Keg Party at the Great Wall & Meeting an (apparent) Legend (Beijing- Week 3)

Wow, this past week has been a doozy. I feel like I’ve said something to that effect each blog post- but then again, that’s the point, right?

On Thursday, my brewery hosted an “Intern-palooza” event where we invited foreign interns in Beijing to a meet-and-greet. We had a crew from the U.S. Embassy, a group from an English education foundation, and more. It was really great to talk to people my age- that’s been the hardest part of Beijing, so far. Not the language barrier, or the smell, or the pollution, or anything like that; it’s been difficult to not have a group of friends my age. Luckily I’ve gotten to meet up with the W&M Study Abroad group here, and perhaps this new intern group will become friends.

On Sunday, Jing-A hosted an apparent legend in the craft brewery world: Steve Hindy of Brooklyn Brewery. Hindy is seen as a sort of founder of microbrewing; as a war correspondent in the Middle East in the late 70’s and 80’s, he didn’t have access to alcohol. Instead, he had local friends’ homebrews to drink. Inspired by the unique flavor microbrews could bring, Hindy moved back to America to raise a family and start a business. There was only one issue: craft brewing once flourished in America, but was essentially eradicated after Prohibition. So with his neighbor as a partner, he started Brooklyn Brewery and forged a path for the current boom of microbreweries. His visit was neat; we had a tasting of fancy rare collectible bottles of beer. Unfortunately, the beer was probably the best I’ve ever had; unfortunate because these were drinks that aren’t available for commercial sale.

The next day was one of the coolest of my life: Jing-A had a company retreat at one of the founders’ private estate in the mountains outside Beijing. There were private trails that led to beautiful areas of the Great Wall, completely bereft of any other human beings. Take a look at these pictures.

IMG_3268[1]   IMG_3269[1]  IMG_3203[1]   IMG_3192[1]

I tried to upload more, but my WiFi crashed. It took 5 minutes each to upload these… aye yai yai. Even my office’s WiFi is difficult to use, especially with a VPN. Ah well. As my Grandpa used to say about everything that inconvenienced him, “it’s part of it.”

Back to the Wall! It was incredible. I feel like everything else I’ve called “breathtaking” in my life doesn’t quite do the phrase justice like the Wall did; I quite literally forgot to breathe as I enjoyed 360 views of the Yanshan mountains. I feel so blessed for this opportunity, as most tourists only know to go to the commercialized areas of the Great Wall. The path I took with my coworkers was a difficult one; it was almost straight up, and signs continually warned us that it was too dangerous and we should turn back. We weren’t discouraged, however, and the view was well worth it. After enjoying the experience, we walked back to my boss’ house and proceeded to have a keg & BBQ party.

The past week was so cool; my work is essentially partying, taking pictures/videos of it, and then planning the next party. Although as I continue to reflect on themes,  I can’t help but linger once again on alcohol as a topic to explore. Every cultural experience or social event I’ve been too has been influenced by or born from alcohol. That’s to be expected from working at a brewery, I suppose; but it just has me wondering about the positives and negatives. I grew up in a very conservative, strictly alcohol-free household; drink was the great taboo that my family shunned with severity. This, of course, caused me to reject my parents ideas about alcohol wholesale. And I’ve had fun, getting tipsy and alleviating some of my social anxiety with the help of liquid courage. There’s a lingering part in the back of my head that wonders about the flip side to this; am I not as fun without alcohol? Can I have the same social outings without drinking? Does it even matter? Alcohol has been a central part of every culture since the dawn of time, it seems; no matter if it’s Aztec agave fermentations, ancient Egyptian barley beer, or ancient Chinese rice-made baidu. Is it simply a good thing in moderation, like chocolate or fatty foods? And is having a cultural lassiez faire attitude toward alcohol actually better for drinking culture? I’ll continue to explore this- probably with a beer or two under my belt.