spectacular bus ride between Kaili and Rongjiang makes the whole trip worthwhile.

Arrival

Our bus bumped into Rongjiang’s run-down and grubby bus station after a gorgeous five- hour, 160- kilometre bus ride from Kaili 凯里. Rongjiang, [Read more →]

Maijishan: Haystack Mountain

Maijishan 麦积山

Haystack Mountain:

Tianshui 天水  Gansu Province 甘肃省

Maijishan 麦积山

There is nothing quite like Maijishan 麦积山 in China. The bizarre, haystack shaped mountain rises majestically up over a subtropical zone of greenery and rivers.  Other Buddhist sites might have enormous statues or high ceiling-ed painted caves, but the views they offer are often more restrictive and it may be difficult to get up close, due to barriers or hordes of visitors.

Maijishan 麦积山

At Maijishan 麦积山, the cave art and statues are right in your face and you can almost touch them, though you mustn’t, of course!  And, in addition, there is the mountain itself: a honeycomb of caves and statues reached by climbing up a snakes and ladder board of incredible staircases that cling precariously to the side of the mountain.

Maijishan 麦积山

The first Chinese character of Maijishan, “mai” (麦), means wheat or grain resulting in the mountain being called Haystack Mountain, because of its uncanny resemblance to the [Read more →]

Xiangyu Castle Shanxi Province Qin River: 湘峪古堡

Xiangyu Castle

Shanxi Province

Qin River

湘峪古堡

(Xiangyu Gubao)

Xiangyu Castle 湘峪古堡

Our driver had to ask for directions to get to Xiangyu Castle 湘峪古堡.  He seemed a bit lost, as there was a new road and he had only ever been there on the bad old one. As we were getting close, he stopped to ask a young woman waiting by the roadside for final directions. She confirmed that he was nearly there and then, with a cheeky grin, asked for a lift to the village and hopped in. When we got there, she jumped out of the car and, in good English, bade us ‘goodbye auntie’ and ‘goodbye uncles’.

Xiangyu Castle 湘峪古堡

In front of us, as we got out of the car, was the extremely impressive castle of Xiangyu Castle 湘峪古堡.

Xiangyu Castle 湘峪古堡

From the outside, the castle looks like an impregnable fortress with its crenelated walls and dozens of enormous watchtowers. The river that flows in front of the walls and the hills in the background,  only add to the castle’s splendor.

Xiangyu Castle 湘峪古堡

It really makes for quite a spectacular sight. Yet, at the same time, the view is somewhat deceptive, because Xiangyu is actually a large, fortified village, rather [Read more →]

HaihuiTemple 海会寺: Shanxi Province 山西省

HaihuiTemple

海会寺

山西省

Haihui Temple 海会寺

The Buddhist Haihui temple 海会寺where Minister Chen studied is just a short ride away from the castle and Guoyu village. However, our driver – even though he’s a local – has never been there and isn’t sure what it’s all about.

Haihui Temple 海会寺

As we approach the complex, along a mostly empty road, and stop at a grand but rather abandoned-looking entrance area, neither are we. Should we fork out another 30 Yuan each, just to see two pagodas? Fortunately, we decide to go for it.

Haihui Temple 海会寺

As the two pagodas come into view, at the back of a landscaped garden, we can see that they are truly magnificent. The shorter one, the 20-metre high and 1100-year-old Sheli Ta 舍利塔, is a harmonious, but [Read more →]