By Joshua M. Bernstein
December 15, 2010

In my 32 years on earth, I’ve been tipsy on beer more times than I can, or can’t, remember. I’ve chugged Busch via beer bong and glugged Germany’s Franziskaner Hefe Weiss by the glass boot. I’ve done keg stands of Keystone Light and slowly sipped Goose Island’s complex, barrel-aged Bourbon County Stout. Despite their flavorful differences, these boozy paths all lead me to the same terminus: a bleary-eyed a.m., grasping for aspirin and cursing the bright, relentless sun. Paying the Piper is never a pleasure.

In a perfect world, I could enjoy my stumbling fun without the morning-after miasma. Last year, my inebriated prayers were answered in Qingdao, a city situated on eastern China’s Shandong peninsula and overlooking the Yellow Sea. Haven’t heard of Qingdao? If you’ve ever dined at a Chinese restaurant you’ve likely sipped Qingdao’s most famous export, Tsingtao beer.

The light, crisp lager has been a Qingdao staple for more than a century, the lasting legacy of German settlers who brought their Bavarian brewing know-how to the Far East. Since then, pilsners and lagers have dominated China’s beer market, with Tsingtao reigning supreme. Yeah, it’s a fine summertime thirst-quencher and fit for cooling down fiery Sichuan fare, but I’m pretty indifferent about the quaff. I’ll never seek it out, though I’ll never turn down a free bottle.

Yet when I found myself in China last fall on business, my love of beer lured me to the Qingdao brewery like a sailor to the sirens. The tour provided a brief overview of the company’s history and was informative, if ho-hum—save for two memorable revelations.

First, I sampled Tsingtao’s unfiltered draft beer. It was fresh and full-bodied, with a pronounced hop profile comparable to fine American craft brew. Second, I visited the Drunken House. Upon passing through a Tsingtao bottle–shape doorway, I entered a brightly decorated room that, thanks to a slanted floor and funhouse-style optics, made me stagger and fall as if I’d just downed a half dozen shots of Jägermeister.

For added hilarity, a video screen outside the Drunken House captures everyone’s real-time fall-down antics, as seen here:

Ostensibly, the Drunken House demonstrates the dangers of drinking too much. But try telling that to the little kids stumbling and slipping, screaming with glee as they grasp for the walls like last-call lushes. Being drunk is fun!

I stumbled through the Drunken House twice. Then I went to the brewery’s tasting room and ordered another mug of fresh draft beer. The Drunken House was great, but when I fall down I prefer to do it on my own terms—and on level ground.

Joshua M. Bernstein is a food and drink writer—and author of the forthcoming beer book, Brewed Awakening—living in Brooklyn. His website is Gut Instinct. Follow him on Twitter @JoshMBernstein.

Photo courtesy of the author.