This photo shows a local Cantonese fishing in the part of the Pearl River 珠江 that separates Guangzhou City广州 from Shamian Island 沙面岛。The back-drop is Shamian Island’s imposing colonial architecture. It could almost be Paris.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 臺 is for Taiwan and Hu 虎 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)’:
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.
Then there was a shout, a curse and the haggling began. Chong’an Market was open for business.
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.
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 Tower. Chejiang is a peaceful and lad-back where locals get on with life and curiously observe the odd foreigner who strays into their village.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘ 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
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!
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.
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.